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Malawi needs Fisp despite hurdles, Cisanet insists

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Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has said although it seems difficult to maintain Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) under the current economic conditions, it is unrealistic for the country to do away with the programme and be able to feed the people.

Recently, International Monetary Fund (IMF) singled out Fisp as one of the costly subsidies in the budget.

According to Cisanet, it is cheaper to subsidise production than importing and distributing food to poor people.

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Government officials announced that the programme would be targeting productive maize farmers and not traditional poor farmers.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development also removed the maize seed component from the list of subsidy inputs.

The ministry also raised the amount a farmer is supposed to contribute towards Fisp.

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Cisanet executive director, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, said the future of the subsidy may be bleak but the fact remains that it would be hard for the country to continue producing food without helping farmers.

“What we need to do is to make sure that we have good programming so that we can continue subsidising our farmers.

If you look at the cost implication of subsidy, you see that it is being compounded by how we use money. We can redesign subsidy in a way that is sustainable,” Nkhono-Mvula said.

He said there have been a lot of proposals that have been forwarded to government but due to politics that creeps into the subsidy programme, most of them were not considered.

“But to me, it is not a question of whether we have it or not. The fact of the matter is that we need subsidy. Of course, the IMF put forward its own arguments. What we are saying is that some of the proposals that are coming from IMF are good but our argument is on the human right component of food security,” he said.

Nkhono-Mvula, however, said it was not a wise idea to shift the beneficiaries of Fisp from the smallholder farmers to the medium scale farmers.

“For the medium scale farmers what we need is a credit programme (like the Farm Input Loan Programme), where they will be required to pay back. Most medium scale farmers do not produce to meet subsistence needs but produce for the market,” Nkhono-Mvula said.

Controller of Agricultural Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Wilfred Lipita, said some changes that have happened in Fisp do not mean the programme has lost direction.

Although Lipita admitted that the pulling out of donor support has forced the ministry to trim expenditure on some components, he insisted Fisp is intact.

“The money which is there is not enough for us to include maize seeds. If the money was available we could not hesitate to include it. But that does not mean farmers should not grow improved seeds. They should use that to get higher yields,” Lipita said.

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