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Red flag on Affordable Inputs Programme

UN sees mounting pressure on programme

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REBEIRO—Rethink on the global effects

The United Nations (UN) has said mounting global fertiliser prices will likely affect the flagship Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).

UN Resident Coordinator Maria Manuel Gomes Do Valle Ribeiro was speaking in Lilongwe during a Malawi Government-UN Joint Strategy Meeting.

The observation by the UN comes at a time Malawi has set aside K109 billion for the AIP in the 2022-23 National Budget, down from K142 billion in 2021-22.

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Ribeiro said since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, the price of fertiliser has jumped by over 33 percent from below $600 per tonne to more than $800 per tonne.

She said it is important for the Malawi Government and UN to rethink on the global effects of the Russia- Ukraine war on the economy of Malawi.

Ribeiro observed that the Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa, including Malawi, continues to reduce in a dramatic way, primarily due to changes of Government Foreign Policies and priorities.

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“Therefore, it is important that the government, UN and development partners live with this new reality and prioritise the fewer resources towards strategic and catalytic interventions to accelerate SDG implementation and further be efficient and effective in utilisation of resources,” the official said.

Since 2019, the UN in Malawi, comprising 28 UN entities, has mobilised $844 million to implement catalytic interventions outlined in the Annual Joint Work Plans and Joint Programmes.

The Annual Joint Work Plans operationalise the 2019-23 UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, formerly known as the UN Development Assistance Framework (Undaf).

According to the UN, in 2022, the organisation is contributing $77.6 million towards the operationalisation of the National Covid Socio- Economic Recovery Plan.

Ribeiro said Thursday’s meeting builds on the Joint Government-UN Inter-pillar meeting held on March 24 this year that identified some of the system-wide challenges, solutions and opportunities that would inform the discussion at yesterday’s meeting.

“For instance, structural challenges such as the limited absorptive capacity of financial resources or the fragmented management information systems were identified.

“They do have an impact on overall delivery rate and achievement of intended development objectives. Let’s see how we can, together, address some of these structural challenges,” Rebeiro said.

Secretary to the Treasury Macdonald Mafuta Mwale said the meeting provides an opportunity for the government and the UN in Malawi to provide strategic guidance and oversight in the implementation of the UN Cooperation Framework.

He expressed hope that, going forward, Malawi and UN would be more focused in their approach.

“Let us avoid spreading resources thinly across fragmented interventions. We should aim to concentrate resources in a few priority areas in order to deepen impact.

“Much as our development challenges are many, they cannot be addressed by the UN family alone,” Mafuta Mwale said.

The UN’s sentiments on AIP come at a time The Daily Times investigations indicate that prices of fertiliser are rocketing on the market.

In some outlets, the prices have gone as high as K63,000 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag, months before the growing season starts.

Random checks conducted in Blantyre this week indicated that a 50kg bag of Super D, which tobacco farmers use, was selling at K63,000.

Tobacco is Malawi’s top foreign currency earner but Super D is not part of the AIP.

A 50kg bag of Urea, on the other hand, was going at K55,000 while that of NPK was fetching K49,500.

This comes at a time the government has reduced budget for this year’s AIP from K142 billion last year to K109 billion.

Chairperson for Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture Sameer Suleman said earlier this week that the country needed 200,000 metric tonnes of Urea and another 200,000 metric tonnes of NPK for AIP alone.

He said, in general, the country needs between 600,000 metric tonnes and 700,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser to meet its needs annually.

Suleman said there was, therefore, a lot of work to be done.

He advised the government to start purchasing the commodity now so that it does not panic when the growing season starts.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Agriculture is not coming out clear on how many people will benefit from this year’s AIP and how much farmers would be required to contribute per 50kg bag of fertiliser.

The ministry’s spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the ministry would not be commenting on anything to do with AIP until a reform paper that has been drafted on the programme is adopted.

“The ministry developed an AIP reform paper and, once this is adopted, we will tell the public about how we are to approach this year’s programme. For now, [we are making] no comment on AIP,” he said.

The ministry recently announced plans to channel all agricultural services, including implementation of the AIP, through farmers clubs.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced the new policy direction following recommendation by President Lazarus Chakwera throughout his nationwide crop inspection tours but agriculture experts have asked government to tread carefully on the plan, saying farmers have to be properly engaged and organise dif the clubs are to bear fruit.

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