Agriculture Minister, Lobin Lowe, together with Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako, and Minister of Civic Education and National Unity, Timothy Mtambo, conveyed Chakwera administration’s resolve on the issue of Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP). This occurred yesterday, Thursday, 16th September 2021.
Leading this cabinet delegation was the Minister of Agriculture who announced that government has maintained the number of beneficiaries at 3.7 million, except removing some civil servants totalling 44,000 who were not supposed to be on the list in the first place. This means the poor households in the villages will benefit from the initiative as they did last year without any of them getting removed.
The AIP is a deliberate intervention by the Chakwera administration targeting poor farming households which cannot afford buying the inputs at a standard market price of K27,000.
Last year, when the programme first rolled out, beneficiaries were purchasing the subsidized fertilizer at K4,499 per 50kg bag.
However, this farming season things have changed as the delegation announced that the beneficiaries will now access the AIP packages at a revised price of K7,500 per 50kg bag.
Apart from fertiliser and seed, the delegation further announced that government has also added livestock which will be distributed to targeted households in Chikwawa district in the Southern region. According to the announcement, the targeted households will receive two goats each.
To achieve the AIP at K7,500 against the standard market price of K27,000 per bag, government is contributing about K19,500 per bag. While some economic experts and non-experts alike have called upon government to find an exit strategy saying the AIP is not sustainable, President Chakwera announced last month that his administration will continue ensuring that the poor farmers continue accessing affordable inputs.
Despite this price increase from last year, the targeted farmers will continue buying the inputs at a far much lower price than what DPP administration could ever achieve with its subsidy version a few years back. Under DPP, the government was only subsidizing 900,000 famers who were paying k15,000 per 50kg bag while Chakwera is subsidizing about 3.7 million farmers who will be paying k7,500 per 50kg bag this farming season.
The ruling MCP 2019 manifesto outlines introduction of mega farms as one of the food security strategies which experts have said can be a strategic tool for exiting the AIP when the vulnerable farmers have been sustainably empowered over a period of Five years.
Investigators have informed Shire Times that during the 2020 AIP season, suppliers who were contracted by the government to distribute the commodity to farmers across the country abused the trust and perpetrated fraud in the process. It has been revealed that some suppliers were recording fake distributions that never took place while diverting the subsidized commodity to the common market where they were selling at the standard prize of K21,000. This constitutes a serious hanging issue that demands immediate probe so that those suppliers who indulged in this malpractice cannot be awarded another contract this season. Further, these contractors need not to go away with the fraud that they committed last season. They have to be investigated and be brought to book.