Malawi needs to strike a balance between expenditures across the National Agriculture Investment Plan (Naip) programmes and intervention areas to improve performance in the agriculture sector, a Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development report has recommended.
The Agriculture Sector Performance Report covering July 2017 to June 2018 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development found that the unbalanced expenditures result in skewed funding allocations to few programmes and interventions in the agriculture sector, leading to some sectors underperforming and affecting the performance of the whole system.
But speaking during the launch of the report, Minister of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa said government will address the highlighted inefficiencies to improve the sector because agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy.
He said: “We know there are a lot of inefficiencies like unbalanced expenditures that need to be scrutinised and be dealt with.
“Only if we can deal with these, we will have a sector that we want which will not only provide food, but also contribute to the gross domestic product [GDP].”
The report also described the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) as a drain of public funds because the programme’s returns do not match with the investment.
The report further says budgetary allocations to research and extension services remain the lowest among the programmes under the ministry.
The report also noted that yields of most crops fall short of the Naip targets because yields of most cereals and legumes plummeted in the 2017/18 season due to unfavourable weather.
Reads the report in part: “For instance, maize yield dropped from 2.0 tonnes per hectare in 2016/17 to 1.6 in 2017/18 against a Naip target of 4.0 tonnes per hectare. Other cereals also performed dismally in the period under review registering yield decreases.
“Roots and tubers retained their yield levels of around 20 tonnes per hectare against a minimum target of 35 tonnes per hectare.
“All legumes also registered lower yield levels when compared to 2016/17 season and all falling below the Naip targets. The dismal performance in crop production is attributed to unfavorable weather experienced during the period under review.”
Irish Ambassador Gerry Cunningham commended government for the positive developments it has achieved, but said there is need to improve in balancing up expenditures.
On his part, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) vice-chancellor George Kanyama Phiri said he was impressed with the changes in the sector, saying government has demonstrated commitment to improve agriculture. Malawi’s economy is predominantly driven by the agriculture sector which contributes about 28 percent of the GDP and employs about 64 percent of the workforce. Agriculture also accounts for up to 80 percent of the export earnings.