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Farmers pay more for Affordable Inputs Programme

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Shadreck Namalomba

The government has announced that beneficiaries of the 2021-22 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) will be coughing K7,500 to access a 50 kilogramme (kg) bag of fertiliser, an increase from last season’s price of K4,495.

Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe Thursday announced that, under the AIP programme, a 50kg bag of fertiliser would be selling at K27,000, with the government contributing K19,500 per 50kg bag of Urea and NPK, translating into K124.74 billion out of the K141.9 billion budget.

The Minister said K1.26 billion would be used for the purchase of goats while K12.25 billion would be used for seed purchases.

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This is against Fertiliser Association of Malawi’s proposed price of K40,000, which was attributed to escalating global prices of raw materials and other inputs.

Lowe said the government had also maintained the number of smallholder farmers benefitting from the programme.

However, the government has removed about 44,000 civil servants from the database of AIP beneficiaries.

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“Out of 3,744,105 [beneficiaries], a total of 3,714,105 farming households will do crop production while 30,000 farming households in Chikwawa and Nsanje will do livestock production (goats),” he said

The government would provide livestock (goats) on a pilot basis in the Shire Valley districts as a direct substitute for crop production inputs.

The ministry said farmers in the districts would get two goats, instead of fertiliser and seed, and contribute K7,500 for every she-goat.

Briefing journalists in Lilongwe alongside Minister of Information Gospel Kazako and Minister of National Unity Timothy Mtambo, Lowe said successful suppliers who were not willing to sell the inputs at the pegged price were at liberty to withdraw their services.

“Let me warn suppliers that would want to increase fertiliser prices unnecessarily that the government will not revise these prices,” he said

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Vice Chairperson Ulemu Chilapondwa said the government was at liberty to buy the inputs if suppliers refused the offer.

To make AIP self-sustaining, the minister of agriculture said they were mulling over the possibility of allowing farmers to exchange two 50kg bags of maize with fertiliser.

If implemented, the initiative would see farmers visiting Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (markets and exchange two 50kg bags of maize with one bag of Urea and one bag of NPK in preparation for the 2022-23 season.

The government had, earlier, announced that the number of beneficiaries would be reduced by one million due to high prices of fertiliser but President Lazarus Chakwera ordered the reversal of the decision.

Chakwera, while acknowledging the escalation of fertiliser prices at the global level, warned against any move that would sabotage a programme.

Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said action must be taken on the civil servants that benefitted from AIP.

“Mere deletion is not enough. These officers benefitted from last year’s AIP, illegitimately. We recommend that, in addition to removing them from the list, criminal proceedings be effected and that they pay back to the government the equivalent of the two bags of subsided products they got. Finally, they should be disciplined,” he said.

Fertiliser Association of Malawi Executive Administration Officer Mbawaki Phiri said the association would consult its members before coming clear on its position.

“We first need to consult all members for their comments on the matter for us to give a response that represents the association’s members. It should be noted that the decision to supply at government’s dictated price ultimately lies with each supplier and the association does not influence that decision,” she said.

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