After months of waiting, smallholder farmers are today expected to know their fate on whether they will be supported by the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) or not, and how much they will pay for it.
Responding to The Nation‘s query on the status of this year’s AIP on Monday, Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale said there is progress, adding the ministry will update the country today on the status of AIP and the way forward.
He, however, did not provide more details, only adding that the ministry is working hard to ensure that the programme is implemented successfully.
“The nation will be updated about everything surrounding AIP tomorrow [today],” said the minister.
The ministry had earlier committed to release the list of AIP beneficiaries and make known the farmer contribution towards the inputs by the second week of October, before rolling out the AIP in the third week of this month.
The ministry estimated that about 1.3 million to 1.5 million smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from this year’s AIP, based on the amount of fertiliser to be secured.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture chairperson Sameer Suleman has reiterated that by now, farmers should have accessed fertiliser and seeds to enable those not benefitting from AIP to plan for the season.
“They promised that farmers will start accessing fertiliser in July and later they said September. So, by now, farmers should have had the fertiliser,” he said.
Suleman expressed concern that a number of Malawians will still be food-insecure because of the delays in implementing AIP.
As of October 5 2023, there was a total of 73 358 metric tonnes (MT) of fertiliser for AIP against a required 149 164MT.
Of the total tonnage available, the stock that was ready to be drawn was 16 385MT, which is carry over stock in Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) warehouses.
There was about 37 747MT of fertiliser in suppliers warehouses but could not be drawn until paid for, while 19 225MT in SFFRFM warehouses could not be drawn as it is also under collateral management.
In February this year, President Lazarus Chakwera promised a timely AIP and directed that procurement processes should be completed by end June so that people should start accessing inputs early July.
However, that did not materialise and the Ministry of Agriculture later shifted the AIP roll-out to September, a deadline that was again not met.
The ministry later stated that it will be done with all processes by first week of October but come that time, the ministry admitted that it was still facing challenges in procuring fertiliser due to forex issues.
The Ministers of Agriculture and Information have since announced they are holding a press briefing at SFFRFM offices in Kanengo today to update the nation on AIP.