Logistical hitches have left about 3.9 million farming households failing to access low-cost inputs under the Tonse Alliance administration’s signature K160 billion Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
The situation has put the beneficiaries in an awkward situation as rains have started in some areas; hence, creating panic.
Despite previous assurances that the logistical glitches were being resolved, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe told journalists in Lilongwe that only 294 000 or seven percent of the 4.2 million targeted beneficiaries have accessed the low-cost fertiliser being redeemed at K4 950 per 50 kilogramme (kg) and hybrid seeds.
Lowe, his Cabinet colleagues Gospel Kazako (Information) and Timothy Mtambo (Civic Education and National Unity) confirmed there was limited progress three weeks after President Lazarus Chakwera launched the programme at Pirimiti in Zomba.
The trio set out to give a status update in the distribution of subsidised farm inputs under the social protection scheme.
Lowe attributed the low coverage to a number of challenges, including intermittent network availability and that some contractors were using gadgets not resonating with the network interface.
But agriculture analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula feared that little will be achieved in the new programme if government officials will not work round the clock to address critical challenges hampering the distribution process.
Lowe said the network glitches, coupled with other challenges such as failure of suppliers to comply with terms of reference in their contracts have also contributed to the low percentage of farmers accessing inputs.
While warning contractors, he said government has already addressed a number of challenges and he was hopeful the process will speed up.
Said Lowe: “By the end of next week, we will have over 30 percent of farmers accessing farm inputs. We want to warn suppliers that if they do not meet requirements in the agreement, we will terminate their contracts.”
On how the government is resolving network problems, Kazako said the network was being expanded.
According to Lowe, as of November 11 this year, at least 14 515 metric tonnes (MT) of NPK out of213 800MT was bought. He said 13 388MT of urea out of 213 800 MT was also bought by farmers.
He said the highest sales were recorded in Zomba followed by Phalombe and Blantyre.
Commenting on the logistical hitches, Nkhono said government should engage its stakeholders to expedite access for the 93 percent.
He said: “At the current rate, we are not sure that the target will be met because details are missing on how government is dealing with challenges.”
Prospective beneficiaries have struggled to access the inputs under AIP which is using an electronic data platform. In some cases, beneficiaries, including women, are spending nights at retailers’ shops in a desperate need to buy the farm inputs.