GIEWS Country Brief: Malawi 04-July-2016

from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published on 04 Jul 2016


•Maize production decreases sharply in 2016 due to prolonged and severe dryness

•National average maize price fell seasonally from record high in February, but remains at an elevated level

•Food security situation in 2016/17 worsens significantly, mostly due to reduced 2016 cereal production, with an estimated 6.5 million people in need of assistance

Maize production in 2016 estimated at sharply reduced level

With the 2016 main season cereal harvest virtually complete, the maize output is estimated at about 2.4 million tonnes, based on the Government’s third round assessment. This level is fractionally below the second round assessment’s estimate and about 15 percent lower than the below‑average production of 2015. The delayed onset of seasonal rains and El Niño‑induced dryness throughout most of the cropping season, particularly impacting the southern and central areas, are the main drivers behind the year-on-year production decline. More favourable conditions in northern districts resulted in near‑average output in these areas and prevented a further reduction at the national level. Significant production declines were also recorded for rice, sorghum and millet, while the 2016 wheat crop, to be harvested from July, is also anticipated to fall.

Total cereal production is estimated at 2.5 million tonnes, about 16 percent down on last year and 34 percent below the previous five‑year average.

Cash crop (mainly tobacco and cotton) production is also estimated to have fallen in 2016.

Maize import requirements significantly higher in 2016/17

As a result of the reduced 2016 cereal output and low carryover stocks, the country is expected to significantly increase imports in the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March). Imports of maize are forecast to be over 0.65 million tonnes and, while some quantities are expected to be sourced from within the region, the bulk is anticipated to be procured from outside southern Africa given the tight regional supply situation. In addition, although there is a strong preference for the consumption of white maize, the relatively low availability on the international market compared to yellow maize may result in the importation of yellow maize for human consumption.

Maize prices fall seasonally, but still remain at high levels

The national average maize price reached a record high in February 2016, with 1 kg of maize costing MWK 242. Shortly afterwards, prices decreased seasonally with the early 2016 harvest alleviating supply pressure. In May, the national average price fell by 30 percent from the record of February to MWK 173 per kg, but still remained 56 percent up on its year earlier value. The drought‑reduced 2016 cereal output and overall tight supply situation, both in the country and the subregion, are the main drivers behind the elevated price levels.

Food security worsens significantly in 2016

As a result of the poor agricultural performance and high food prices, the number of food insecure in 2016/17 has increased to 6.5 million, up from the revised estimate of 2.84 million people in the previous year. The most affected districts are in the south and correspond to the areas that were most affected by the El Niño‑induced dry conditions. Approximately 375 000 tonnes of maize are required to assist the most affected food insecure population.