By Solister Mogha, MANA
President Lazarus Chakwera said the country has been a poor and famine-infested nation because very few farming households had a chance to access cheap and affordable farming inputs.
He said this at the official launch of the much-touted K160.2 billion farming Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), which he described as an injection that would drive the country’s economy.
Speaking at Pirimiti Boys Primary School in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mwambo in Zomba on Saturday, Chakwera said the AIP targets 4,279,100 farming households across the country and that as an agricultural dependent economy, there was need to invest heavily in the sector to maximize agricultural gains and grow the country’s economy.
He said there was need to assist farming households with cheap and affordable farm inputs such as fertilizer and seed at a larger scale.
The AIP, the President said, was deliberately designed to alleviate Malawians from their daily sufferings and drive the country’s economy through massive food production.
“The Tonse-led Government believes in ending poverty through various means and one such way is assisting farmers with cheap and affordable farming commodities,” he said.
“Through the programme, we expect to reach out to over 4.2 million households and over 16 million Malawians and we are optimistic that with plenty of surplus food Malawi has higher chances to grow its economy.”
He said his government abolished the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) because only few were benefitting and that there were a lot of loopholes that gave ill-minded people an opportunity to steal from poor farmers.
“Malawi is for everyone and not the few selected individuals. Time has come for all of us to share our national cake. We need to use our resources for production and not to enrich few people,” the Malawi leader said.
He emphasized on the need for the country to revamp irrigation farming which could assist in times of food deficit.
Chakwera assured farmers in the country of readily available markets for their crop produce, saying Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) would be heavily funded and ready to buy farm produce immediately farmers start harvesting their crops.
“Farmers have for many years worked in vain; time is here for them to make profit out of their sweat. We are revamping operations of ADMARC and there will be no time for intermediaries or vendors who have, for a long time, reaped off our farmers.
“As the growing season begins, be assured of readily available markets both in and outside the country. Iam in talks with various countries to buy our agricultural produce.”
In the AIP, each farming household will be allowed to buy two 50kgs bags of NPK (basal) and UREA (top dressing) fertilizer at K4,495 each and a 7kgs pack of maize, rice or sorghum seed at K2,000.
The Programme will provide 427,910 metric tonnes of fertilizer of which 213,955 is UREA and 213,955 NPK and 21,396 metric tonnes of cereal seeds.
Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe said the Ministry has put all the necessary measures to make sure genuine and poor farmers benefit from the programme.
He said unlike in the previous programmes, where a coupon that was subjected to numerous abuses, the National Identity Card (ID) would be used in the new programme and no one other than the owner of the ID would be allowed to access the farm inputs.
“We are determined to deliver the best and we will be monitoring every process to ensure the programme is successful,” Lowe said.
Member of Parliament for Zomba Likangala, Abigal Shariff Bongwe and Senior Chief Chikowi hailed the President for launching the programme in Zomba.
Government terminated implementation of FISP in June 2020 and introduced the AIP that would benefit 4.2 million farming households.
The objective of the AIP is to improve access of quality farm inputs, increase cereal (maize, rice and sorghum) production at household level and improve the national income through sale of surplus production.
In his 2020/2021 financial year budget presentation in Parliament last month, Finance Minister, Felix Mlusu said out of the K160.2 billion which has been allocated to the AIP, K132.7 billion is for fertilizer payments, K25.7 billion for maize seed and K1.8 billion for logistics.
He had also announced that maize purchases have been projected at K10 billion for the 2020/2021 financial year, for the replenishment of the Strategic Grain Reserves.
“It is anticipated that there will be bumper harvest this year due to forecasted good rains as well as the increased coverage of the Affordable Input Program,” he had said.
He also said the AIP is not far from being a universal subsidy program assuming an average family size of four people, which gives approximately 16.8 million people that will be covered under this program out of the 17.6 million people in Malawi.
“In this regard, Madam Speaker, there is no sampling of farm families to benefit from this program as every smallholder farmer is covered,” he said.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express