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Parliament challenges government on agriculture

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By Jameson Chauluka:

Parliament has challenged Ministry of Agriculture to eradicate routine problems associated with the Farm Input Subsidy Programme(FISP) once and for all if this year’s programme is to benefit Malawians.

Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture Chairperson, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, said this when the government launched this year’s Fisp.

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He said problems such as delayed distribution of coupons and farm inputs are man-made and can be addressed easily.

“As Parliament, we will continue with our oversight role. We have been making recommendations on how to run Fisp, such as making farm inputs available right to the villages and not only in trading centres so as to make the inputs more accessible to the farmers on time. This is government’s money which was approved in Parliament and we will follow up every step of the way,” he said.

But Minister of Agriculture, Joseph Mwanamvekha, said all is set for the programme.

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Mwanamvekha said the government would ensure that farm inputs are readily available by, among other means, increasing the number of suppliers.

“We have increased the number of suppliers from 14 last year to 48 this year as a way of increasing access to the inputs. All the suppliers have been given targets and, when they fail, Admarc will be coming in. As I am speaking all the coupons are already in the country,” he said.

This year, one million people are expected to benefit from the programme, up from 900,000 last year.

Although billions are spent on the programme, year-in and year-out, the country looks trapped in the food insecurity cycle.

This year alone, according to a Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee report, over 3.3 million people are food insecure but Mwanamvekha defended the programme saying it is working properly.

“The reason we have those people food insecure is not that Fisp has failed. Everyone knows that we had the fall army worm and drought; otherwise the programme is working and will continue,” he said.

The programme will cost the government over K40 billion.

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