"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Malawi triples farm subsidies

Blantyre - Malawi, has more than
tripled its spending on subsidies this year to help 1.7m impoverished
farm families buy fertilizer, agriculture authorities said Friday.

The southern African nation has spent $183m to offer the country's
poorest farmers a nearly 90% discount on fertililzer, deputy
agriculture minister Frank Mwenifumbo told AFP.

"We have spent 26 billion kwacha to procure 170 000 tonnes of
fertiliser. We are targetting 1.7m of the poorest of the poor farming
families to benefit from this programme," Mwenifumbo said.

The same programme cost about $50m last year, but authorities fear
that without the subsidy, farmers might not be able to produce enough
food to guarantee the nation's food supply.

"The subsidy programme is wholly funded by the Malawi government as
a deliberate policy to improve hosehold food security," Mwenifumbo

Beneficiaries will receive 10 kilogrammes of free maize seed and pay
eight dollars for 50 kilos of fertiliser, which would cost $72 at
market rates.

That puts fertiliser far out of reach for the majority of Malawians, who live on less than one dollar a day.

Malawi needs 2.2 million tonnes of its staple grand maize to feed
its 13 million people each year, but its crops have only produced that
much since 2006 - the year after the subsidy programme began.

Before that, shortfalls in local crops meant that chronic hunger was a normal part of life here.

But last year Malawi produced enough to sell about 400 /000 tonnes to troubled Zimbabwe.


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