Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza has warned seed companies to find other means of sustaining their business because government finds the seed subsidy expensive to maintain.
Chiyembekeza said this in his statement during the official opening of the first Seed Trade Association of Malawi (Stam) congress and exposition in Lilongwe on Thursday.
His remarks comes against the background of government making a U-turn on an earlier decision to scrape the maize seed component from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe told The Nation earlier this week his ministry is raising K9 billion ($16,363,636) for the maize seed component through adjustment of allocations within the budget.
Seed companies grew cold feet after the decision by government to scrap off the seed component in Fisp.
Said Chiyembekeza: “I would like to challenge the private sector to do more in creating a vibrant and sustainable seed system and market in Malawi. Government will be there to support your initiatives, but not just through Fisp. This is the time to start exploring other alternative markets as this is the only way to sustain the existence and growth of the private sector.”
About 80 percent of the seed produced by seed companies is bought under Fisp. The seed is later sold to smallholder farmers through a chain of agro-dealers across the country.
Chiyembekeza said the decision by donors not to fund the seed component prompted government to scrap it off.
Stam board chairperson John Lungu hailed President Peter Mutharika for initiating the review of allocations to include maize seed component in Fisp.
He assured the minister that Stam will get rid of all unscrupulous agro dealers.
Said Lungu: “This exposition is an awareness creation on the importance of using certified seed. Currently, the adoption rate is somewhere at 45 percent and we can do better. Smallholder farmers need to know the importance of using improved technologies for maximum production and that is why we cannot afford agro dealers to mess this up.”
Meanwhile, Chiyembekeza has admitted there is slow progress in the distribution of Fisp as it only started last week.
He said: “We have started this programme a bit late, but there was literally nothing that government or my ministry could have done because we had to make sure that we have all the resources for the programme to continue but currently the distribution is underway.”
There are 1.5 million beneficiaries under Fisp. n