Amid calls from different stakeholders that this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) should be revised, the American Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, has thrown her weight behind the initiative, saying Malawians still need some kind of subsidy.
The remarks come at a time when this year’s Fisp continues to be dogged with a number of shortfalls, raising fears as to whether farmers will benefit from the programme and yield enough at the end of the growing season.
In an interview on the sidelines of the opening of the 46th Session of Parliament, Palmer observed that with the country’s high population, subsidies can offer relief.
“I have come around to think that Malawians need some kind of subsidy because you have very high population and only one rainfall. But the government needs to work out a system so that the government’s contribution is predictable, the private sector plays its major role as much as possible so that prices stay low, and that there is pressure on the part of the private sector to lower the prices,” said Palmer.
The Ambassador noted that currently, Malawi is paying a high price for seeds and fertiliser compared to the rest of the region and, therefore, challenged government to work hard on its reforms.
In his brief address during opening of Parliament on Friday, President Peter Mutharika indicated that his administration will continue with Fisp despite growing challenges.
Said Mutharika: “We will continue to equip, provide for, and empower our farmers in the coming growing season. We will continue to subsidise our farmers….. We need to work towards a better harvest this year.”
Mutharika, however, did not go into details on how his government will deal with the setbacks which are threatening the successful implementation of the programme this year.
Meanwhile, the 2015/16 Fisp continues to be subjected to further delays, the latest being revelations that coupons are not ready and that seed is also yet to be dispatched as government is yet to agree with seed companies.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Allan Chiyembekeza, last week told the media that the coupons would be ready in two weeks’ time, adding that the problems facing the programme were beyond his ministry’s control.
At least 1.5 million farmers are expected to benefit from Fisp this year.
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