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Soaring fertiliser prices threaten Affordable Input Programme

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Sosten Gwengwe

More people risk being removed from the list of beneficiaries of this year’s Affordable Input Programme (AIP) as the price of the soil enriching commodity has hit K40,000 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag.

In July this year, the government announced that it had trimmed the number of AIP beneficiaries from the initial 3.7 million to 2.8 million, leaving at least one million vulnerable people to fend for themselves after the price hit K30,000 per bag earlier this year.

Spot-checks in Mzuzu, Zomba, Lilongwe, Blantyre cities Mangochi, Kasungu, Karonga, Nsanje and Nkhotakota districts indicated that the price of a 50 kg bag of NPK fertiliser was fetching between K36,500 and K40,000, with traders indicating that they were buying the commodity at high prices.

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The development has prompted Farmers Union of Malawi (Fum) President Frighton Njolomole to warn the government not to trim the list of AIP beneficiaries further.

“Most Malawians will not afford to buy a bag of fertiliser. This means more people will not be able to grow enough food this year should the government fail to find alternative sources of funds to ensure that many Malawians have access to affordable fertilisers and seeds,” he said.

However, Trade Minister Sosten Gwengwe said price rises had not only affected fertiliser.

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Gwengwe said global commodity prices were rising post-Covid pandemic as other economies open.

“Given the size of our economy, Malawi is a price-taker, not a price maker; as such, the only solution for us is to have our fertiliser plant to ensure that we make our fertilisers,” Gwengwe says.

Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Grecian Lungu said the ministry was exploring other means to ensure that the government’s food security programmes were not disturbed.

“We, as a ministry, are exploring alternative sources of finance so that as many vulnerable Malawians as possible benefit from the [AIP] programme this year,” Lungu said.

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