The Ministry of Agriculure, Irrigation and Water Develoment says smallholder farmers will have to wait for 45 days from last Wednesday for cheaper farm inputs to be distributed in all areas, despite some areas receiving early rains.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has described the situation as disappointing.
The early rains which meteorologist James Julio from the Department of Meteorological Services and Climate Change has termed chizimalupsya are an indication that the rainy season is around the corner.
Cisanet director Tamani Nkhono said by this time, farmers were supposed to be redeeming the inputs, especially in the Southern Region as the main rains are about to start.
He said it is disappointing that in other areas, coupons have not been distributed yet.
“This delay will affect smallholder farmers as it is very likely that most of them will not access the inputs. If we assume that the rains start in the next three weeks, most roads will be impassable and the hard to reach areas may not have the supply,” said Nkhono.
He said the delay will also put pressure on the supply system, leading to a compromise on most of its operations.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) research, policy and partnerships officer Candida Nakhumwa said government had enough time to prepare for the 2014/2015 Fisp despite a late national budget approval.
She said changing the financial calendar to April would align it with the country’s agricultural calendar thereby reducing panic.
Nakhumwa said the farmers’ organisation hopes that government will be ready with the inputs as rains start to ensure timely planting and application of fertiliser.
“Timely planting and fertiliser application is particularly important with the threat of El Nino this year which may trigger localised dry spells and floods,” she said.
Nakhumwa advised that planting should be properly timed and early maturing seed varieties should be allocated to areas that might be affected.
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza said last week farm input distribution has already started in some parts of the country.
“We have just started, we cannot distribute in all areas at once, we are doing all we can to reach all areas, including hard to reach within 45 days from last week,” he said.
According to the ministry, as of last Friday five districts in the Central Region, two in the North and five in the Southern Region had received inputs.
This year’s programme is targeting 1.5 million beneficiaries against 150 000 metric tons of fertiliser.