President Peter Mutharika returned to the campaign trail yesterday ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and insisted that his administration will maintain the targeted Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) if retained in power.
The President, who addressed whistle-stop rallies in Nkhotakota District, dismissed proposals by opposition parties, notably Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and new kid on the block UTM Party, for a universal subsidy, describing it as counterproductive.
He said a universal subsidy would create a fertile ground for private agri-based traders to exploit rural farmers.
Said Mutharika: “Some presidential candidates are saying they want to introduce universal [fertiliser]
subsidy. This system is not practical as rural farmers will be exploited by unscrupulous traders.
“Fisp is the only programme that can ensure maximum household and national food security. Malawi has achieved food security since it was introduced in 2005 by the late Bingu wa Mutharika.”
Since 2005, Malawi has invested about K398.6 billion in Fisp, an equivalent of a third of the K1.4 trillion national budget, raising calls from opposition parties and other commentators, including Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama), for government to abolish the programme because it is not achieving its intended purpose.
Some of the Fisp critics have also suggested increased investment in irrigation as a better alternative towards achieving household and national food security goals.
Despite investing billions of kwacha in Fisp, millions of Malawians have continued to face food shortages.
During the rallies, Mutharika also said government is determined to protect tobacco farmers from exploitation through the Tobacco Industry Act recently rolled out.
He said the tobacco industry cannot develop without a good regulatory framework; hence, he signed into law a Bill aimed at protecting rural farmers.
Said the President: “I have pleaded with tobacco buyers not to offer low prices in this marketing season. We enacted a law that will protect them from being exploited.”
Mutharika also pledged rehabilitation of the Lakeshore Road, also known as the M5 Road, stating that a contractor has already been identified to do the works.
Ironically, during previous rallies in Nkhotakota in 2017 and last year, the President made a similar pledge to rehabilitate the worn-out road.
Nkhotakota North parliamentary candidate Henry Chimunthu Banda, a former Speaker of Parliament who has made a comeback to frontline politics, asked Mutharika to rehabilitate the 115-kilometre M5 stretch between Kaphatenga in Salima and Dwangwa in Nkhotakota North.
Like he has done in other districts he has addressed his campaign rallies, Mutharika also pledged seven new secondary schools for Nkhotakota to increase access to secondary education.
Speaking earlier at Dwangwa, DPP vice-president for Central Region Uladi Mussa said Nkhotakota has now become a stronghold for the party.
He said the party is poised to have more legislators in the Central Region.
In the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, DPP won two of the five parliamentary seats in Nkhotakota with MCP also getting two and an independent getting the other. In 2009, DPP also won two seats in the district, MCP won one and independents took two.