Experts have faulted the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) saying in its present format it cannot stimulate agricultural productivity but perpetuate poverty.
Africa Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership vice-president Richard Mkandawire, speaking in an interview during the just ended 12th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (Caadp) Partnership Platform Meeting in Accra, Ghana, said the current programme patronises poverty.
He said: “With Fisp on board, resources are being diverted to areas not productive and leaving out those who can efficiently deliver out of the system. What the programme is doing at the moment is to enhance productivity in agriculture. patronise poverty and not
“There is need to create space for growing small and medium enterprises in agriculture value chains to boost agriculture productivity because these are entrepreneurs in their own right.”
Mkandawire observed that allocating big sums of money to the programme also ignores other potential subsectors with capacity to grow.
He said: “One cannot deny the social protection aspect, but let us look at other ways of supporting them, including their real needs because some farmers do not really need fertiliser.”
Fisp, introduced in 2005 to boost household food security through provision of farm inputs at subsidised prices, notably fertiliser and hybrid seed to smallholder farmers, has in recent years come under fire from several quarters who argue that the programme does not give the desired returns.
In the Mid-year Budget Review in February this year, Fisp got an extra K22.6 billion (about $32.4million) funding, pushing its allocation by 54 percent.
Previously, Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) has argued for a programme that changes the mindset of citizens from subsistence farming to medium and large-scale farming.
But Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe maintained government will not abandon Fisp. He said, going forward, government was redesigning Fisp.
Nikolas Bosscher, deputy general representative for the Flemish Government, also said there is need to rebalance the overall investments in the agriculture sector because Fisp draws so much resources that there is basically nothing left for other important subsectors.
He said: “There is no denying the importance of Fisp for the country, but these expensive inputs should be targeted to small farmers that can make optimal usage. Such smallholders should be taken on board of other programmes such as public works and social cash transfers and resilience programmes.”
Bosscher also said food production is not sufficient as it has stagnated over the past years because farmers are not sure they will obtain good prices for their produce.
In his reaction on Wednesday, Secretary to the Treasury Ronald Mangani said the programme incorporated the private sector this year as part of Fisp reforms and it will depend on their performance as to whether it should be completely left in their hands.
Efforts to get a comment from new Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda and his principal secretary Erica Maganga on the new proposals proved futile as their phones were out of reach. n