Poor farmers’ contribution to subsidised seed in this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) is set to double if suppliers’ sentiments are anything to go by, but government says it does not see that happening.
While the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development said yesterday they do not expect beneficiaries to pay more than K1 000 per seed package, the Seed Trade Association of Malawi (Stam) warns that farmers are likely to pay more than K3 000 for the seed packs and most of them may not afford it.
Government has planned to pay K5 000 as its contribution to the subsidised seed package, with farmers meeting the difference between this rate and the market price.
Seeds and fertiliser, are part of the broader Fisp that has, since 2006, targeted at least 1.5 million poor households nationwide.
But Capital Hill has cut that figure to 900 000 this year as part of the reforms to Fisp, although authorities remain vague on how the new beneficiaries in the shrinking Fisp envelope will be objectively identified.
The Fisp budget now stands at K34 billion, nearly half of the roughly K60 billion that Capital Hill used to spend prior to the current changes in both programme design and cost sharing model.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has shifted the launch of distribution of about 3.6 million Fisp coupons from October 15 to this month end.
This, according to a Fisp update report The Nation has seen, is because the Department for International Development (DfID), which is responsible for procuring the coupons, changed printing agents.
Reads the fifth Fisp logistics report dated October 4 2016: “It is understood that once again DfID will meet the cost of the vouchers. It has been learned that DfID has changed the buying agent and the latter are presently engaged in the steps necessary to identify a printer. However, the ministry maintains that vouchers will be in Malawi by 15th October 2016.”
In an interview yesterday, Fisp deputy coordinator Osbourne Tsoka—who said government does not believe the market price for seeds would be so high that farmers may end up paying over K1 000—also confirmed the date shifts and logistical hiccups.
He also said government has resolved the issues they had with the Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) on seed packaging.
“Now the final position as per the meeting we had on 19th of October, hybrid will be at 5 kg and OPV will be at 6kg. From this, government is expected to subsidise K5 000 and the farmer will top up the rest, but we believe it will not be more than K1 000,” he said.
Stam chairperson John Lungu, confirmed agreeing with government on the packaging of seed, said government’s envisaged farmer top-up is too low.
“We are fine with the packaging, we just hope that farmers will afford to pay, because we expect that some seed suppliers might charge as much as K8 500 per maize seed pack, meaning a farmer will need to pay [at least] K3000 as top up,” he said.
In the 2015/2016 financial year, the total amount for seed was K6 550, with farmers paying K1 500.
On the fertilizer part, the total fertilizer cost was K21 500, with government coughing K18 000 and farmer contributing K3 500, according to Tsoka. n