Lowe blames AIP mess on private suppliers

Lowe blames AIP mess on private suppliers

Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe has faulted private suppliers for messing up implementation of the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) in the just-ended 2021/22 growing season.

He said this on Friday in Lilongwe during the award of the ministry’s outstanding staff drawn from the country’s 28 districts.

Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe

The minister said private suppliers failed to deliver or did not meet allocated amount while in other cases they pulled out at the eleventh hour.

Said Lowe: “Let me communicate my disappointment to the private sector players we trusted to do business with the government.

“Some contracted suppliers of farm inputs have proved us wrong that the private sector is serious after failing to meet minimum contractual farm input allocation. As a result, most fertiliser bought by farmers came from government entities.”

He said in the 2022/23 financial year, the government has planned to address AIP inefficiencies by empowering State agencies to take lead in procurement and distribution of farm inputs.

But agriculture policy experts have said the government remedial measures will not in any way help improve the implementation of AIP.

In an interview on Sunday, agriculture policy analyst Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said State agencies already failed to deliver during Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp), AIP’s forerunner.

He warned that the situation may worsen in the 2022/23 crop growing season if the government goes ahead with the plan.

Nkhono-Mvula called on the government to change conditions, which according to him are a disincentive to the private sector, citing government fixed fertiliser prices as key.

He said: “The challenge with private suppliers was not inefficiency, but poor relationship with the government which the government should devote to solve. As far as efficiency is concerned, in terms of imports and transportation of inputs, the private sectors will at all costs be required to be involved.”

About 13 companies turned down AIP contracts in November 2021 at the eleventh hour, citing the effects of Covid-19, rising cost of fuel to import and transport fertiliser and government fixed prices as reasons that would negatively affect their bottom lines in the programme.

The Tonse administration rolled out AIP in 2020 replacing Fisp, which was a flagship programme for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

In the 2022/23 National Budget, AIP received K109.58 billion and targeted 3.7 million farmers while in implementation (2021/22) it got K142 billion and targeted the same number of beneficiaries. In 2020, it was allocated K160.2 billion.

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