GIEWS Country Brief: Malawi 25-October-2021

News and Press Release
Originally published



  • Early production prospects for 2022 cereal crops favourable, supported by forecasts of average to above-average seasonal rainfall

  • Large 2021 maize harvest boosts domestic supplies, with increase in national stocks and expected moderate growth in exports

  • Maize prices rise seasonally, but remained lower year on year as of September 2021

  • Food security improves in 2021/22, but concerns remain in southern districts

Early production outlook favourable for 2022 cereal crops

Plantings of the main 2022 season cereal crops is underway and is expected to continue until the end of December. Harvesting is anticipated to start from late March 2022.

Scattered and light rainfall has been observed since the beginning of October, which normally marks the start of the rainy season. Although early rains have been sparse, remote sensing data indicates average to above‑average soil moisture levels across the country, reflecting the effects of a good rainfall season in 2020/21 and, consequently, planting operations are expected to continue as normal. For the following months of the season, weather forecasts point to higher probability of average to above‑average rainfall amounts, underpinning a favourable production outlook for the 2022 cereal crops.

Large 2021 harvest boosts domestic supplies

Total cereal production in 2021 is estimated at a record high level of 4.9 million tonnes. The bumper output mostly reflects conducive weather conditions that boosted yields and encouraged farmers to increase plantings. In addition, the implementation of the government’s Affordable Inputs Programme, which provided access to subsidized seeds and fertilizers for 3.8 million smallholder farmers, also supported the production upturn in 2021.

Reflecting the record harvest, national maize supplies are estimated to exceed domestic demand by a significant margin in the 2021/22 marketing year (April/March). Consequently, national stocks are forecast to increase to a well above‑average level. Exports are also foreseen to rise, but only moderately, as the bumper outputs obtained throughout Southern Africa will limit the export opportunities within the subregion. Imports of cereals, mostly wheat, are forecast at a below‑average level in 2021/22, on account of the large domestic supplies.

Lower year on year maize prices

Prices of maize grain have been rising seasonally since May, but, reflecting the ample supply situation, the national average price in September 2021 was nearly 20 percent lower than a year before. Although the plentiful supplies are likely to curb inflationary pressure on food prices in the forthcoming months, the weakening national currency, which lost about 10 percent of its value against the United States dollar between November 2020 and October 2021, is expected to exert some upward pressure on food prices, particularly for imported commodities such as wheat.

Improvements in food security in 2021/22

Based on the latest IPC analysis, released in August 2021, an estimated 1.49 million people are projected to be food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance between October 2021 and March 2022. This number is about 40 percent lower than the estimate in same period in 2020/21, reflecting the positive impact of the large harvest and the low prices of maize, the main food staple. However, the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, especially the slowdown in economic activities and subsequent cuts to households’ incomes, have constrained improvements in the food security situation.

Most of the country has been classified in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed), except for the southern districts of Chikhwawa and Nsanje, where maize production decreased year on year in 2021 and 20 percent of the population is assessed to be facing IPC Phase 3 (Crisis). Households in these districts are likely to experience significant food gaps early next year, during the peak of the lean season.