Experts have warned that Malawi could face a serious food security crisis in 2022 if the government does not contain the surging prices of farm inputs, especially fertilizers.
They warned that neither reducing the scope of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) such as eliminating seed subsidies nor circumventing the private sector to obtain fertilizers would reduce costs significantly to maintain current fertilizer subsidy levels.
The experts, who included celebrated and top-notch academic and agricultural scholars, made the sentiments during a roundtable discussion in Lilongwe on Thursday evening.
Malawi Agriculture Policy Advancement and Transformation Agenda (MwAPATA Institute) convened the roundtable discussion in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI-Malawi) with technical and financial support from the Michigan State University and the Foundation for a Smoke Free World.
In attendance at the discussion were Chairpersons of the Parliamentary Committees on Budget, Trade, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Government of Malawi Ministries, Departments and Agencies; development partners; private sector; and civil society organizations.
In his contribution, the National Planning Commission (NPC) Director of Knowledge and Learning, Dr. Joseph Nagoli, said the upsurge in fertilizer prices hinders Malawi’s ability to achieve the national food security.
“There is going to be a serious food security crisis next year if we do not act today. Although fertilizer prices may reduce in the coming weeks, the prices will continue fluctuating in future; hence, the decision must be taken quickly on the most cost-effective way of delivering fertilizers as any delay will affect timely distribution of fertilizers to farmers,” said Nagoli.
He add, “In the long run, Malawi can reduce its vulnerability to global fertilizer price volatility by investing in infrastructure, improving fertilizer efficiency through research and extension, improve soil health.”
Vice Chancellor for the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Professor Emmanuel Kaunda, said time had come for Malawi to look for homegrown solutions to fertilizer crisis.
Kaunda challenged the government and stakeholders to consider investing in agricultural research that could bring about the birth of fertilizer factory in Malawi.
Others suggested that Malawi should bring in more players in the fertilizer distribution sector to burst the cartel that is alleged to be holding the country at ransom.
In his welcome remarks, MwAPATA Institute Executive Director William Chadza described the price surge in inorganic fertilizers as historical and it remains both, a food security and economic problem for farmers, as well as a policy problem for government.
Chadza said it is against this backdrop that the MwAPATA Institute released a policy brief, and simultaneously, the IFPRI released a policy note, both related to the fertilizer price surge.
He, however, lamented that despite the timely release of the two publications, there is still a lot of misinformation about what is driving the high prices.
“That’s why MwAPATA Institute and IFPRI-Malawi organized this roundtable to allow stakeholders deliberate on the key drivers of the fertilizer prices surge and potential policy options for consideration by policy makers,” he said.
During the roundtable discussion, two experts made presentations, which highlighted their analysis, shedding light to the key drivers and various policy recommendations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :