President Lazarus Chakwera has reversed Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to reduce the number of Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) beneficiaries this year, a move that drew mixed reactions from farmers, economic and agriculture analysts.
The President reversed the ministry’s decision in a national address monitored on public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday.
“I will not allow anyone to remove any family or village from the list of beneficiaries of the cheap fertiliser. Kumeneko ndikutengera boma kuntoso ngati nyama ya galu (that is taking government for granted),” he said, seemingly distancing himself from the ministry’s decision.
Last month, the ministry announced a reduction of beneficiaries to 2.7 million from 3.7 million.
In a letter to district commissioners, Secretary for Irrigation Sandram Maweru said the decision has been arrived at “due to financial constraints and rising of prices of fertiliser”.
But the President said he will not allow that to happen as he holds farmers in high esteem and would deal with anyone abusing them.
The President also took a swipe at agro-dealers for hiking prices of fertilisers from about K20 000 to K30 000 a 50 kilogramme bag.
Meanwhile, Farmers Union of Malawi chief executive officer Jacob Nyirongo has welcomed the decision to maintain the number of beneficiaries.
“Sustaining last year’s beneficiaries is a good move and we really appreciate the President’s stand. Our concern, however, is that government is focusing on maize only. Our wish is that it should be extended to legumes because these crops have nutrition and economic benefits.”
“As farmers, we are confused. Did the President approve the decision to reduce the beneficiaries or not? We are surprised because the President spoke as if he was not part of the decision,” observed Nyirongo.
Government has this year reduced the budget allocation for AIP to K140.2 billion from K160 billion in the 2020/21 National Budget.
Meanwhile, economic expert Tobias Milwad in an interview The President reversed the ministry’s decision in a national address monitored on public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday. said maintaining the 3.7 million may result in government raising its debts.”
AIP—a social facility that allows needy farmers to buy farm inputs at subsidised prices—is Tonse Alliance flagship election campaign promise.