Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Fertiliser Association of Malawi (FAM) have clashed over pricing as committee chairperson Sameer Suleman accuses the grouping of ripping off Malawians.
It all started in Parliament on Friday when Suleman, who is Blantyre City South East legislator, described the association as a cartel that is only out to rip off the country by making “double profits”.
In an open letter released on Saturday, the association described Suleman’s remarks as unfortunate and hostile towards the private sector which government is aiming to grow and support.
Reads the statement in part: “FAM membership collectively imports and sells a large part of Malawi’s fertiliser requirements. This does not in any way inhibit or prohibit non-FAM members or government institutions from doing the same so we cannot be blamed for their failure to do so.”
The association added they had requested and organised a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture to discuss current constraints faced by the fertiliser industry and Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
But the association claimed that the efforts failed because they were not able to fund K25 million for a road trip proposed by the committee.
In an interview yesterday, Suleman confirmed seeing the letter from the association online, but said the position stated by the association was not factual.
He said his committee was surprised with the claims that it declined the audience, saying the committee made several attempts for a meeting, but nothing materialised.
Suleman further alleged that the association was trying to run away from responding to inquiries that the committee is making.
He said: “We invited them to Parliament, but their chairperson refused to come, saying MPs are useless and they cannot deal with us. He later sent his boys [subordinates] whom we sent back because we needed to talk to the chairperson and not them.”
On the K25 million cost for legislators’ transport costs, Suleman said the amount would have arisen if the planned meeting took place after Parliament had adjourned and the MPs had returned to their respective constituencies. He said the actual cost would have been determined after Parliament Secretariat calculated the costs for the individual members.
FAM this year differed on pricing of the commodity. The government proposed about K27 000 for fertiliser under AIP, while the association insisted that market variables favoured the price to be pegged at K35 000.
The AIP, government’s input subsidy scheme targeting 3.7 million smallholder households, is rocked with logistical hitches, including erratic availability of fertiliser that have negatively impacted its implementation