Dr. George Chaponda, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 delivered a Ministerial statement for the budget session of Parliament on measures taken by Government to avert hunger in the country
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me start by expressing my thanks to you for according me the opportunity to deliver a statement in this August House today.
The main objective of my statement is to share with the nation what I might call a “Rescue Plan” or measures that Government has put in place to ensure that our people are food secure despite the challenges that the country encountered during the just ended agriculture production season.
- Sector Policy Framework
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me point out that the Government measures to enhance food security in the country, that I will share with the Honourable Members in a short while, are in line with the agriculture sector investment policy frameworks including the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp), and the Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework. These investment frameworks seek to realize the sector’s targets as espoused in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS); thus to achieve food security and agriculture risk management.
- Background to the Current Food Situation in the Country
Mr. Speaker Sir, before I share the measures that I have referred to, allow me to brief fellow Honourable Members that despite several interventions to attain food security by Government and various development partners, food security continues to elude us due to drought or dry spells and floods that have become persistent features of our production landscape.
Indeed, the realities of climate change have challenged the viability of our usual approaches for dealing with hunger.
It is now very apparent that the recurrence of low food production exacerbated by El Nino phenomenon and other weather related perils, pose a high risk for the country in terms of food production.
- Agriculture Production Estimates (Second Round)
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members may wish to be informed that the country’s agricultural production for the 2015/16 season has been projected to be the lowest for the past 5 years due to weather related factors.
According to the Second Round Agricultural Production Estimates Survey (APES) released by my Ministry in March, the country’s main staple food, maize has registered a reduction of 12.4 percent as compared to the 2014/15 final round estimate.
Thus, maize production declined from 2,776,277 metric tons in 2014/2015 to about 2,431,313 metric tons in 2015/16.
The reduction in maize production can be appreciated more when this year’s production is compared with that of 2013/2014 (preceding year when production reduced by 30 percent), whereby in two years, the country has registered a cumulative 42 per cent of maize production decline.
The estimates have also registered decreases in almost all other food and cash crops.
The major contributing factor to the decline is unfavourable weather conditions for crop development resulting from dry spells the country experienced during the season, particularly, in the southern region and some parts of the central region.
The estimates have also registered decreases in rice (21.6 percent), cassava (0.1 percent), sorghum (27.1 percent) and millet (40.9 percent). However, production of sweet potatoes and potatoes has increased by 3.2 and 0.1 percent, respectively.
In terms of major cash crops, the Tobacco Control Commission estimates an increase in tobacco production from 192,967,541Kgs in the 2014/15 agricultural season to 199,899,000Kgs this season.
Cotton production has declined significantly by 54.3 percent due to a combination of price disincentive, unfavourable weather and unavailability of seed.
On legumes, ground nuts have registered a production decrease of 8.2 per cent while other pulses have also gone down by 3.6 percent.
However, production of soya beans has increased by 6.8 percent.
In this respect, the affected communities will face challenges to access food even when alternative food sources are considered.
It is projected that this year more people will be food insecure due to the high magnitude of dry spells that the country experienced.
The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee will come up with the number of people that are food insecure.
Mr. Speaker Sir, given the urgent requirement for proper planning to avert hunger in the country, my Ministry in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conducted a rapid assessment to determine the impact of El Nino phenomena on crop production.
The results of this rapid assessment showed that close to 8.4 million people have partially or completely lost their crops through El Nino induced dry spells. The results further show that the affected population will require about 790,000mt of relief food for a period ranging from April 2016 to March, 2017.
- Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, may wish to be informed that when all the country’s maize requirements are taken into account in terms of restocking the SGR, restocking ADMARC, and provide adequate relief food for the season, the Ministry projects a total maize requirement of 1,290,000mt to avert a food crisis in the season.
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members, based on this background of projected national food deficit, Government has come up with a number of measures intended to boost food production in the short, medium to long term.
- Measures to Avert Hunger
Mr. Speaker Sir, my Ministry has laid out a plan consisting of a number of measures to be implemented in the short, medium and long term.
As I indicated earlier on, the idea behind the plan is to intensify food production and also to ensure the country does not suffer from hunger in the 2016/2017 consumption season.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the short term measures are immediate in nature, covering the 2015/16 fiscal year and part of the 2016/17 financial year; while the Medium term measures, on the other hand, cover the year 2016/17 through to about 2 to 3 fiscal years. The long term measures will be implemented in 5years and beyond.
5.1 Short term measures:
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members, as I said, these measures are immediate in nature, covering the 2015/16 fiscal year and part of the 2016/17 financial year;
To that effect, Government will focus mostly on irrigation measures to utilize both existing and new irrigation schemes under the management of both smallholder and commercial farmers for maize production.
Specifically the Ministry will do the following:
- a) Engage commercial farmers (both medium and large scale) to utilize their irrigation facilities for maize production.
To that effect, my Ministry already advertised in print and electronic media for commercial and emerging farmers to submit “Expression of Interest” to produce irrigated maize for sale to Government to fill the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR);
As I speak now in this August House, Mr. Speaker Sir, individual farmers, farmer cooperatives, as well as private sector commercial companies already expressed interest to produce maize for supply to the SGR;
My Ministry anticipates that this initiative will enable Government to realize an extra 25, 000 metric tons of maize;
The cost is estimated at about K6.8 billion.
- b) Embark on instant campaigns for the smallholder farmers to seriously engage in irrigation farming
Mr. Speaker Sir, this measure is aimed at supplementing the current rain fed crop;
According to the plan, a total area of about 35,000 hectares would be planted to the second crop under the management of smallholder farmers benefiting about 285,000 farming households;
My Ministry expects that about 140,000 metric tons of maize may be realized from the area under conventional irrigation by smallholder farmers;
This maize will assist to close part of the food gap in the country.
- c) Distribution and installation of the already-available motorized pumps to increase the area under irrigation.
Government will distribute and install 9 (55 horse power) pumps for irrigation purposes.
- d) Utilization of residual moisture
An assessment on the extent of dry spells and feasibility for winter production, jointly done by my Ministry and FAO established that a significant area that could be planted to crops utilizing residual moisture.
In this regard, the Ministry will intensify campaign and support to farmers to promote the utilization of the residual moisture for crop production;
To kick-start the activities under this strategy, My Ministry has requested Seed Companies of good will to consider making seed donations to targeted farmers.
- e) Maize importation
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members, considering that our various irrigation initiatives may not realize sufficient quantities to offset the huge maize deficit facing the country, Government has laid out a plan to import about one million metric tons (1,000,000mt) of white maize to fill the food gap.
The importation will be done by both ADMARC and the National Food Reserve Agency.
Government has lined up a number of activities including negotiating with Governments from the SADC Region and beyond on possibility of maize importation.
- f) Local Maize Procurement
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honorable Members, local maize procurement is also one of the options in the plan I referred to. Let me update the House that despite several institutional rules and regulations that have been responsible for ADMARC’s delayed entry on the maize market, this time around Government already gave an okay to ADMARC to immediately start buying maize on the local market.
Because of that quick entry on the market, it is pleasing to inform the House that as of mid-May ADMARC has procured over 10,000mt of maize on the local market.
The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) is also procuring maize to ensure we have adequate stocks in our Strategic Grain Reserve.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the local maize purchases and the planned importation will give ADMARC and NFRA enough stocks that will reduce the challenges of long queues that the country experienced in the just ended season.
5.2 Medium Term Measures:
- Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members of the House, in the medium term my Ministry will pursue the following interventions:
- a) Procurement, distribution, and installation of solar pumps across the country
The plan is to procure and install a total of 27 solar pumps and construction of ancillary structures with potential to irrigate about 270 ha of land (10 ha for each solar pump) to benefit about 1,350 farming families;
My Ministry will also ensure that construction of 12 schemes whose works are underway is completed as a matter of urgency. These will increase area under irrigation by 1,581ha.
My Ministry will also come up with an innovative financing mechanism in collaboration with Treasury and other partners that will support irrigation investment in the country.
- b) Distribution of Treadle Pumps
About 4,460 treadle pumps will be distributed to the fifteen districts that were affected by the flood disaster of 2015.
The treadle pumps have already been bought by the Malawi Flood Emergency Recovery Project funded by the World Bank.
I am pleased to report that some of the treadle pumps under the project have already been supplied. The first delivery to beneficiaries will be done this coming Saturday on 28th May 2016 in Chikhwawa and Nsanje districts in the Shire Valley.
- c) Continue to procure maize to meet needs of food insecure population.
- d) Promote aquaculture development programmes
- e) Promote livestock development programmes to enhance resilience of our communities.
- f) Greenbelt Initiative (GBI)
Mr. Speaker Sir, Government will continue with the Greenbelt Initiative in all the identified sites; in Salima, Karonga and Mangochi.
In Salima, the GBI has so far developed about 85 per cent of its required infrastructure.
Expectations are that the entire project will be finalized in the next financial year.
When that is finalized 530 ha will be for the smallholder farmers.
About 1,000ha will be allocated to medium scale farmers, while 4,000ha will be allocated to large scale
The plans are that about 250 smallholder farmers will benefit from the project while 100 medium scale farmers will also benefit from the project.
In Karonga at Nthora-Ilora-Ngosi, GBI has 1,000ha of land available for development.
Government is in the process of engaging a consultant to do designs for the project. Resources allowing, this project should be completed in the next two years.
In Mangochi Malombe, the Green Belt Initiative has 500ha to be developed.
Plans are that design work should commence in this coming financial year.
Like the Karonga case, resources allowing we should be able to finish the entire project in a couple of years to come.
Mr. Speaker Sir, in addition to the three projects mentioned above, Government has engaged the Board of Spearhead Holding Ltd to release 9,000ha of land for GBI private investors.
Negotiations are at an advanced stage, and we are hopeful that in the next year some investors will be able to utilize this facility.
5.3 Long Term Measures:
- Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members of the House
In the long term, (5 years from now and beyond) my Ministry will scale up implementation of interventions espoused in the different policy documents and strategies especially those enshrined in the Draft National Agriculture Policy which awaits Cabinet Approval.
Mr Speaker Sir, allow me to briefly talk about what the Draft National Agriculture Policy envisages to do.
The policy Mr. Speaker Sir, defines the vision for the development of the agriculture sector in our country over the next five years.
It seeks to achieve sustainable agriculture transformation that will result in significant growth of the sector, expanding incomes for the farming households, improve food and nutrition security for all Malawians, and increase agricultural exports; thus by the year 2020, agriculture in Malawi will increasingly be oriented towards profitable commercial farming through specialization of smallholder farm production, output diversification, and value addition in downstream value chains.
The National Agriculture Policy, Mr. Speaker Sir, will guide the design of agriculture subsector policies, strategies, and other actions of Government in the sector.
These will include the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Framework, currently being reviewed to inform the successor strategy.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, you may wish to note that since independence, the sector has been guided by subsectoral policies some of which are now outdated.
In this respect, and taking into account emerging issues both within and across the borders, Government has lined up a number of policies to be reviewed.
This, Mr. Speaker Sir, is tailor made to create conducive environment for all players in the sector.
Mr. Speaker Sir, realizing the challenges of marketing of our commodities, specifically for the smallholder farming communities, Government is currently working on a Contracting Farming Strategy and is enhancing the warehouse receipt systems.
It is also working on development of cooperatives to improve market accessibility for both inputs and outputs.
Under the G8 New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security, Government is putting up mechanisms to attract additional investments by the private sector.
In this respect, Government came up with the National Export Strategy which clearly defines commodities that could be promoted for export. That being the case, my Ministry is putting up mechanisms to support the NES.
For instance, Government through my Ministry has reviewed the Seed Policy and its Act which this August House might be able to discuss within this session.
Realising the important role of livestock and fisheries in food and nutrition security and the role the two subsectors could play in enhancing resilience to food security; the Ministry is working on modalities to attract investments in these sub-sectors.
As such, the Ministry has reviewed the Fisheries Policy and will be working on the Livestock Policy.
- Cost Implication
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honourable Members of the August House, the estimated cost for the irrigated maize production in the short term is estimated at MK8.4 billion.
The August House may wish to be informed that the country has some fertilizer balances (996.2mt NPK and 369.1mt of Urea) from the 2015/2016 Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) which could be issued to support farmers on irrigated crop production in this season.
This, it is hoped, will reduce pressure on the national budget given the fiscal challenges facing Government.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the cost of maize to be procured for relief purposes will be ascertained upon finalization of an assessment by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee currently under way.
The medium and long term measures will be an integral part of the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
In addition, donors, cooperating partners, and private sector companies will be encouraged to support the proposed measures.
- Appeal for Support
Mr. Speaker Sir, Honorable Members, as we all can appreciate, the cost estimate involved to roll out the planned interventions, is enormous.
The House may wish to be apprised that as per the Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework (2015), Malawi has an irrigation potential of about 408 000 hectares. At present, however, only 104,463 hectares (ha) have been developed.
- Out of this developed hectares, about 52,144 ha are under smallholder farmers while 52, 499 ha are under commercial estates.
The key reasons why the country’s area under irrigation is low is to do with low levels of financing, high cost of irrigation investment, low levels of economic rate of return and unfavorable financing mechanisms prevailing in the country.
Honorable Members may wish to know that on average, it costs about US$10,000 to develop one ha for irrigation.
Considering the huge cost implications of irrigation development, and the fiscal challenge facing Government, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to well-wishers including private sector, the faith community, development partners, donors, and civil society, to join hands with Government in mobilizing resources required to immediately rollout the plan that Government has put in place.
I am confident that together we can make Malawi a food secure nation.
Always remember that if we succeed we share the credit together; and if we disappoint our people we equally share the blame.
Mr. Speaker Sir, allow me to conclude my Statement by appreciating His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi for entrusting me with the Agriculture Portifolio.
Indeed, the President also deserves thanks for prioritizing agriculture sector as one of the driving sectors of our economy. This has also demonstrated the President’s lovefor the people of this country by ensuring that despite the fiscal challenges facing Government, financial resources are made available as a matter of urgency to start re-stocking ADMARC and the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) so that our people do not suffer from hunger.
I wish to assure the House that I will offer my best of services to the people of this country to ensure that together we realize Government objective of ensuring household and national food security. For issues that I have not been able to articulate in this statement, yet they are important, I believe in open door policy. I am available for one to one discussions with any Honorable Member that may require specific information in line with agriculture programs in the country.
I know that more work lies ahead of us to translate policies into actions and results.
But I am confident that if we all join hands we will make it for the good of our people out there.
Let me take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker Sir, to thank all stakeholders, too numerous to mention, that are working tirelessly towards implementation of programs in the agriculture sector.
Our cooperating partners also deserve thanks for joining hands with Government to support food insecure people especially in rural communities.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I thank you for your kind attention, may God bless mother Malawi.