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Africa: Agriculture

Volume 490: debated on Friday 27 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 26 February 2009, Official Report, columns 1007-8W, on loans, if he will make an assessment of the likely effects on his Department's assistance programmes for smallholders in (a) Malawi and (b) Africa of recent increases in the price of fertiliser. (267362)

The Department for International Development (DFID) is supporting a farm inputs subsidy programme in Malawi through our £22 million per annum budget support as well as a further £20 million commitment for agriculture over four years (2007-11). These efforts have delivered affordable seed and fertiliser to 1.5 million smallholder families, and led to a strong harvest for a fourth successive year. As a result, Malawi's economic growth reached 8.7 per cent. in 2008, and food security has significantly improved. For example, in the current lean season, 670,000 people are at risk of hunger; compared to 5 million in 2005. Despite the high fertiliser prices during 2008, we expect that our support will still help the same number of people.

Increases in fertiliser prices were a major challenge for Africa's farmers in 2008. At a global level, prices reached a high of almost $900 per tonne in late 2008 but the price of urea has now fallen to around $300 per tonne. However, the availability of foreign exchange, which has become even scarcer in the current economic downturn, means that fertiliser use will still be limited in many countries.