Soaring fertiliser prices, a blessing in disguise for Malawi

By Bester Kayaye

An environmental expert has described the increased soaring of fertilizer prices as a blessing in disguise for Malawi.

Godfrey Mfiti says farming without chemical fertilisers will provide the country with better, efficient and effective alternatives methods that will end up nourishing the country’s farming land which have been degraded by the fertilisers.

His comments were made following the continued skyrocketing of chemical fertilizer prices in the country. The cost of fertilises in the country have jumped from MK38,000 last year, to around MK45,000 and MK50,000 this year.

According to authorities the price build-up is just knock-on effect for Malawi following the rise in global fertilizer prices due to a combination of strong demand and high input costs. The poor 2020 maize and soybean harvest in South America has also contributed to the global fertiliser price increase as major growers reacted by increasing acreage for farming these commodities, a development which also triggered an increase the demand and use of fertilizers.

On other hand, apart from the depreciation of the Malawi currency, the Kwacha, refinery curtailments due to COVID-19 restrictions and high energy prices limited supply of raw materials used in fertilizer production, especially sulphur and ammonia has also exacerbated price hikes.

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has since reported that in Kwacha terms, global fertilizer prices have increased by 98 percent, and to make matters worse, bulk shipping rates have more than doubled in the 12 months ending July 2021, which has further increased the landed cost of fertilizer in Malawi.

But speaking to Mining and Trade Review Publication, Mfiti hinted that Malawi needs to contemplate on investing more on production and use of organic fertilizer with a sole aim of increasing sustainable crop production, enhancing long-term soil fertility for better farmer livelihood, as well as alleviating rural poverty and reduce foreign exchange drain on chemical fertilizer imports.

Mfiti said; “There is an opportunity in the soaring chemical fertilizer prices, we can call it a blessing in disguise as it paves way for local manufactures of organic fertilizer to seize this moment by intensifying their operations on the much demanded fertilizer. There are different kinds of organic fertilizers that can be adopted and there is need for local citizens to be trained on how to make these in order to minimize intense imports of fertilizer.

“And when we think of fertilizers, we are talking about feeding the soil, unfortunately, continued use of chemical fertilizers destroys soil structure. Therefore there is a need to teach our local farmers on the use of organic fertilizers such as composite manure which has proved to be environmental friends as well as effective.”

Mfiti further asked government to review the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) if it is still relevant and viable considering the numerous setbacks registered in implementing the program.

“AIP is no longer viable for government to continue implementing it, because if you look closely it only encompasses on maize alone which is a low value crop since it is only meant for consumption,” he said.

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