Beneficiaries of the 2016/2017 Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp) say high prices are forcing them to sell their coupons as they lack money to redeem inputs, a Farmers Union of Malawi study has revealed.
According to the Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) Fisp Monitoring Report Number 3 based on a study conducted between December 13 2016 and January 5 2017, there is on the market a high presence of vendors and other non-beneficiaries who are buying Fisp fertiliser in bulk in 27 districts across the country except Likoma.
In addition, the report says the supply of fertilisers to markets has been problematic, with suppliers stocking smaller quantities which do not take time to finish while resupply takes longer. This has resulted in NPK fertiliser not being available in most parts of the country.
“Presence of vendors in markets showed an organised syndicate with market clerks in tow where vendors could buy coupons and exchange them for money [cases in Bwengu, Mzimba, Phalombe, Zalewa, Ntchisi] or buying fertilisers in bulk, including night sales [Ntchisi, Khombedza in Salima, Nkhata Bay, Phalula in Balaka, Mayani in Dedza].
“Farmers have complained of such changes and the fact that they are being asked to provide extra tips to buy the fertilisers. This is making farmers fail to buy inputs and some have resorted to selling coupons altogether. The unit markets observed huge turnout of vendors who also queued and blocked coupon farmers, forcing them to pay bribes in order to buy fertilisers, with the range being K500-K 4 000,” reads the report.
The report also says out of the 29 companies that signed sales agreements with government in 15 districts and 30 extension planning area (EPAs), only 13 opened markets, representing 45 percent.
Reads the report: “In Nsanje District where Admarc [Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] is the sole supplier of fertilisers, there has never [been] NPK stocks up to 5th January 2017 and counting. In fact, RTM officials were open enough to indicate that consignment for companies for NPK is stuck in Beira. Farmers [are] travelling long distances in search of inputs and that most depots in January 2017 have stock outs, meaning that farmers are trekking to main trading centres and mostly to bomas to buy fertilisers.”
The report further says some farmers in Mbalachanda were buying fertiliser from Zambia at K15 000 per 50kg bag, with reports in Salima and Ntchisi of fertiliser bags being sold underweight, mostly weighing 45kg.
Commenting on the issue, Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) national director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula expressed disappointment over the conduct of private firms involved in the exercise.
“Firstly, let me say that it is very disappointing to [note] what some private sector players are doing in this year’s Fisp programme. As CisaNet, we were one of the organisations that advocated for increased participation of the private sector in the Fisp for increased efficiency of the programme.
“However it is disturbing that the same private [firms] are the ones messing up the programme. We have heard that some of them are not supplying fertiliser or undersupplying. For instance, they may have a consignment of supplying 1000 metric tonnes, but only supply maybe 600 tonnes…It is this attitude that is taking this country backwards, increasing poverty and inequality,” he said.
Nkhono-Mvula observed that the implication on production are obvious, saying that if people have not applied fertiliser, production will be low and the vicious cycle of hunger, poverty, malnutrition and inequality will never be broken.
“People are selling coupons out of frustration because the commodity is not there and it is mostly this so-called private sector that is frustrating the programme,” he said.
In an interview, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga described the events as unfortunate, saying they will affect production.
However he said his committee is already aware of the hiccups and that they will involve the ministry to resolve the issues.
“Some of our members already visited some sites in the Central Region where most of these reports were already confirmed, and it is sad really,” he said.
This year’s programme is 60 percent being run by private sector and government has pumped in K35 billion targeting 900 000 beneficiaries.
Deputy Fisp coordinator in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Osbourne Tsoka said the ministry is aware of some of the issues raised in the report. He said they are working tirelessly to resolve the issues.
“We are moving as quickly as possible. In fact, last week we had a meeting with suppliers and they have promised to supply fertiliser. They have at least 30 000 metric tonnes. We are hopeful this will not affect production,” he said.
In an interview some of the suppliers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the delay in processing payments has affected delivery of fertiliser.
“Government owes us over K11 billion and nothing has been paid. We need money to bring more fertiliser and because of these hitches the supply has been somewhat slow,” said one supplier.
But Tsoka said some of the problems were a result of some suppliers having fertiliser for Fisp as well as for commercial purposes.
“So what happened was that most fertiliser was exhausted for commercial purposes and that they had no fertiliser in stock. In addition government will this week pay the suppliers,” he said. n