Malawi Congress Party (MCP) says the government’s programme of providing cheaper farm inputs to smallholder farmers has not produced results and is maintain that there should be universal subsidy program.
MCP president the Reverend Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Leader of Opposition, told parliament that there should be an immediate stop to the current Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which benefits 1.4 million poor farmers who buy a 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser at K500 even after admitting that it was no longer effective.
During his State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered in Parliament on Friday, President Peter Mutharika committed to continue implementing Fisp reforms by strengthening private sector participation.
He announced the preliminary crop estimates indicate a 37.5 percent increase in maize production from 2.4 million metric tonnes (MT) in 2015/16 season to 3.3 million MT this season.
But Chakwera in his response to the Sona, advocated for phasing out of Fisp and introduce a universal subsidy programme
“Mr Speaker, Sir, we wish to reiterate our stand against FISP implementation and advocate for universal subsidy. This is because despite the President’s claim that government is implementing FISP reforms, his failure to state what these reforms are, gives us no reason to change what we know to be true, that FISP is being poorly implemented,” said Chakwera.
He said Fisp costs are continually escalating and yet the number of beneficiaries keeps dwindling.
“Again, the program has created a lot of strife in our communities especially between those that have received help and local leaders on one hand, and those that have been left out on the other,” Chakwera said.
He said input subsidy program has become “too political” and thus “divisive” in the communities where Malawians live.
“I call on government to prove that they have the courage to do the right thing, which is to phase out FISP by firstly universally subsidizing prices of top dressing fertilizers while encouraging our farmers to undertake intensive organic fertilizer or (manure) adoption as an alternative to the costly basal dressing fertilizers.
“Just because changing our habits is hard to do, does not mean we should not do it. We have the choice to do the right thing or to do the easy thing, and continuing FISP the way it is being done with no calendar for transitioning to something more sustainable is the easy thing,” said Chakwera.
Several commentators, including academics, have asked government to devise an exit-strategy for Fisp, saying it is not sustainable in the long run.
Each year, almost the same beneficiaries are given coupons to buy subsidised fertiliser and seed.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :