FXCM October Single Share & Stock Baskets Report

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FXCM Group, LLC ("FXCM Group' or "FXCM'), the leading international provider of online foreign exchange trading, CFD trading, cryptocurrencies and related services, is today releasing its data of most popular instruments for the month of October in its Single Share CFD and proprietary Stock Basket product lines.

FXCM offers fractional single share trading with no commission fees* on leading companies from the US, UK, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia. FXCM's stock basket products combine the shares of multiple companies from one sector into a single tradeable instrument. The company currently boasts a portfolio of 14 stock baskets. The list of companies and weightings is available on FXCM's stock basket website (https://www.fxcm.com/za/stock–baskets/)

Tesla has been the top single share instrument for three consecutive months, followed by Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, soon to be known by the new symbol MVRS after its rebranding to Meta in late October. PayPal Holdings joined the top 10 club for the first time, slotting in above NVIDIA and Alphabet.

It was also a big month for Biotechnology, which jumped eight places from 10th to be the second highest basket in October, trailing only FAANG in FXCM customer interest. On the other hand, the only HK listed basket ATMX (Big China Tech), the Chinese equivalent of FAANG, fell from No. 2 in September to No. 9 in October as traders' interests were predominantly on the US market.

Volume Rank Monthly Rank Change Company Symbol
1 Tesla Inc TSLA.us
2 '2 Apple Inc AAPL.us
3 '2 Amazon.com Inc AMZN.us
4 '3 Facebook (Meta Platforms Inc) FB.us
5 "2 Alibaba Group Holding Ltd ADR BABA.us
6 "4 Tencent Holdings Ltd TENC.hk
7 '2 Boeing Company BA.us
8 New to Top 10 PayPal Holdings Inc PYPL.us
9 "3 NVIDIA Corporation NVDA.us
10 '1 Alphabet Inc GOOG.us

Volume Rank Monthly Rank Change Sector Symbol
1 Big US Tech FAANG
2 '8 Biotechnology BIOTECH
3 '1 China Tech CHN.TECH
4 '1 China Ecommerce CHN.ECOMM
5 '2 US Banks US.BANKS
6 '3 Cannabis CANNABIS
7 "1 Airlines AIRLINES
8 Travel & Hospitality TRAVEL
9 "7 Big China Tech (HKD Basket) ATMX
10 "5 US E–Commerce US.ECOMM

Past Performance and popularity is not an indicator of future results.
Rank is derived from FXCM Client Volume

*FXCM can be compensated in several ways, which includes but are not limited to adding a mark–up to the spreads it receives from its liquidity providers, adding a mark–up to rollover, etc. Commission–based pricing is applicable to Active Trader account types.

About FXCM:

FXCM is a leading provider of online foreign exchange (FX) trading, CFD trading, and related services. Founded in 1999, the company's mission is to provide global traders with access to the world's largest and most liquid market by offering innovative trading tools, hiring excellent trading educators, meeting strict financial standards and striving for the best online trading experience in the market. Clients have the advantage of mobile trading, one–click order execution and trading from real–time charts. In addition, FXCM offers educational courses on FX trading and provides trading tools, proprietary data and premium resources. FXCM Pro provides retail brokers, small hedge funds and emerging market banks access to wholesale execution and liquidity, while providing high and medium frequency funds access to prime brokerage services via FXCM Prime. FXCM is a Leucadia Company.

Forex Capital Markets Limited: FCA registration number 217689 (www.fxcm.com/uk)

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM EU LTD: CySEC license number 392/20 (www.fxcm.com/eu)

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

Between 74–89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM Australia Pty. Limited: AFSL 309763.You can sustain a total loss of deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. If you decide to trade products offered by FXCM AU, you must read and understand the Financial Services Guide, Product Disclosure Statement, Target Market Determination and Terms of Business on www.fxcm.com/au.

FXCM South Africa (PTY) Ltd: FSP No 46534 (www.fxcm.com/za). Our service includes products that are traded on margin and carry a risk of losses in excess of your deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved.

FXCM Markets Limited: Losses can exceed deposited funds. (www.fxcm.com/markets).

Media contact:
Chatsworth Communications
+44 (0) 20 7440 9780
fxcm@chatsworthcommunications.com


FXCM October Single Share & Stock Baskets Report

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FXCM Group, LLC ("FXCM Group' or "FXCM'), the leading international provider of online foreign exchange trading, CFD trading, cryptocurrencies and related services, is today releasing its data of most popular instruments for the month of October in its Single Share CFD and proprietary Stock Basket product lines.

FXCM offers fractional single share trading with no commission fees* on leading companies from the US, UK, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia. FXCM's stock basket products combine the shares of multiple companies from one sector into a single tradeable instrument. The company currently boasts a portfolio of 14 stock baskets. The list of companies and weightings is available on FXCM's stock basket website (https://www.fxcm.com/za/stock–baskets/)

Tesla has been the top single share instrument for three consecutive months, followed by Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, soon to be known by the new symbol MVRS after its rebranding to Meta in late October. PayPal Holdings joined the top 10 club for the first time, slotting in above NVIDIA and Alphabet.

It was also a big month for Biotechnology, which jumped eight places from 10th to be the second highest basket in October, trailing only FAANG in FXCM customer interest. On the other hand, the only HK listed basket ATMX (Big China Tech), the Chinese equivalent of FAANG, fell from No. 2 in September to No. 9 in October as traders' interests were predominantly on the US market.

Volume Rank Monthly Rank Change Company Symbol
1 Tesla Inc TSLA.us
2 '2 Apple Inc AAPL.us
3 '2 Amazon.com Inc AMZN.us
4 '3 Facebook (Meta Platforms Inc) FB.us
5 "2 Alibaba Group Holding Ltd ADR BABA.us
6 "4 Tencent Holdings Ltd TENC.hk
7 '2 Boeing Company BA.us
8 New to Top 10 PayPal Holdings Inc PYPL.us
9 "3 NVIDIA Corporation NVDA.us
10 '1 Alphabet Inc GOOG.us

Volume Rank Monthly Rank Change Sector Symbol
1 Big US Tech FAANG
2 '8 Biotechnology BIOTECH
3 '1 China Tech CHN.TECH
4 '1 China Ecommerce CHN.ECOMM
5 '2 US Banks US.BANKS
6 '3 Cannabis CANNABIS
7 "1 Airlines AIRLINES
8 Travel & Hospitality TRAVEL
9 "7 Big China Tech (HKD Basket) ATMX
10 "5 US E–Commerce US.ECOMM

Past Performance and popularity is not an indicator of future results.
Rank is derived from FXCM Client Volume

*FXCM can be compensated in several ways, which includes but are not limited to adding a mark–up to the spreads it receives from its liquidity providers, adding a mark–up to rollover, etc. Commission–based pricing is applicable to Active Trader account types.

About FXCM:

FXCM is a leading provider of online foreign exchange (FX) trading, CFD trading, and related services. Founded in 1999, the company's mission is to provide global traders with access to the world's largest and most liquid market by offering innovative trading tools, hiring excellent trading educators, meeting strict financial standards and striving for the best online trading experience in the market. Clients have the advantage of mobile trading, one–click order execution and trading from real–time charts. In addition, FXCM offers educational courses on FX trading and provides trading tools, proprietary data and premium resources. FXCM Pro provides retail brokers, small hedge funds and emerging market banks access to wholesale execution and liquidity, while providing high and medium frequency funds access to prime brokerage services via FXCM Prime. FXCM is a Leucadia Company.

Forex Capital Markets Limited: FCA registration number 217689 (www.fxcm.com/uk)

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM EU LTD: CySEC license number 392/20 (www.fxcm.com/eu)

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

Between 74–89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM Australia Pty. Limited: AFSL 309763.You can sustain a total loss of deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. If you decide to trade products offered by FXCM AU, you must read and understand the Financial Services Guide, Product Disclosure Statement, Target Market Determination and Terms of Business on www.fxcm.com/au.

FXCM South Africa (PTY) Ltd: FSP No 46534 (www.fxcm.com/za). Our service includes products that are traded on margin and carry a risk of losses in excess of your deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved.

FXCM Markets Limited: Losses can exceed deposited funds. (www.fxcm.com/markets).

Media contact:
Chatsworth Communications
+44 (0) 20 7440 9780
fxcm@chatsworthcommunications.com


Adagio Therapeutics Reports That None of the Mutations Present in SARS-CoV-2 Variant, Omicron, Are Associated with Escape from ADG20 Neutralization In Vitro

Additional in vitro studies to determine neutralization activity of ADG20 against Omicron are ongoing

ADG20 EUA submissions planned for prevention and treatment of COVID–19 in mid–2022

Inventory build continues in anticipation of EUA in second half of 2022, with 4 million doses available for distribution over the next two years

WALTHAM, Mass., Nov. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Adagio Therapeutics, Inc., (Nasdaq: ADGI) a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of antibody–based solutions for infectious diseases with pandemic potential, today provided information related to the potential of its lead SARS–CoV–2 antibody, ADG20, to address the Omicron SARS–CoV–2 variant, and other known variants of concern. ADG20 is an investigational monoclonal antibody (mAb) product candidate designed to provide broad and potent neutralizing activity against SARS–CoV–2, including variants of concern, for the prevention and treatment of COVID–19 with potential duration of protection for up to one year in a single injection.

"The continued global scale of the COVID–19 pandemic has led to increased levels of immune pressure on the virus, which is driving the emergence of variants containing mutations associated with escape from common classes of neutralizing antibodies induced by natural infection or vaccination. Unlike most antibodies currently available under EUA, ADG20 has been shown to target an epitope that is highly conserved among clade I sarbecoviruses and that is not readily targeted by the endogenous neutralizing antibody response," said Laura Walker, Ph.D., co–founder and chief scientific officer of Adagio. "Due to the highly conserved and immunorecessive nature of the epitope recognized by ADG20, we expect that ADG20 will retain activity against Omicron, as we have observed in in vitro models with all other variants of concern identified previously. Further, none of the mutations present in the spike protein of the Omicron variant have been associated with escape from ADG20 neutralization. ADG20 was engineered for potent and broadly neutralizing activity in anticipation of both the rapid antigenic evolution of SARS–CoV–2 and the emergence of future SARS–like viruses with pandemic potential."

"ADG20 was uniquely designed to combine breadth, potency and duration of protection against SARS–CoV–2 for up to one year in a single injection. We did this anticipating that SARS–CoV–2 would continue to evolve and potentially render some early therapies and vaccines obsolete," said Tillman Gerngross, Ph.D., co–founder and chief executive officer of Adagio. "Our global clinical trials are advancing with potential EUA submissions in mid–2022 for both prevention and treatment of COVID–19. We continue to engage with the FDA and other regulatory bodies and governmental agencies to discuss potential acceleration of development plans and the need for a portfolio of therapeutic solutions to combat the COVID–19 pandemic."

Given the significant potential health crisis resulting from the emergence of Omicron, Adagio is undertaking a number of activities to support ADG20's utility in addressing this newly emerged variant of concern, including:

  • Conducting in vitro studies to evaluate the expected binding and neutralizing activity of ADG20 against Omicron. Initial data from these studies is anticipated by the end of the year; and
  • Recruiting patients in Adagio's Phase 2/3 COVID–19 treatment trial, known as STAMP, across several clinical sites in South Africa (along with ongoing clinical trial efforts globally) in an effort to generate clinical data for ADG20 against infections due to the Omicron variant.

Based on the data being generated, Adagio plans to engage with health authorities and government agencies to accelerate development and supply of ADG20 to combat SARS–CoV–2 and its variants of concern.

ADG20 and Variants of Concern
The neutralizing antibody response induced by SARS–CoV–2 infection and vaccination is dominated by three classes of receptor binding domain (RBD)–directed antibodies (Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3), which often share common escape mutations. The newly emerged Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant identified in South Africa contains mutations associated with resistance to a large proportion of these commonly elicited antibodies, which may be due to immune pressure on these antigenic sites. Data for most antibodies available under EUA or in late–stage clinical development show they target one of these three dominant antigenic regions within the RBD.

In vitro studies have shown that ADG20 binds to a highly conserved epitope within the RBD that is not targeted by any of the common classes of neutralizing antibodies induced by SARS–CoV–2 infection and vaccination. Thus, unlike many other clinical–stage antibodies, which were isolated from COVID–19 patients and recognize epitopes that are also targeted by endogenous neutralizing antibodies, there is limited immune pressure on the ADG20 binding site. The ADG20 epitope has remained conserved in 99.99% of the nearly 4 million full length SARS–CoV–2 viral sequences deposited in the GISAID database as of October 15, 2021, and, as shown in in vitro studies, ADG20 retains activity against prior variants of concern including Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma. For the Omicron variant, none of the mutations present in the spike protein are associated with escape from ADG20 neutralization. Based on published epitope mapping and structural studies, Adagio anticipates that ADG20 will retain neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant whereas other mAb products may lose substantial activity against this variant.

Previously disclosed in vitro data demonstrated retained neutralizing activity of ADG20 against a diverse panel of circulating SARS–CoV–2 variants, including the recently emerged Lambda, Mu and Delta plus variants. Notably, findings from these in vitro studies showed that ADG20 demonstrated potent neutralizing activity against all SARS–CoV–2 variants of concern tested, including those with reduced susceptibility to mAb products currently available under EUA or in late–stage development.

About ADG20
ADG20, an investigational monoclonal antibody targeting the spike protein of SARS–CoV–2 and related coronaviruses, is advancing through global clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of COVID–19, the disease caused by SARS–CoV–2. ADG20 was designed and engineered to possess high potency and broad neutralization activity against SARS–CoV–2 and additional clade 1 sarbecoviruses by targeting a highly conserved epitope in the receptor binding domain. ADG20 was further engineered to provide an extended half–life for durable protection. ADG20 has demonstrated potent neutralizing activity against the original SARS–CoV–2 virus, SARS–CoV–2 variants of concern Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma, other SARS–CoV–2 variants to date, and additional SARS–like viruses in preclinical studies. ADG20 is administered in clinical trials by a single intramuscular injection. To date, ADG20 has been well–tolerated in a Phase 1 trial with no safety signals identified through a minimum of three months follow–up across all cohorts. ADG20 has not been approved for use in any country, and safety and efficacy have not yet been established.

About Adagio Therapeutics
Adagio (Nasdaq: ADGI) is a clinical–stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of antibody–based solutions for infectious diseases with pandemic potential, including COVID–19 and influenza. The company's portfolio of antibodies has been optimized using Adimab's industry–leading antibody engineering capabilities and is designed to provide patients and clinicians with the potential for a powerful combination of potency, breadth, durable protection (via half–life extension), manufacturability and affordability. Adagio's portfolio of SARS–CoV–2 antibodies includes multiple non–competing, broadly neutralizing antibodies with distinct binding epitopes, led by ADG20. Adagio has secured manufacturing capacity for the production of ADG20 with third–party contract manufacturers to support the completion of clinical trials and initial commercial launch, ensuring the potential for broad accessibility to people around the world. For more information, please visit www.adagiotx.com.

Forward Looking Statements
This press release contains forward–looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as "anticipates," "believes," "expects," "intends," "projects," and "future" or similar expressions are intended to identify forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements include statements concerning, among other things, the timing, progress and results of our preclinical studies and clinical trials of ADG20, including the timing of our planned EUA submissions, initiation, modification and completion of studies or trials and related preparatory work, the period during which the results of the trials will become available and our research and development programs; the expected neutralizing activity of ADG20 against the Omicron variant; our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals for, our product candidates; our ability to identify patients, including in specific populations, with the diseases treated by our product candidates and to enroll these patients in our clinical trials; our expectations regarding the scope of any approved indication for ADG20; and the risk/benefit profile of our product candidates to patients; our manufacturing capabilities and strategy, including plans for doses available in the near future; and our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates. We may not actually achieve the plans, intentions or expectations disclosed in our forward–looking statements and you should not place undue reliance on our forward–looking statements. These forward–looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from the results described in or implied by the forward–looking statements, including, without limitation, the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic on our business, clinical trials and financial position, unexpected safety or efficacy data observed during preclinical studies or clinical trials, clinical trial site activation or enrollment rates that are lower than expected, changes in expected or existing competition, changes in the regulatory environment, and the uncertainties and timing of the regulatory approval process. Other factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward–looking statements in this press release are described under the heading "Risk Factors" in Adagio's Quarterly Report on Form 10–Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2021 and in Adagio's future reports to be filed with the SEC, including Adagio's Quarterly Report on Form 10–Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2021. Such risks may be amplified by the impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic. Forward–looking statements contained in this press release are made as of this date, and Adagio undertakes no duty to update such information except as required under applicable law.

Contacts:
Media Contact:
Dan Budwick, 1AB
Dan@1abmedia.com

Investor Contact:
Monique Allaire, THRUST Strategic Communications
monique@thrustsc.com


Pakistan: Gender-Intentional Policy Can Make Agent Banking Work Better

“I belong to a marginalized sector of my country where educated women are confined into four walls in rural settings”. Photo courtesy of Tahir Watto Credit: UN Women

By Kathryn Imboden and Naeha Rashid
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 29 2021 – Many women in Pakistan remain financially excluded. In 2020, only 7% of the female population had a formal account.

One of the reasons for this is that agent networks — the bridge between the cash economy and digital financial services — remain largely inaccessible to many women. Approaching policy and regulation through a gender-intentional lens that considers prevailing social norms can help regulators affect positive change in this arena.

Agent networks are recognized as a powerful enabler for the expansion of digital financial services to low-income populations, particularly in rural areas. They can increase access to financial services by lowering the cost of delivery in otherwise hard-to-reach areas.

Agents can also support women during onboarding and use of digital financial services. However, agent networks are part of a market system deeply influenced by social norms and policies that may perpetuate or exacerbate gender inequalities.

The reality is that women often don’t have equal access to agent banking.

Between 2017 and 2020, the financial inclusion gender gap has not narrowed but rather grown from 13 to 29 percentage points, according to the Financial Inclusion Insights survey. Qualitative field research indicates that this constitutes a major barrier to women’s financial inclusion.

Women avoid dealing with male agents due to social norms that restrict non-familial interaction and mobility. If more women were agents, this may not be such an issue. However, just 1 in 100 agents in Pakistan is a woman.

The same norms that limit women’s use of agents, along with other norms such as restrictions in work outside the home and access to technology, make it difficult for women to become agents.

To better understand these norms and support policy makers and regulators in identifying responses that can advance women’s digital financial inclusion more effectively, CGAP explored the interplay between gendered social norms and the four basic regulatory enablers for digital financial services, including the use of agents.

We started our analysis by identifying the financial behaviors that women currently exhibit in the market and tracked associated social norms and barriers underlying such behaviors. Then we looked at how existing regulations consider the norms at play and address, ignore or even reinforce them.

Analyzing the problem and ideating responses

Using this process, we identified two behaviors related to the issue of women and agents.

The first is that women rarely become agents. Core requirements to become an agent include cellphone ownership, high-school level equivalent literacy, and openness to frequent interaction with an organization’s staff, which is often predominantly men.

However, social norms restrict women’s ability to work outside home, interact with people outside the family, and access technology. The perception that women are at greater risk than men when it comes to issues such as robbery and fraud makes it even harder to find willing and able participants.

The second behavior we focused on was that women avoid dealing with male agents independently. We found that this is largely a result of societal limitations in non-familial interaction and limited mobility.

Taken together, these behaviors present a challenge for women’s financial inclusion: it’s easier for women to engage with other women while using digital financial services, but few women are willing or able to serve as agents.

Up to now, regulations did not explicitly account for these limitations. Key guidelines, such as 2016’s agent acquisition and management framework, do not have a gender angle.

The requirement that all agents have a Level 2 account (the highest tier available) and the associated paperwork is not realistic for many women. It serves as one example of how regulations can unintentionally contribute to the gender gap.

The forthcoming gender-intentional “Banking on Equality” policy is a positive step, and the State Bank of Pakistan has recently taken concrete measures to address the issue.

In September 2021 the State Bank of Pakistan became one of the first regulators globally to introduce a new instruction that mandates a minimum proportion of female agents.

The instruction states that “All Branchless banking providers shall formulate a clear and well-documented ‘Gender Mainstreaming in Agents Strategy’ duly approved by its Board, with a goal to reach 10% women in their agent portfolio by 2024 with interim milestones of 4% for the end of 2022 and 7% for 2023.”

This is a promising measure, but it is largely provider centric. It does not propose regulatory changes to make it easier for women to become agents or address the structural issues that women face in dealing with male agents.

This type of analysis leads to several recommendations for policy makers and regulators, adding an additional dimension to current gender-positive efforts such as the soon-to-be-finalized “Banking on Equality” policy.

To create widescale change, policies and regulations must consider and address the social norms that limit women’s participation in agent banking. Critically, the “right” agent model has the potential to increase women’s access to financial services — especially low-income women — by simultaneously accounting for and possibly shifting social norms. Our suggested responses include:

• Conducting additional research into the factors leading to the low number of female agents and better understanding the agent-customer experience from a female perspective

• Reviewing and adjusting existing agent guidelines to develop a comprehensive gender-intentional agent framework, potentially incorporating the following:

    o Adjusted guidelines for recruiting female agents to make it easier for women to participate, including targets around the minimum percentage of female agents that should comprise the network and collecting sex-disaggregated data on agents
    o Changes that could make the prospect of becoming an agent both easier and more attractive to women, such as tiering agents by service type and adjusting know-your-customer (KYC) requirements accordingly
    o Introducing steps that would facilitate the contributions agents can make to support female customers, such as requiring the development of female-centric induction programs and ensuring adequacy of financial consumer protection

• Exploring the role that roving agents (permitted during COVID-19) can play in increasing women’s financial inclusion, and considering extending permission for this agent category

By accounting for social norms and being gender-intentional, policy makers and regulators can make adjustments to policy and regulatory formulation to advance women’s digital financial inclusion.

Kathryn Imboden is Senior Financial Sector Specialist at CGAP and Naeha Rashid is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and of McGill University.

Source: Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP)

CGAP is an independent think tank that works to empower poor people, especially women, to capture opportunities and build resilience through financial services. Housed at the World Bank, CGAP is supported by over 30 leading development organizations committed to making financial services meet the needs of poor people.

 


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High Global Fertiliser Prices Overshadow Malawi’s Farm Subsidy Programme

A maise farmer in her fields last year. This year small-scale farmers are anxiously waiting for an impasse between government and private traders to be resolved so they can get their subsidised fertiliser. Credit: Charles Mpaka/IPS

By Charles Mpaka
BLANTYRE, Malawi, Nov 29 2021 – Ellena Joseph, a small-scale maize farmer in Chiradzulu District in Southern Malawi, finished preparing her field early in October.

As the first rains start falling in some parts of the country, her anxiety is growing because she is yet to purchase fertiliser because she does not have any money.

Joseph, 63, is one of the 3.7 million farmers the government targets to benefit under the 2021 Agricultural Input Programme (AIP).

In this programme, the government subsidises fertiliser and seeds for small-scale producers who make up more than 80 percent of farmers in Malawi.

The programme has been running since 2005, and every year, it is saddled with challenges – like corruption, non-availability of goods at sales points and delivery hitches.

This year, these challenges are compounded by a rise in prices of fertiliser which shot up by nearly 100 percent.

The impact of the increase has trickled down to the farmers. For every $23 in government subsidies for a 50kg bag of fertiliser, the farmers are contributing about $9. Last year they paid $5.4.

And Joseph is feeling the weight of that rise on her shoulders. First, she needs money to redeem her two bags of fertiliser.

Then, because chaos is the norm at the agro-dealer shop in her area, she has to bribe the clerks or pay some youths to stand in the queue on her behalf. The more the days and nights they stand in the line for her, the more the money she needs to fork out.

Once she buys the fertiliser, she will have to hire a motorbike to transport the commodity to her home, some 17km away.

In total, she needs at least $28 to meet these expenses.

“I don’t have that kind of money, and I don’t know where to get it from,” she tells IPS. “I hope by the time the fertiliser comes, I will have found the money.”

In the previous years, she relied on the government-funded public works programme to earn a small wage. For the past two years, there haven’t been any projects in her area.

Amid the perennial challenges rocking the food subsidy programme intended to ensure food security in Malawi, the rise in fertiliser prices has been the most dramatic.

It all began in June, soon after Parliament passed the national budget in which the government allocated $172,000 towards the programme, targeting 3.7 million farmers – the same number as last year.

Following the hike in price on the global market, the cost of fertiliser increased in the country. Malawi was hit hard. It relies on imports because it does not have a fertiliser manufacturing plant.

In reaction, the Ministry of Agriculture, the implementing agency of the flagship food security programme, announced it would trim the number of beneficiaries.

“Due to financial constraints and the rising prices of fertiliser, the ministry, after looking into these two compound challenges, has decided to have AIP beneficiaries scaled down. It is therefore very necessary that the scaling down of the beneficiaries be done up to village level,” said the ministry’s secretary Sandram Maweru in a circular dated July 21, 2021 and addressed to all 28 district commissioners.

The ministry recommended specific figures from every district, resulting in fewer beneficiaries totalling 2.7 million.

But a week after the district commissioner had submitted the revised data to the ministry, on August 21, President Lazarus Chakwera overturned the decision of his agriculture officials. He directed that no one who was on the list last year could be taken off.

“I will not allow anyone to remove any family or village from the list of beneficiaries,” he said.

And so began a tug of war between the government and private traders.

While the private traders insisted they would need to sell the fertiliser at the new prices, which would have outstripped the budget allocated, the government accused the private traders of inflating the prices to sabotage the programme.

It told them it would buy their fertiliser for AIP at $29 per 50kg bag instead of the $43.6 per 50 kg which the private traders had set for it.

Efforts to resolve the standoff did not yield results. Last week, 13 of the 164 traders the government had engaged had not signed contracts to supply the fertiliser. This amounts to close to a million bags of fertiliser.

In a statement in Parliament on November 18, Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe insisted it was up to the traders to take it or leave it while admitting that only 10 percent of the targeted 371,000 metric tonnes had been procured.

The private traders account for 66 percent of the commodity, while two public agencies supply 34 percent for the programme.

However, the fact that 151 traders have signed the contract does not guarantee that the fertiliser will be supplied, indicates Mbawaka Phiri, Executive Administration Officer for the Fertiliser Association of Malawi, a grouping of the private traders.

“Caution must be taken to not assume that all 151 traders have stock and can supply. Many of those who have signed contracts are still having difficulty procuring stock,” she says.

According to Phiri, some private traders have decided not to participate in the programme this year because the AIP fertiliser price is too low to do business.

Traders are not obliged to sign the government’s contract offer – that is a business decision.

“However, it is also up to the government to decide whether the programme can be successful without the participation of suppliers from the private sector. Last year’s programme was successful mainly due to the participation of private suppliers who were able to deliver larger amounts of fertiliser in a very short period and to all areas of the country,” she says.

Agriculture policy expert, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, says in general, the implementation of the programme this year has not been satisfactory.

“This is November, and we have less than 10 percent of the fertiliser supplied when we were supposed to have at least 50 percent of the farmers reached by mid-October. Once rains start in a matter of weeks, that will compound the logistical challenges we already have,” he says.

He says the programme is crucial because it targets low-income farmers who cannot afford the farm inputs, but its management is concerning.

“It seems the programme has become a way for some people to make money. They would love to see chaos in the programme because that is the way they are able to benefit,” says Nkhono-Mvula.

 


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