THE Malawi Government should consider increasing the price of fertiliser under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) or risk failing to sustain the programme as it is heavily subsidised, Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) has observed.
The observation is carried in its analysis of the 2012/13 budget estimates for the Agriculture and Food Security sector.
The analysis was aimed at assessing the government's funding for key programme areas.
While commending increases in Fisp allocation, in the total quantity of fertiliser and in the number of beneficiaries, the organisation fears the programme risks becoming unsustainable due to the country's unstable economic performance.
"In view of the inflation which has been triggered by devaluation, the K500 price, which is less than US$2 per 50kg bag, is too low.
"The implication is that the government will be heavily subsidising the programme and [this] threatens its sustainability.
"It is highly recommended that the subsidised price be revised upwards. This will have benefits of allowing more poor Malawians to benefit from the programme as well as reducing pressure on the government's budget and also release resources to other critical areas, which need more money," reads the report in part.
Cisanet notes that the current set up of the subsidy makes "political sense", but it is doing little to change the mindset of dependency of the small-scale farmers on the government as they contribute very little to the programme.
Regarding identification of beneficiaries, the report notes that there is no systematic way of selecting beneficiaries, which gives room to corrupt practices.
The organisation, therefore, advocates for an open and transparent way of determining beneficiaries.
But responding to the report, Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu said the rural poor farmers need to be cushioned from the adverse effects of the recent devaluation.
"It will be difficult at this point to hike the price, like up to K1,000, as that will make people feel the wrong effects of the devaluation.
"So, the current price of K500 per 50kg bag of fertiliser is a cushion to the rural poor so that they are able to have enough food," Kunkuyu said.
On identification of deserving beneficiaries, Kunkuyu said traditional chiefs remain the right channel as they are close to the rural people hence they are able to identify them.
On corruption and mishandling of the whole programme, he said the government had taken on board the criticism and would make sure that such malpractices do not recur this fiscal year.
Cisanet is a grouping of civil society organisations that was established to facilitate the engagement of the organisations working in the agriculture sector with the government over policy issues affecting the sector especially smallholder farmers