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Farming subsidy woes will impact food security warns agriculture network

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The Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has said challenges that have marred the implementation of this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) can affect Malawi’s annual agricultural output.

Cisanet Executive Director Tamani Nkhono Mvula said in an interview on Wednesday that new developments in the programme such as delayed distribution of subsidy materials and decreased interest among some distributors, signal low food production if authorities fail to address the challenges in time.

“The challenges still prevail in the programme and this is likely to have an impact on the overall agricultural output this season. As we speak, distribution is yet to commence in most parts of the country and, that is unfortunate,” said Nkhono Mvula.

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Reports indicate that only six out of ten companies have signed contracts to supply maize seed this year amid fears that the venture may not be viable with the kwacha continuing to fall to major trading currencies.

At the start of this week, government was yet to finalise the identification of beneficiaries and distribution of coupons for the programme in some districts of the country a development the targetted beneficiaries say has affected their production plan.

According to Mvula, in a normal circumstances, government should by now have completed distribution of the farm materials to give them enough time to effectively prepare for the planting season.

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“By now, we anticipated that the fertilizer and other material would have been distributed to at least all the central points and be channeled to the farmers,” said Mvula.

The 2015/16 subsidy programme progress report states that this year’s Fisp has faced a lot of logistical hitches, including delayed printing of coupons resulting indelayed distribution.

Some farmers we spoke to in some areas said while the delay may be justifiable on the government side on the basis of prevailing economic challenges, the situation still poses a threat to agricultural output.

“We are yet to access the coupons and we remain optimistic. By this time last year we had already received the coupons and this delay would have huge repercussion as it will entail delays in the entire production cycle this year,” said Dickson Chikadula, a smallholder farmer from Ndirande in Blantyre.

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