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June 28, 2009

Malawi increases fertiliser subsidy

by Mabvuto Banda

Malawi announced another cut to fertiliser prices under its subsidy programme in late June as part of efforts to boost food production in the country.

A 50kg bag of fertiliser will now cost 500 kwacha ($3.57) from 800 kwacha ($5.71), Andrew Daudi, secretary in the ministry of agriculture said. The cut is the second since last year, when prices were reduced to 800 kwacha from 900 kwacha per 50kg bag.

Malawi introduced the fertiliser and seed subsidy programme in 2004 and since then has recorded consecutive bumper harvests of maize, the country’s staple food. The increased output has also helped drive unprecedented economic growth above seven percent for the past three years.

“The secret has been the implementation of the inputs subsidy programme … since we started four years ago, we have recorded food surpluses and this year the final crop is at 3.8 million metric tonnes,” Daudi said.

He said the harvest represented a 36 percent increase from last year, when the country reaped 2.78 million metric tonnes of maize.

Malawi’s national maize requirement is between 2.2-2.4 million tonnes per year, Daudi said.

The inputs subsidy programme has been a major success in the country of 13 million and has managed to end nationwide food shortages. When it was introduced in 2004, the country recorded a maize surplus of 500,000 tonnes, far above the previous harvests before the subsidy started.

In the 2005/06 season, the harvest doubled to 1.1 million tonnes and in 2007/08, Malawi recorded its highest harvest in 10 years and exported 400,000 tonnes to hunger stricken Zimbabwe.

“For the programme to be successful we have been trying to put more people on the list of beneficiaries and last year we distributed fertiliser to 2 million people. We plan to increase that the next financial year,” Daudi said.

The subsidy programme has also has increased output of other food crops like rice and cassava.

According to Daudi, rice production increased to 135,000 tonnes in 2008 from about 100,000 tonnes the previous year, while cassava output also went up to 3.7 million metric tonnes last season from 3 million tonnes in the previous year.

“Therefore, we have more food surpluses … and this is thanks to the fertiliser subsidy programme,” he said.

African farming groups have called on governments in the continent to boost support to help farmers produce more food and compete internationally. African countries argue their products would be much cheaper than developed nations’ goods if trade-distorting tariffs and subsidies were removed.

Nyasa Times

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