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K124 billion debt threatens Affordable Inputs Programme

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PHIRI—Fertiliser stocks at the lowest

Fertiliser Association of Malawi (Fam) has raised an alarm, claiming that it is failing to import fertiliser because it owes suppliers $120 million (approximately K124 billion) due to the shortage of forex.

Fam has warned that failure to import fertiliser now would jeopardise the 2022 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).

The association’s executive administrative Officer Mbawaka Phiri said the development has restricted the normal supply of fertiliser into the country, as companies are unable to import because of the outstanding bill.

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Phiri said the association has written the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, urging them to help the association address the problem.

In the letter, which The Daily Times has seen, the association says the logistics window for importing fertiliser in Malawi for the coming agricultural season is shrinking rapidly.

“Under normal circumstances, companies would want to be importing from now; however, currently, the country’s fertiliser stocks are at the lowest they’ve ever been at this point in the year and companies are unable to import more as a result of the forex shortage.

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“They would normally start importing now to build up their stocks in time for the agricultural season in October,” the letter reads.

The association argues that the Beira and Nacala ports in Mozambique, through which the bulk of Malawi’s fertiliser transits, are already experiencing congestion, hence making it impossible to fill the gap between the country’s fertiliser requirements and available quantities once the season commences.

“We would like the government to view fertiliser as an essential product and allocate forex as they do for medicine and fuel. This is because, if none or little fertiliser is used by farmers, it will dramatically reduce our yields. Low yields will result in food shortages in the coming year and addressing that shortage will be an additional burden for the government,” the letter reads.

Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the Ministry of Finance would be better placed to respond to issues surrounding forex in the country.

Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe said the government is looking into the matter.

“It’s being looked into. On a case-by-case basis, it’s quicker than lumping it all up as an association,” he said.

Currently, the Ministry of Agriculture has not come out clear on how it would implement this year’s AIP, save that it will work with farmers’ cooperatives.

However, last year, the government and the association were at loggerheads over fertiliser prices amid rising global prices.

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