Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) has faulted the increase in expenditure per beneficiary of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), describing it as worrisome as it continues to drain taxpayers’ money.
In its analysis of the 2019/20 National Budget, CisaNet says despite the drop in the number of beneficiaries, the average spending per beneficiary has increased from K38 600 in 2018/19 fiscal year to K39 444 in the current financial year.
Reads the analysis in part: “Such an increase in average spending per beneficiary is worrisome as it means government is still spending more resources towards the programme, which has proven to have less impact on the livelihoods of the beneficiaries.”
The analysis has recommended that government should consider reducing the number of beneficiaries further and allocate resources to other potential or high-impact programmes within the agriculture sector.
In the K1.7 trillion 2019/2020 National Budget, there has been a drastic decrease in allocation as a share of the agriculture sector budget towards Fisp, which is part of other recurrent transaction (ORT) budget. The allocation jumped by about six percent from K38.6 billion from 2018/19 fiscal year to K35.5 billion in the current fiscal year.
Treasury allocated K167 billion towards the agriculture sector in this fiscal year, which is the second prioritised sector.
As regards access to coupons, CisaNet also established that the 2019/20 National Budget has favoured men at 450 000 against 407 000 women benefiting from the programme.
Quoting the World Bank, CisaNet said such a bias towards men is despite the fact that women are already producing 28 percent less (gross value of output) per hectare than men.
In an interview, CisaNet budget analyst Godwin Nyirongo has advised government to consider reducing the number of beneficiaries further and allocate resources to other potential or high-impact programmes.
Reacting to the CisaNet analysis, Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture vice-chairperson Ulemu Chilapondwa said there is need to allocate money towards sub-programme in the agriculture sector.
He said it is sad that while Fisp continues to attract more resources, livestock and fisheries sectors are not being adequately being financed despite their optimal overall impact to the economy.
Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Frighton Njiolomole said despite criticism, especially considering its cost and sustainability, their view is that agricultural subsidies are a good policy instrument for enabling agriculture growth and enhancing access to technology.
But he called for comprehensive reforms in the way Fisp is being implemented to ensure efficiency and value for money allocated.