The Fertiliser Association of Malawi has warned that the country may be hit by limited supply of fertiliser in the 2022-23 farming season as companies are failing to import the commodity due to forex shortages.
In an interview on Wednesday, the association’s executive administrative officer Mbawaka Phiri said currently fertiliser stocks in the country are low, as such, she called on the government to intervene.
She said: “The shortage of fertiliser in the country would directly result in lower crop yields and less food for the population in the coming season.
“This would also mean the government would have to import food to cover the deficit in local production, increasing the financial burden in a very tough economic period.”
Phiri has since called on the government and various international financial institutions to assist with the current forex, saying the logistics window to import is shrinking.
She said: “We are aware that the government is engaging various international financial institutions in order to assist with the current forex situation.
“It is our hope that they succeed sooner rather than later as the logistics window to import is shrinking, and that fertiliser be designated an essential product much like fuel or medicine so it can be allocated for forex.”
Phiri said that the forex shortages being brought to the public’s attention is not just for subsidy fertiliser but for commercial sales in general, saying it affects the whole agricultural industry and not just smallholder farmers.
Fertiliser Association of Malawi data shows that in the past five years, the annual fertiliser market in Malawi is between 350 000 to 370 000 metric tonnes (MT).
In the 2020/21 growing season, 345 710MT of fertilisers were sold under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).
In a separate interview, an agriculture expert Leonard Chimwaza said agronomically, farmers are supposed to be having all the production inputs handy by the first week of October.
He said with the revelation that private fertiliser companies have not gone full throttle in importing inorganic fertiliser to Malawi, it means that crop production will be negatively affected.
Said Chimwaza: “It must be known that the hunger we witness in Malawi every year is man-made. It is because we do not embrace agricultural productivity as a key to achieve food security.”
He said Malawi soils have lost fertility; hence, the need for supplementation of nutrients in order to achieve optimum crop growth.
Chimwaza added that the government must consider assisting the fertiliser importers with forex now and that fertiliser must be treated as an essential commodity as it is the case with fuel and drugs.
He said Malawi’s economy is agro-based and it is important to make sure that the agriculture calendar is well observed and supported accordingly to avoid man-made hunger.
Already, Malawi is facing hunger as this year’s first round crop estimates show a 14 percent drop from last year’s.
This year the country is expecting to harvest over 3.8 million MT, against the annual food requirement of about 2.9 million MT for consumption.
Last season maize output was estimated at 4 581 524 MT.
In the 2020/21 agriculture season final crop estimate, maize production was estimated at 4 581 524 MT, while for the 2019/20, maize production was estimated at 3 785 712 MT.