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‘This year’s Fisp the most delayed, most chaotic’

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Private traders who were contracted to supply fertilizer in the 2016/2017 Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp) have described this year’s programme as the most delayed and chaotic and have named the government as the culprit.

The traders under the Fertiliser Association of Malawi (Fam) said government missed the ideal window for the programme, hence the chaos.

Fam’s comments come after some civil society organisations criticised private traders for the chaos especially for what they said was the delay to supply fertilizer to beneficiaries in some places.

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Fam said the private sector is only complementing government’s programme which already has big fertilizer suppliers in the name of Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) and Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund (SFFRFM).

Fam Executive Desk Officer Mvaiwa Chigaru said in an interview that it is wrong to blame the private traders as being the ones messing up the Fisp when government has failed to implement the programme within the ideal period.

“To ensure that farmers are efficient in production and to enable good planning, the most ideal timeframe is necessary to follow during implementation. The ideal window for Fisp will thus have to be 15 September to 15 December where the following need to be completed early in the programme: beneficiary list, contracts and coupon distribution,” said Chigaru.

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Chigaru said beneficiaries in the Southern region should have received coupons by October 15 while those in the Central region should have received them by November 1 and then by November 15 for the Northern region.

“Ideally, farmers should have access to coupons prior to the dates. For the 2016/17 season, this was not achieved by a long margin,” said Chigaru adding that coupons arrived in the country on November 28 2016.

He said Fisp is supposed to be spread out over 120 days but the current programme is constricted to 80 days.

Fisp sales started November 28 following the distribution of coupons to districts by the

government. Markets were open to all suppliers on December 22 2016.

“This is the most delayed coupon distribution in the history of the subsidy programme,” said Chigaru.

A total of 54 000 metric tonnes of fertiliser were commissioned to be retailed by 27 suppliers in the country. Of the 27, only 16 companies have been known to be active based on coupon distribution data to Logistics Unit. Admarc and SFFRFM are to supply the remaining 36 000 tonnes.

Chigaru said Admarc and SFFRFM are the two parastatal organisations in the Fisp and that the private traders are only helping government implement the programme. He said Admarc has not supplied fertiliser as expected, according to data.

“Private sector and SFFRFM responded very robustly to the challenge of late coupon distribution and lack of suppliers. Admarc had challenges with putting fertiliser on the ground,” he said.

Already with the rains on, some roads are impassable and beneficiaries cannot get fertiliser.

“With the rains starting early December, it was important that all inputs are in the areas early (especially remote areas) as the road networks are currently impassable due to heavy rains. This has caused deliveries to the remote areas to stall.

“Notwithstanding all this, the delivery of inputs is expected to be completed by mid-February as Fam members have projected an additional 20,000 MT which will cover the gaps realised by undersupply in some areas since initiation of the programme,” Chigaru said.

Deputy Fisp Coordinator in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Osborne Tsoka said the ministry is aware of some of the issues and is working tirelessly to resolve them.

“While the delay in coupon arrival might have relatively delay the redemption of input, all the suppliers just as Admarc were to retail fertiliser everywhere. Government opened up retailing in all the districts. However, following the opening up, there has been an improvement in fertilizer uptake countrywide,” Tsoka said.

Farmers Union of Malawi Fisp Monitoring Report Number 3 based on a study conducted between December 13 2016 and January 5 2017 says there is on the market a high presence of vendors and other non beneficiaries who are buying Fisp fertiliser in bulk in 27 districts across the country except Likoma.

Civil Society Agriculture Network National Director Tamani Nkhono Mvula accused some private sector players of frustrating the programme by not supplying or undersupplying fertiliser.

Fam said its members that are performing include Export Trading, Mulli Brothers, Farmers World, Transglobe, Agora, Worldwide Wholesalers, Agricultural Trading, Optichem, Rab Processors, Sealand and Malawi Fertilizer Company.

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