By Moses Nyirenda
Lilongwe, Malawi Government has terminated Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) and has instead introduced a similar program dubbed Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) which intends to assist small scale farmers in the country to buy cheap farm inputs such as fertilizer and seed.
Speaking on Friday during a press briefing in Lilongwe, Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe, said his ministry has terminated FISP after observing the numerous challenges farmers were facing with the program.
“The government has terminated FISP as it was selecting few farmers to benefit out of a pool of farmers in villages.
“That programme was marred with a lot of challenges some of which were: suppliers buying coupons from desperate farmers; contracts given to suppliers who could not perform to people’s satisfaction and few farmers targeted in a village, which led to farmers sharing the inputs,” Lowe said.
He added that AIP, which will start in the 2020-2021 farming season, has been introduced to enable the country attain food security at household and national levels.
The program is also aimed at reducing poverty by increasing farmers’ access to quality and improved farm inputs such as fertilizer and maize seed, according to the minister.
The new initiative will cover all smallholder farming households in the country, a contrast to FISP which selected few vulnerable households.
“The new program will cover all smallholder farming households in Malawi who are estimated at 4,279, 100,” he said.
Lowe also said farmers will be using National Identification (NIDs) to buy the cheap fertilizer and seed.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry has said it is clearing up the data base and making sure that correct national identification numbers are entered against the right farming household heads.
Lowe, therefore, appealed to all smallholder farmers with faulty IDs to rectify the problem with field extension workers before the commencement of the program.
He further explained that all farmers that do not have national IDs should go and register with the National Registration Bureau in order for them to benefit from the new program.
Through the program, each smallholder farmer will be entitled to access one 50kg bag of Urea, one 50kg bag of 23:10:5+1.0Zn (NPK) and either one pack of 5kg hybrid maize seed or pack of 7kg OPV maize seed.
Farmers will be able to access the cheap inputs from both public institutions and private companies.
They will be buying one 50kg bag of either Urea or NPK at MK4, 495. The maize seed pack will go at MK 2000.
About 37 per cent of the program fertilizer requirement is already in the country, 14 per cent has already been procured while 49 per cent is under procurement processes by various fertilizer suppliers, according to the 2020-2021 Farming Season Preparation Survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture.