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Maize production down by 19.4%

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Production of maize, the country’s staple food, has dropped by an estimated 19.4 percent from 3.5 million metric tonnes last growing season to 2.8 million metric tonnes in the 2017/18 season.

This is according to results of the second round Agricultural Production Estimate Survey.

Quoting the survey results when presenting the 2018/19 budget to Parliament on Friday, Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe said the country should anticipate significant reductions in yields of most major food crops.

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The drop in the output is mainly attributed to dry spells and infestation of the fall armyworm in some parts of the country.

In the past years, maize production has also been devastated by a regional drought triggered by El Nino weather pattern.

Traditionally, a significant fall in maize output mounts pressure on inflation and interest rates rise.

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Gondwe said, to ensure that there is adequate food for the affected households, the government has allocated K 20 billion towards maize purchases and distribution in the next budget.

“Thus the money is available for immediate purchase of maize. This will be in addition to the current maize stocks of 282,000 metric tonnes which [Agriultural Development and Marketing Corporation] Admarc and [National Food Reserve Agency] NFRA have in their storage facilities across the country,” Gondwe said.

The allocation is a rise from a K10 billion allocation in the 2017/18 budget for the purchase and distribution of 117,647 metric tonnes of maize by NFRA and Admarc.

However, during the 2017/18 mid-term budget review, the government committed an extra bailout package of K45 billion to bail out Admarc.

Meanwhile, amid outcries for a possible curtail, Gondwe said the government will continue with the implementation of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) in the 2018/19 growing season.

The programme has been allocated K41.5 billion which will reach out to one million beneficiaries for both fertiliser and seeds.

This is an increase from the 2017/18 revised figure of K33.2 billion.

The private sector, according to Gondwe, will continue to retail fertiliser under the Fisp to complement the role of Admarc and the Stallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi in the initiative.

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