Malawi to increase price of subsidized fertilizer

Malawi’s poor who relies on subsidized fertilizers for their farm produce will soon start dipping more into their pockets to get 50kilongram of fertilizers following government announcement that it intend to revise the price upwards from the current K500.

 Malawi’s minister of agriculture Allan Chiyembekeza says the move aims to make the program more sustainable.

 “We understand that the normal price of fertilizer now is at K17, 000 so to maintain the subsidized fertilizer at K500 is not only a mockery but unhealthy to the sustainability of the program,”   he says.

 Chiyembekeza however says the price increase will not happen anytime soon but emphasized that it will be effected within five years period.

 The fertilizer subsidy program has been the contentious issue in Malawi since its introduction in 2005. In 2013 the visiting the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier De Schutter asked the government last last year to reassess its agriculture priorities and to increase support for many underfunded programs.

Minister of Agriculture Dr Allan Chiyembekeza: to To make the program more sustainable
Minister of Agriculture Dr Allan Chiyembekeza: to To make the program more sustainable

He said Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program, or FISP which enables the poor farmers to buy farm inputs including fertilizers at reduced prices is not working as planned.

 De Shutter said the problem is that it’s draining a lot of funds that could be used to develop other agricultural programs.

 “FISP has been quite vital since it was introduced in 2005-2006,” he said, “but like other programs it has at the same time many defects. And I propose number of ways in which FISP has to be improved. Other programs could be better financed if FISP is gradually reduced.”

Malawi’s support for fertilizer and other farm inputs takes up more over half of Malawi’s agricultural budget, which De Schutter said crowds out other priorities such as agriculture extension services.

 Despite the surpluses produce by the program, Malawi has still had to import maize.  Some government officials blame leaking silos that allowed stored food to rot.  The Consumers Association of Malawi has asked the government to form a commission of inquiry to look into the matter.

 However, supporters of FISP say those shortages are another reason for keeping the program.

Sara Tione, Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson had earlier said the benefits of the program are greater than its shortcomings.

 “We know that it is draining resources,” she said.  “But we cannot talk of exit strategies until Malawians are self-sufficient and food secure. If today we leave out people accessing the fertilizer are we going to ensure food self-sufficiency that way?”

Meanwhile, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has asked government to increase the number of beneficiaries of the Fisp.

MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila said it does not make sense for government to maintain the number of beneficiaries.

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