Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda has directed that fertiliser under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) should be sold at a uniform price to avoid swindling farmers.
Chaponda has since ordered that there should be officers from various agricultural development divisions (ADDs) at various selling points across the country to ensure that the price control is maintained.
This year, subsidy fertiliser is being sold at a difference between K15 000 paid by government and the actual commercial price determined by private traders which on average is at K22 000 for NPK and K19 500 for Urea in most selling points countrywide.
The minister, speaking on the sidelines of a Fisp progress and crop inspection tour of five out of the seven districts in Blantyre Agricultural Development Division (ADD), said he issued the order considering that most farmers visited during the tour complained of buying the fertiliser at a higher price although they were given receipts indicating the normal prices.
“Overpricing is a challenge that has been noted throughout. Instead of paying K7 000 or K8 500 per bag, others were charging more than that. I have, therefore, directed that this should not be the case and the prices should be reduced immediately. We are looking at this countrywide because we have noticed that people will be going to other areas to purchase the fertiliser when there is none in their areas.
“We are aware that the private traders wanted to make profits and what is at stake is that the price fixed by the company was another and then the clerks were charging their own price too and in some instances they were also having two receipt books, one for the company and the other for their own benefit,” said Chaponda.
A visit at Lunzu Export Trading Company (ETG) input selling point in Blantyre found that most farmers, who bought the subsidy fertiliser in the past month, have been buying NPK fertiliser between K10 000 and K11 000 although they got receipts indicating K7 000.
An ETG official at the selling point, Shakil Shaikh, told the minister the company is at moment investigating the sales clerks suspected to have been doing that.
Some farmers in Phalombe and Chiradzulu complained that fertiliser is usually not available in designated selling points. n