inister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe says the number of this year’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) beneficiaries will be known after finalising contracts with fertiliser suppliers.
He said this yesterday in Blantyre on the sidelines of a meeting with commercial tobacco growers and the Tobacco Commission team on industry matters.
Lowe was responding to a question on the progress the ministry has made on procurement of fertiliser and the number of beneficiaries to be targeted this year amid global fertiliser price hikes and devaluation of the kwacha.
“We should be able to give you feedback soon. As a ministry, all processes are at an advanced stage in terms of evaluation and soon, we should be able to come up with some contracts and it will be then that we will know the number of beneficiaries,” said the minister.
He said the ministry will consider the rise in fertiliser prices and devaluation of the kwacha when determining the number of beneficiaries.
Following the launch of AIP, which almost quadrupled the number of beneficiaries to 3.6 million from 900 000 under its forerunner, Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme, the requirement has increased to between 400 000 and 450 000 metric tonnes (MT) of fertiliser.
In the 2022/23 National Budget, AIP has been allocated K109.5 billion, representing about 85 percent of the agriculture sector budget. The allocation is a K33 billion decline from the previous year’s K142 billion.
In the last financial year, 166 companies were awarded contracts, including 153 small and medium enterprises and two parastatals, Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation and Smallholder Farmers Fertilisers Revolving Fund of Malawi.
Last agriculture season, each beneficiary redeemed a 50 kilogramme (kg) bag of fertiliser at K7 500 with the government subsidising K19 500.
However, in the 2021/22 season, fertiliser prices ranged between K35 000 and K38 000 due to forex shortages and rising global prices.
Meanwhile, spot-checks conducted by The Nation indicate that a 50kg bag of fertiliser is fetching an average of K60 000.