GIEWS Country Brief: Malawi 27-March-2018

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  • Cereal production in 2018 expected to decline to below-average level of around 3 million tonnes, mostly reflecting unfavourable rains

  • Maize prices rise seasonally at start of 2018, but remained below year-earlier levels on account of overall improved supply situation

  • Food security expected to worsen later in the year in specific areas affected by dry weather conditions

Production of maize forecast to fall in 2018

Harvesting of the main 2018 season cereal crops is expected to commence in late April and the current prospects indicate that production is expected to decline to a below-average level this year. The 2018 production outlook mostly reflects poor seasonal rains between October 2017 and January 2018 in central and southern districts, with a prolonged dry period in January.

While mostly beneficial weather was observed in the North Region, which contributes to about one-third of the national maize output (the main food staple), rains in the Centre and South regions were unevenly distributed temporally, although cumulative levels were near average. These conditions caused moisture stress and resulted in crop wilting, in some cases permanently, lowering yield potentials. Since February, however, rainfall distribution has improved, benefitting the late-planted crops, although heavy rainfall had also triggered localized flooding.

In addition to the generally poor rains, the infestation of Fall Armyworm (FAW) is also expected to cause some production losses although the response to FAW infestations was generally adequate. Estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in early March indicate that close to 292 000 hectares of maize, millet and sorghum were affected.

Although weather forecasts indicate a likely continuation of above-average precipitation until May, the 2018 maize production is forecast to be around 3 million tonnes, with a decline between 10 and 15 percent compared to the 2017 output, mainly reflecting the earlier dry spells. The anticipated decline would result in a below average harvest. Results from the Government’s crop assessment are anticipated to be available in May/June.

Import needs forecast to rise in 2018/19

Based on an expected reduction in the 2018 maize output, import requirements are forecast to rise to near-average levels of about 130 000 tonnes in the 2018/19 marketing year (April/March), with higher stocks curbing larger import needs. As of early 2018, the Government’s maize stock was estimated at an above-average approximately 200 000 tonnes.

In the nearly complete 2017/18 marketing year (April/March), cereal supply conditions are significantly better than the previous year, primarily reflecting the above-average 2017 maize output of 3.5 million tonnes. Larger harvests were also registered for millet, rice and sorghum, contributing to an overall cereal production of 3.7 million tonnes, 6 percent higher than the previous five-year average (2012-2016). As a result, imports of maize were minimal in 2017/18 and well below the above-average quantities imported in the previous marketing year.

Prices of maize rise seasonally, but remained significantly lower on a yearly basis

Following a sharp fall at the beginning of 2017, prices of maize remained generally stable throughout the whole year and strengthened seasonally in early 2018. On account of the overall favourable supply situation, prices of maize in most markets are generally down on a yearly basis. Although the lower prices are expected to benefit net-consuming households, the reduced levels are likely to cause a drop in income levels for farming households.

Food security expected to worsen in 2018 in areas affected by poor rains

The current food security conditions are mostly stable on account of the generally good food supplies and lower cereal prices as well as in consideration of the new supplies from the imminent 2018 harvest. According to an updated IPC analysis in November 2017, an estimated 1.04 million people require humanitarian assistance between January and March, down from an estimated 6.7 million in the first quarter of 2017. Assistance is expected to be provided to about 836 000 people until the end of March 2018, mostly in the form of cash transfers.

Food security conditions are anticipated to worsen later in 2018 due to the foreseen below average harvest. However, above average stocks are expected to partially offset the impact of a lower output, helping to stabilize cereal supplies and avert a more pronounced deterioration in the food security.

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