Former Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe has explained the decision to choose United Kingdom based butchery as a supplier of fertilizer saying the cheap prices offered by the company excited the ministry.
Lowe made the remarks this morning when he appeared before the joint parliamentary committee which is investigating the K750 million fertilizer procurement scandal.
According to Lowe, under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) this year, K97 million was allocated to fertilizer and the ministry’s target was to reach 2.5 million farmers. The ministry calculated that it had to buy fertilizer at less than K30,000 per bag in order to reach over 2 million farmers.
“AIP is a political tool and any reduction in number of beneficiaries has negative impact so I gave directions not to reduce number of beneficiaries,” said Lowe.
He added that a technical committee started looking at opportunities to buy fertilizer directly from manufacturers and one company identified was Yara. However, they were advised that they could only buy fertilizer from Yara through agents.
According to Lowe, officials from his ministry went to Egypt to look for suppliers and they found that the prices were high and that they could only buy from agents.
So when they came back to Malawi, the officials decided to buy through UK based company Barkaat Foods Limited.
“So considering the budget and number of beneficiaries, Barkaat seemed to be one of the best options where we could reach 2 million beneficiaries,” said Lowe.
Government paid Barkaat US$725,000 (about K750 million) to lock the fertilizer price but the company at the time had no contract with government. The payment is also also deemed to have flouted procurement procedures. It was also revealed that Barkaat Foods Limited is actually a meat company and has no capacity to supply fertilizer.
After the payment, a delegation went to UK to appreciation quality of Barkaat’s fertilizer and the company’s capacity to supply 25,00metric tonnes of fertilizer.
While in transit to London, the delegation learnt that Barkaat had lost its production line with Yara hence could not supply fertilizer.
“After all that excitement that we will cover a lot of beneficiaries, it was a disappointment,” said Lowe.
Lowe during the hearing also complained about cartels that push up fertilizer prices to up to K70,000 saying the cartels have been fighting the ministry because it was looking to buy directly from manufacturers.
He, however, refuted claims that government has lost K30 billion meant for procurement of fertilizer this year, saying the lie was manufactured in Parliament and it spread through the media.
“The whole country considered me as a thief and that the AIP was affected because their K30 billion was stolen by me,” said Lowe.
Last week, Lowe was fired as Minister of Agriculture over the deal which also led to the firing of Sandram Maweru as Principal Secretary of Agriculture.
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Mbava izi why decided to buy fertilizer from butcher don’t lie to us mwachita ma share inu
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