Malawi maize is one of the most expensive in the world regardless of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which has been consuming about ten percent of the National Budget annually.
Maize prices in selected countries according to the recent World Bank Youth Employment in sub-Saharan Africa report indicates that Malawi maize average prices between January and April 2012 stood at $400 (K172 000) per tonne. Approximately this is about $0.40 (K172) per kilogramme.
Comparatively, maize in Ethiopia was selling at $390, Kenya $393, Mozambique $378, Rwanda $318, South Africa $293, Tanzania $334, Zimbabwe $300 per tonne.
But Malawi has been implementing Fisp for the past nine years whose goal is to improve food security by reducing production costs for small holder farmers.
This year government allocated about K60 billion which is about 10 percent of the total National Budget which now stands at K640 billion.
But commenting on the maize prices, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security spokesperson Sarah Tione in a telephone interview on Thursday attributed the high prices to fertiliser prices.
“We import most of our fertilisers which is reflected in high local prices. To solve this we need to encourage mixing and production of fertilisers locally. We are also encouraging the use of manure so that we reduce fertiliser imports. Apart from this Fisp only targets a small fraction of farmers,” said Tione.
But Civil Society Agriculture Network(Cisanet) national coordinator Tamani Nkhono-Mvula in a telephone interview on Thursday argued that the causes of high production costs which are reflected in high prices in Malawi are complex and would require a lot of investment to solve.
“In Malawi most food is produced by small holder farmers who produce for consumption and not for sale. Most of our commercial farmers produce tea and tobacco. In other countries food is produced by big commercial farmers who enjoy lower costs. But we cannot just neglect the smallholder farmer because that will also create food shortage problems,” he said.
Based on the 2013/14 financial plan released by the Ministry of Finance, out of the total K60 billion allocated to Fisp, K55 billion and K5.53 billion have been allocated to fertilisers and seeds respectively.
The statement further indicates in 2014/15 and the following year a total of K60.9 billion is projected to be spent on the programme with K54.3 billion for fertilisers and K6.6 billion for seeds.