The Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources has questioned the Ministry of Agriculture on quantities of legume seeds to be distributed in this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
The ministry officials appeared before the committee in Lilongwe on Thursday where they presented its report on 2013/14 Fisp.
The report read by Fisp coordinator Christine Mtambo said: “At least 7 500 metric tonnes and at least 3 000 metric tonnes of maize and legume seeds will be subsidised, respectively. The programme will target 1.5 million beneficiaries. It will require 150 000 metric tonnes of fertiliser.”
But Thyolo South West Member of Parliament Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza said the committee wanted to know the exact quantity of the legume seed as the report only provided estimates.
“This is a presidential initiative and this is already September. We are talking about important crops such as groundnuts, beans and soya beans. We cannot be talking of estimates instead of exact figures at this time,” fumed Chiyembekeza.
The response by the ministry that exact figures will be provided to the committee soon, did not augur well with the parliamentarians who raised more concerns.
Chiradzulu North Member of Parliament Margaret Roka Mauwa wondered why there is a 21 percent reduction in Fisp beneficiaries in her constituency.
“The names of some people in Chiradzulu have been left out as beneficiaries of the programme. When we went to the DC’s [district commissioner] office we were told it was a directive from the ministry,” said Mauwa.
But Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary Jeffrey Luhanga justified the reduction, saying it came because government has removed some 44 000 beneficiaries added last year.
“However, it is only a two percent reduction in each district. We will need to look into the Chiradzulu reports again to find out if the staff is doing a noble job,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ministry has said in the 2013/14 Fisp it will not include transporters who were involved in the misplacement of fertilisers and seeds during last season’s programme.
Luhanga cited the Kasungu incident where bags of fertilisers went missing on the way to a distribution centre and the incidents of mixing fertiliser with sand.
“We will not include the dishonest transporters once they are identified. We want trustworthy transporters and fertiliser suppliers to be engaged in the 2013/14 Fisp,” said Luhanga.
He said measures have now been put in place to prevent fertiliser diversions by some transporters.
“We are engaging a vehicle tracking system with support from USaid where vehicles will be tracked by satellite. The Malawi Police Service and the Road Traffic Directorate will also be involved in the screening and certificate registration,” said Luhanga.
Reading the Fisp update report, the programme coordinator said the ministry had already selected tenders to supply transport services and bids were opened.
“Evaluation is now under way. The ministry has also awarded contracts to 26 companies and organisations for the 2013/14 programme’s fertiliser supply, and other 15 companies to supply seeds,” said Mtambo.