By Brenda Nkosi & Mary Makhiringa
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa has expressed optimism that this year’s supply of fertilizer under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) will be successful.
Nankhumwa made the sentiments on Thursday when he toured Smallholder Farmers Fertilizer Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) offices in Blantyre and their warehouse in Chirimba Industrial Area.
“SFFRFM being one of the major suppliers in FISP, I came to check on them myself how prepared they are to supply as well as give out contracts to other players in the supply chain.
“I am impressed with the level of preparedness as they have done almost 90 percent of what they are supposed to do to help government in executing FISP,” he said.
Nakhumwa said the ministry was aware of the logistical challenges which have year in year out been delaying the supply of fertilizer to selling points.
“It’s a challenge I must admit; but I am working on it tirelessly to bring in some other reforms in as far as the FISP issues are concerned,” Nankhumwa said.
Chief Executive Officer for SFFRFM, Andy Kalinde said the company was ready for the 2019/2020 farming season.
“We are ready as an organization – we have already received around 20,000 tons of fertilizer for the programme but there is more that is yet to be delivered.
“SFFRFM has planned to bring in 45,000 tons of fertilizer this year for FISP and for other routine arrangements,” said Kalinde.
In the just recent presented 2019/2020 national budget to parliament, government has allocated K35.5 billion for FISP which will benefit 900,000 farming families.
In a related development, Balaka District Council Chairperson, Steven Michael Sauka has urged farmers in the district to take farming as business considering that it is through this that they can strive to work towards producing more quality yields.
Sauka made the remarks Wednesday during the fourth agriculture fair which the District Agricultural Extension Coordinating Committee (DAECC) organized in the district.
He said agriculture should not only be limited to farming, but also consider value addition to their yields for more profits at various markets.
“Farmers should know that they cannot have more profits from their yields if they harvest little and of poor quality. They need to put much effort in their fields so that during harvesting, more yield is attained,” Sauka said.
Sauka said value addition is another aspect that farmers need to think of when they harvest their crop produce.
“We have seen farmers from Tiyanjane Bakery making scones, cakes, biscuits using cassava flour; this is what we call value addition. Value addition increases the shelf life of the product and also increases the money that they make when they sell the product,” Sauka added.
He observed that value addition works better if farmers work in groups with one purpose, noting: “No man is an island, you need to be in groups with a common goal, work together and sell your products together.”
Chairperson for Balaka DAECC, Edward Mwale said agriculture fairs are good as they connect farmers to viable markets.
“For the past three years that we have been conducting agriculture fairs, we have seen farmers being linked to possible buyers.
“For example, just today a buyer has already indicated that they would wish to buy sesame. This means farmers need to start preparing, establish where to get seeds and know how much they will produce,” Mwale said.
According to Mwale, sesame is a crop which thrives in areas that receive normal to below average rainfall like Balaka; hence, giving farmers more opportunity to embrace sesame production during this year’s agricultural season. The fourth agriculture fair was held under the theme: ‘Agribusiness and value addition – key to economic and livelihood transformation.’