At least 47 companies have submitted bids for procuring fertiliser for the 2012/13 Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
This development comes after last monthâ€™s cancellation of the previous process of awarding contracts to fertiliser suppliers.
Among those quoting the highest quantities in their tenders are Mzati Investments, Export Trading, Nyiombo Investments and Mulli Brothers which want to supply 108 000, 84 000, 82 000 and 49 700 metric tonnes of Urea and NPK fertilisers for the next farming season.
According to Ministry of Agriculture and Food Securityâ€™s Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) chairperson Bright Kumwembe, 51 companies collected bid forms for the tenders, but only 47 submitted their bids by the 10am deadline on Thursday.
Opening of the bids took about one hour and 30 minutes from 10:15 to 11:45 at Capital Hill in Lilongwe with most of the bidders present and saying they had no reservations after the process was completed.
Other companies which have also quoted high quantities include Transglobe, Simama General Dealers, World Commercial Enterprises and Sealand Investments which want to supply 40 000, 34 000, 31 400 and 31 000 metric tonnes of the two types of fertilisers respectively.
Kumwembe, who is also director of finance and administration in the Agriculture Ministry, said the procurement committee will speed up the process of awarding the contracts so that fertiliser distribution to targeted farmers is not delayed.
â€œWe want to work as fast as we can to beat the rains. We donâ€™t want a situation where fertiliser is supplied after the rains have come. We are hoping to give the contracts to the suppliers between the first and second week of September,â€ said Kumwembe in an interview.
He said the committee hopes that those who have bid for fertiliser contracts already have fertiliser in the country.
â€œWe would want to believe that the companies already have fertiliser within the country so that when we give them contracts, they can supply immediately because we have already lost time.
â€œWe have always wished to have fertiliser in the depots before the rains because certain places are unreachable when there are rains,â€ said Kumwembe.
He, however, refused to disclose reasons for the cancellation of the initial process of awarding this yearâ€™s fertiliser contracts, citing confidentiality reasons.
Fertiliser procurement takes the major allocation of the Agriculture Ministry budget with K40.6 billion this year allocated for the purchase of 150 000 metric tonnes, comprising 75 000 metric tonnes of Urea and 75 000 metric tonnes of NPK fertilisers to be distributed to 1.5 million farming families at a price of K500 per bag.
Despite its food security success story, the programme has in the past been spoiled by several challenges, including corruption and failure by some suppliers to distribute fertiliser on time with some experts and political commentators faulting its design, implementation and management.