Beneficiaries of the Tonse Alliance administration’s flagship Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) will this year have to pay K7 500 to redeem the inputs, an increase from the highly heralded K4 495 implemented last season.
Making the announcement in Lilongwe yesterday, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe said government has maintained the number of beneficiaries under the AIP at 3.7 million farming households as indicated by President Lazarus Chakwera last month.
He said the increase in farmers’ contribution follows an increase in fertiliser prices.
Lowe said: “The cost of fertiliser is estimated at K27 000 per bag whereby government contribution will be K19 500 while farmer contribution will be K7 500, which is equivalent to the price of a bag of maize when sold at government minimum price of K150 per kilogramme [kg], unlike last year when it was K4 495.
“This year, government contribution on seed will be fixed at K3 365 per 5 kg seed pack. Farmers’ contribution will be varying depending on the prevailing market prices of each cereal variety.
“The opening up of the farmer contribution on seed will give an opportunity to farmers to buy seed of their choice.”
The minister also said government will pilot goat distribution in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts where instead of getting fertiliser and seeds, a farmer will qualify for two goats.
He said livestock beneficiaries in the pilot districts will be expected to pay K7 500 per she-goat while government contribution will be K20 500.
During the briefing, Lowe warned suppliers against increasing fertiliser prices unnecessarily, adding that government will not revise the prices.
“The list of successful bidders will be out next week and bidders will have to abide by the K27 000 price of fertiliser. The suppliers that are not comfortable with the price should not sign the contract,” he said.
According to Lowe, government will start distributing inputs mid-October in the hard-to-reach areas; hence, State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) has been instructed to go into those areas first.
He said that in the next programme, farmers would be allowed to exchange two bags of maize with fertiliser bags as their contribution.
The minister said: “Government is looking at ways to make AIP self-sustaining where farmers will be asked to give two bags of 50kg maize to Admarc soon after harvest and in exchange they will, at a later date, get one bag of Urea and one bag of NPK in preparation for 2022/23 season.”
Speaking during the same briefing, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako justified the increase in farmers’ contribution, saying it is meant to ensure that no farmer, who benefited from the programme, is left out.
He said the decision was made after serious consultations, adding it would have been unfair to take some people out of the programme.
On his part, Minister of Civic Education and National Unity Timothy Mtambo also cautioned people against spreading misinformation about AIP. He said Malawians need to be patriotic and support the programme.
But in an interview, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Food Security vice-chairperson Ulemu Chilapondwa said the increase in fertiliser prices that traders effected earlier was unjustified.
He said the committee did a research and found that fertiliser can land in Malawi at about K22 000 and those that were selling at K40 000 just wanted to dupe government and farmers.
However, Chilapondwa agreed with government that the fertiliser price should be pegged at K27 000 and the traders that are against the price should not participate in the programme.
“If the suppliers do not agree with the price, government should source the fertiliser itself,” he said.
Chilapondwa also said farmers need to start adapting to the increase in the contribution so that when government at some point thinks of universal subsidy and pegs the price maybe at K12 000, they should be able to buy after being empowered.
This year, government has allocated K141.9875 billion for AIP out of which K124.74 billion is earmarked for fertiliser purchases, K1.26 billion for purchases of goats and K12.25 billion for seed purchases.
According to experts, government needed K70 billion to maintain the same beneficiaries at the price of K4 495.