Government has barred Mulli Brothers Limited (MBL) from participating in the 2020 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) as one of the suppliers.
Initially, MBL was on the list of companies that had been given a go ahead to supply the farm inputs this season.
Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe, confirmed the development, saying the company owes government billions of Kwacha.
“My ministry has indeed removed Mulli Brothers Limited and its subsidiaries, from the list of companies to supply fertilizer input subsidy this coming season due to so many irregularities. The company was among the list of companies that had qualified for the contract but has failed to fulfill some of the contractual obligations,” Lowe said.
Apparently, Mulli has an outstanding debt of about K2.5 billion for a loan which he is yet to pay back to government.
But Lowe was quick to point out that if Mulli was to settle the loan payment and “put his house in order”, the Ministry was ready to give him the contract.
When contacted, Leston Mulli, who is the proprietor of MBL, said he was not aware of the developments.
“I don’t even know that government has already approved contracts for Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP),” Mulli said.
In 2014, MBL sued government after the company claimed that it was removed from the list of successful bidders to transport subsidised fertiliser but the company lost the case.
Government recently ended the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and instead introduced AIP which intends to assist small scale farmers in the country to buy cheap farm inputs such as fertilizer and seed.
According to Lowe, his ministry terminated Fisp after observing the numerous challenges farmers were facing.
“The programme was marred with a lot of challenges some of which were; suppliers buying coupons from desperate farmers, contracts given to suppliers who could not perform to people’s satisfaction and few farmers targeted in a village, which led to few farmers sharing the inputs, ” he said.
The new programme will cover all smallholder farming households in the country who are estimated at 4,279, 100.
Lowe also said farmers will be using National Identification Cards (IDs) to buy the cheap fertilizer and seed.
The Ministry has for the past month been cleaning up its database and making sure that correct national identification numbers are entered against the right farming household heads.
Each smallholder farmer will be entitled to access one 50 Kilogramme (Kg) bag of Urea, one 50 Kg bag of 23:10:5+1.0Zn (NPK) and either one pack of 5 Kg hybrid maize seed or pack of 7 Kg OPV maize seed.
Farmers will be buying one 50 kg bag of either Urea or NPK at MK4, 495 and the maize seed pack at MK 2000.
Currently, 37 percent of the programme’s fertilizer requirement is already in the country, 14 percent has already been procured while 49 percent is under procurement processes by various fertilizer suppliers, according to the 2020-2021 Farming Season Preparation Survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture.