Several Members of Parliament (MPs) who have so far contributed to debate on President Peter Mutharika’s latest State of the Nation Address have once again described last season’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) as one of the worst ever.
In his address, Mutharika praised the performance of the programme in the last growing season, saying key reforms such as increasing private sector participation and fixing the value of fertiliser coupons at K15,000 ensured efficiency and effectiveness.
“Mr Speaker, Sir, the government will continue with implementation of Fisp reforms to ensure that the programme is delivered efficiently by specifically strengthening private sector participation in supply, delivery and retailing of inputs across the country,” Mutharika said.
But some stakeholders such as the Civil Society Agriculture Network and the Farmers Union of Malawi have frequently lamented what they have called irregularities in the programme.
In their responses to the Sona on Tuesday, MPs for Salima Central, Chikwawa West and Dedza North—Felix Jumbe, Kennedy Maluwa and Patrick Chilondola, in that order—were among those who argued that crop yields this year would have been higher had Fisp been properly organised.
Jumbe said the increase in crop yield this year should also be attributed to farmers’ resilience and dedication.
“Hunger haunted this country for the past two years, but this year we are going to experience a rise in crop yield because of good rains and farmers’ hard-work. But we must be honest that last year’s Fisp was the worst ever as far as management was concerned.
“But because of farmers’ hard-work we are having over 30 percent of an increase in crop yield as compared to last year’s. We need to continue with Fisp reforms because the programme is beneficial,” Jumbe said.
Maluwa also argued that management of Fisp needs to improve so that farmers should benefit from the programme.
“Most farmers failed to access the inputs because the private traders did not reach out to every part of the country,” he said.
The sentiments were reiterated by Chilondola who said the State grain trader, the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), should be considered in the management of Fisp.
He also argued that it was not enough for the programme to target “only” 900,000 farmers when the country’s economy is agro-based.
“Unlike some of the private traders who only reach towns and big trading centres, Admarc has depots in several remote places where farmers can easily access the inputs. Otherwise, it does not make sense to say we are targeting a certain number of farmers when some of them are not benefiting from the programme,” Chilondola said.
Several other MPs who contributed to the debate put their weight behind Admarc’s participation in Fisp apparently because the increase in the number of private players in the programme resulted into unequal distribution of the agriculture inputs.
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