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Farm inputs distribution delay bothers experts

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Leonard Chimwaza

By Justin Mkweu & Chimwemwe Mangazi:

Agriculture experts have expressed worry over continued delays in distribution of seed and fertilisers under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), saying it will affect agricultural production, especially for maize.

This comes as, at the end of two weeks of the exercise, 6.6 percent of NPK and 3.2 percent of Urea fertilisers have been accessed by the farmers, with only 22.4 percent of seed accessed.

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In an interview, agriculturalist Leonard Chimwaza said such developments threaten crop production and harvests.

“It is worrisome that most of the AIP beneficiaries have not been able to access the hybrid seed in time to plant with the first rains and the fact that they have used recycled seed means the plant is prone to attacks from worms and other diseases. This also means the yield will be reduced,” Chimwaza said.

Another expert, Tamani Nkhono Mvula, said it is unfortunate that subsidy programmes have been facing such challenges for a number of years and even the AIP

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“If we could have been talking of these challenges, maybe in August or September, we could have had time to resolve them but we wait until the rains start and then we start panicking,” Nkhono-Mvula said.

Principal Secretary for Agriculture Medrina Banda said anomalies should be reported to the ministry.

“The ministry is aware that it could not be everywhere but you are there; please notify us through toll-free number 3013,” Banda said.

She further indicated that, currently, 245,679 bags of fertilisers have been redeemed, of which 165,542 bags are NPK, representing 6.65 percent, and 80,136 bags of Urea, representing 3.22 percent.

Banda added that beneficiaries have accessed 560,241 packs of improved seed across the country, representing 22.41percent.

Meanwhile, financial advisory firm, Bridgepath Capital Limited, says weather-related shocks and difficulties AIP faces threaten chances of having a bumper yield this season.

This is contained in the firm’s November Economic Report issued last week.

The report indicates that due to increasing prices of fertiliser on the global market and challenges faced by AIP, the country is at risk of having lower agricultural yields in the 2022-23 agricultural season.

“As climate change models point to risks associated with increased frequency of droughts and water shortages in southern Africa, the risk poses short and long-term consequences on the domestic economy which depends on rain-fed agriculture,” it reads.

The first round of the agricultural production survey indicates that, during the 2022-23 farming season, there will be a 14 percent reduction in maize production.

The survey disclosed that the season will produce 3.9 metric tonnes of maize down from 4.4 million metric tonnes produced during the preceding period.

Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale, however, maintains that the AIP is on course and will yield the desirable results of helping the country have bumper harvests.

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