As implementation of the 2021-22 Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) comes to an end this week, some members of Parliament (MPs) have challenged fertilizer redemption figures from the Ministry of Agriculture.
MPs have since suggested that the implementation period for AIP be extended to give beneficiaries who are yet to redeem inputs a chance to do so.
One of the legislators, Ntcheu West’s Simion Salambula, asked Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe to extend the programme.
“Some people in Ntcheu West have not managed to buy AIP fertiliser. As such, I am worried that the minister is saying the programme implementation time is coming to an end,” he said.
However, Lowe indicated that, even though the programme faced some hiccups, 83.7 percent of beneficiaries had redeemed their fertiliser in Ntcheu District by the end of last week.
The district with the highest redemption rate is Dedza, where the minister said 97 percent of beneficiaries had redeemed their inputs; followed by Ntchisi at 91 percent, Phalombe at 89 percent, Thyolo at 88 percent and Chikwawa at 86 percent.
“So it is not all the people who have not redeemed [their inputs]; it is some of them,” Lowe said.
On the plea to extend the programme, the minister said he had to consult his team to see if that was feasible.
Blantyre North legislator Francis Phiso claimed that some private traders did not open outlets and, yet, they came up with figures as if they sold the commodity.
“No, those figures are wrong; they are giving a wrong picture. They are cooked-up figures,” he said.
However, Lowe asked Phiso to come up with a list of companies that did that for ministry officials to investigate their conduct.
Zomba Chisi lawmaker Mark Botomani challenged the Ministry of Agriculture to qualify the figures.
“In addition, produce a full report according to districts,” he said.
Botomani told The Daily Times that the 86 percent that Lowe cited as the farm inputs redemption rate in Zomba was not a true reflection of the situation on the ground.
“I cannot factually dispute his figures but I believe that they are not the actual figures for Zomba. I have also liaised with members of Parliament from Zomba, who are saying the figure of 86 percent is exaggerated,” he said.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.