The Ministry of Agriculture has said the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) will target 4.2 million smallholder farmers and and has estimated that 6.8 million metric tons of maize will be realized in 2020/21 growing season.
Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe introduced the new programme at a press briefing today.
He said the AIP will start in the 2020-21 farming season and will target all smallholder farmers with the aim of enabling Malawi to attain food security at household and national levels and reduce poverty.
“The programme will increase access to quality and improved farm inputs such as fertilizers and maize seed,” said Lowe.
According to Lowe, smallholder farming households in Malawi are estimated at 4,279,100 and each smallholder farmer will be entitled to access one 50kg bag of Urea, one 50kg bag of 23:10:5+6S+1.0Zn (NPK) and either one pack of 5kg hybrid maize seed or one pack of 7kg OPV maize seed.
This means a total of 213,955 metric tonnes of Urea, 213,955 metric tonnes of NPK and 21,396 metric tonnes of maize seed will be accessed by smallholder farmers.
“Farmers will be buying one 50kg bag of either urea or NPK at MK4,495.00 and buy maize seed pack at MK2,000.00,” said Lowe.
According to Lowe, the fertilizer being offered to famers in the programme is enough for an acre or 0.4 hectares.
He added that if the inputs are properly used and the crop is well managed, each household is expected to harvest about 32 bags of 50kg each of maize (which is 80 bags per hectare).
At national level, the Ministry expects that 1.7 million hectares will be planted to improved maize seed and will be applied to both basal and top dressing fertilizers.
“About 6.8 million metric tons of maize will be realized. If we subtract the 3.2 million metric tonnes, which is national food requirement, 10.7% of the production to postharvest losses, 220,000 metric tonnes for industrial use and 217,000 metric tonnes for Strategic Grain Reserve replenishment, then the country will produce excess maize of about 2.48 million metric tonnes of maize. This excess ladies and gentlemen will be available for export,” said Lowe.
According to the minister, farmers will be accessing cheap inputs from both public institutions and private companies which will be given contracts to retail the farm inputs to farmers.
He said the Ministry did a survey to establish availability of fertilizers in preparation for 2020-21 farming season and has found out that over 37% of programme fertilizer requirement is already in the country, 14% has already been procured and it’s on its way to Malawi while the remaining 49% is under procurement process by various fertilizer suppliers.
He added that the Ministry has also established that Malawi has enough improved certified maize seed to support smallholder farmers in the programme.
“I would therefore like to assure the nation that the Government is ready to implement the massive Affordable Inputs Programme starting from 2020-21 season,” he said.
On inputs redemption, Lowe said the Ministry with support from National Registration Bureau and E-Government has developed an electronic system that will be used to enable farmers procure fertilizers and maize seed from approved suppliers.
“The farmer will just go to supplier with his/her National ID (NID), and the supplier will scan the identity card using his/her smartphone and the farmer will select the input he or she wants to purchase. For easy monitoring of the programme by all players including local leaders and local structures, an Extension Planning area will be allocated to two or three suppliers,” he said.
He urged stallholder farmers to make sure they have National IDs and said his ministry is now cleaning-up the database of farmers and making sure that correct National Identification numbers are entered against the right farming household heads.
The AIP has replaced the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) which that was selecting about 900,000 farmers to benefit from farm inputs.
Lowe said the FISP was marred with a lot of challenges such ass suppliers buying coupons from desperate farmers; contracts being given to suppliers who could not perform to people’s satisfaction; and very few farmers being targeted in a village, which led to farmers sharing the inputs.