The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development says 48 companies have been approved to supply seeds and fertiliser in the 2018/19 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
Principal Secretary in the ministry Grey Nyandule Phiri confirmed this in an interview yesterday, saying the ministry has finalised preparations for this year’s programme which will be launched on October 11.
He said: “We are ready for everything. We are going to be launching the programme on October 11 and everything is on track in as far as implementation of the programme is concerned.”
Phiri said the ministry has printed enough coupons for the targeted beneficiaries.
This year’s subsidy programme is targeting one million beneficiaries from 900 000 last year and was allocated K42 billion in the 2018/19 National Budget out of a total of K151 billion given to the ministry.
Phiri said the ministry subcontracted Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) that took part in the bidding process and that the fund will be responsible for signing contracts with the selected suppliers.
But he hinted that 89 percent of the companies are private while the remaining 11 percent are public.
In a separate interview, Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Alfred Kapichira Banda said there is need for strong measures to be put in place to ensure farmers are not exploited in the course of implementing the programme.
While observing that Fisp can be one way of empowering farmers, he cast doubt over its success this growing season, saying it will be used for campaign purposes.
Said Banda: “Most of those that receive the coupons are not the rightful beneficiaries and this has always been a setback to us farmers. We foresee that this year’s programme will likely face challenges, unless strong measures are put in place.”
Last year, districts such as Balaka, Zomba and Phalombe experienced poor harvests due to prolonged dry spells.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Joseph Mwanamveka said during the arrival of the coupons last month that it is in the ministry’s interest to distribute the coupons in time for the first rains.
However, early this year, some traditional leaders faulted government’s new strategy of selecting Fisp beneficiaries through district councils, saying it resulted in undeserving people benefiting from the programme.
Government embarked on a redesigning exercise of the programme and engaged councils in identifying beneficiaries instead of chiefs as has been the case previously.
Agriculture experts and other stakeholders have also been advocating for a review of the programme, urging government to invest in irrigation farming as it is one of the sustainable ways to enhance agriculture productivity in the country.