President Lazarus Chakwera Friday reaffirmed his government’s commitment to continue with the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) until other alternative, cheaper ways of achieving food security are developed.
Chakwera made the commitment when he officially opened the 17th National Agricultural Fair at the Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds in Blantyre.
His comments come at a time experts have raised concerns about the sustainability of the programme.
They argue that the programme is eating a large chunk of the agriculture sector budget – at the expense of other investments in agriculture commercialisation.
Chakwera said the cost of keeping AIP is far much better than letting the nation go hungry.
“I know that there are those who complain about how expensive the AIP is. But such complaints are the luxury of the few who live in ivory towers on a full stomach. For the majority of the country, and I dare say for myself, what is truly expensive is national hunger and food insecurity,” Chakwera said.
He added that the cost of keeping Malawi a hungry nation that begs for food is far greater than the cost of the AIP.
Chakwera further commended the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) for organising the agriculture fair.
He said the fair complements his government’s efforts in advancing the productivity of the sector.
“These national agriculture fairs are critical to our quest for greater productivity. They add value to that pursuit by disseminating information to farmers on the right varieties to plant and when, the type of fertilizers and chemicals to apply and where to obtain them, the markets where their produce is in demand, and so on.
“Anything we can do to strengthen the productivity of our agricultural sector is a welcome shot in the arm of our economy. It is in this sector that most of our jobs are being created. It is from this sector that our Growth Domestic Product (GDP) is receiving its greatest boost. It is this sector that our exports and forex earnings are growing from. It is this sector whose success will give us the capacity to diversify our economy and make it more resilient and sustainable,” he said.
Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said the fair has been organised to, among others, help advance technology and skills in the sector as well as promoting partnerships in the agriculture sector.
“It is therefore an opportunity for the value chain players to discuss ways of improving access of financial techniques,” he said.
MCCCI President James Chimwaza said the fair helps create an atmosphere for players in the agriculture sector to gain more skills and knowledge of plying their trade.
Four organisations were recognized; the Department of Fisheries was awarded as Best Service Provider, Lilongwe Dairy was awarded Best Agro-processor, Nasfam was awarded Best Farmer Organisation and Best Input Supplier award was given to Bayer Malawi.
The fair is running under the theme ‘Building the agricultural sector back and better in a Covid-19 environment’.