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Inputs traders run out of time

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Gracian Lungu

The Ministry of Agriculture has disclosed that selling of fertiliser under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) in the 2021-22 farming season will end on March 14 2022.

Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu has, however, admitted that not all the beneficiaries are expected to redeem the fertiliser but that “a good percentage” will get their commodity because the programme normally does not reach up to 100 percent.

The programme, which was targeting 3.7 million people, has so far surpassed the 3 million mark as others are still redeeming the inputs.

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Mwapata Institute Executive Director William Chadza has said the sale’ closure would be in order, but the programme has faced several challenges.

Chadza said even at the time of closing, it would be very unlikely that most of the farmers would have accessed the inputs because most of the farmers have been unable to access the commodity.

“Recently, there has been a shortage of Urea fertiliser which is supposed to be used for the second application; so, it is just unfortunate that there will not be enough quantities available to the farmers,” he said.

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On February 2 this year, Secretary for Agriculture Sandram Maweru communicated that there was low supply of Urea.

The ministry went ahead to allow farmers to redeem two bags of NPK, instead of Urea.

On December 27 2021, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said only about 60 fertiliser suppliers out of the 166 under the programme had entered the market.

He said the programme was facing some challenges including failure by some suppliers to enter the market and the sale of counterfeit fertiliser

He, however, said Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund (SFFRFM) and the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation would fill the gap.

Some suppliers refused to supply fertiliser to the government after expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s price of K27, 500 per 50 kilogramme bag.

In the 2021-22 budget, the government provided K142 billion for AIP.

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