The Agriculture Committee of Parliament, alongside other lawmakers, yesterday took turns to tear apart this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), charging that the irregularities dogging the implementation of the programme heralds disaster.
In their response to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address which he delivered last Friday, lawmakers from both sides of the House called on government to provide answers on Fisp challenges.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Allan Chiyembekeza, recently admitted that this year’s Fisp has been dogged with challenges which are beyond his ministry’s control.
Among others, the lawmakers argue that despite the rainy season having already started in some parts of the country, the identification of beneficiaries— which is being done at Capital Hill—has not been completed.
According to the MPs, the slowness in identifying the beneficiaries at a time when a package of the subsidised materials has been raised to K8500 means most of them will not be able to purchase the inputs since they were supposed to plan in advance.
Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee of Parliament, Felix Jumbe, said the current Fisp is the worst ever in the programme’s history.
“If you look at the suppliers, you realise that most of them are new. They are not in fertiliser business and they lack competence in the same. To date, some of them have not supplied anything.
“Even the change in the price of the Fisp package will deter farmers from accessing the inputs, bearing in mind that this country does not have a clear financing mechanism for smallholder farmers,” said Jumbe in an interview with The Daily Times outside the chamber.
He said farmers are stranded with “the Fisp scandal” such that they are expecting that government will eradicate the mess which he attributed to the current Fisp management.
On their part, MPs for Dedza North Patrick Chilondola, Dowa North Enos Chitatanga and Balaka Central East Aufi Mpaweni urged government to make sure the subsidised farm inputs are available to avert another hunger crisis.
Said Chitatanga: “People in my constituency are questioning the rationale of government where it has used some officers at the Ministry of Agriculture to select beneficiaries. We are not sure whether this will achieve the intended results.”
He also damned the price of the inputs which he said is not realistic as the targeted beneficiaries are those who are already struggling with hunger.
His concern was echoed by Mchinji North East MP, Alex Chitete, who faulted government for increasing the price of Fisp materials without first consulting the lawmakers, arguing the increase is going to result in perennial hunger.
Meanwhile, MPs continue to respond to Mutharika’s address after Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera and People’s Party (PP) Leader in the House Uladi Mussa made their responses on Monday.