Malawi Food Security Outlook Update, April 2018
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area outcomes are projected for most of the outlook period
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes continue across most of the country because of increased access to green foods, the start of the main harvest in the southern and central regions, above-average carryover stocks from the 2017 season, and stable maize prices. Minimal area outcomes are projected for most of the outlook period, apart from areas severely affected by dry spells and pest infestations, which will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes between August and September.
Below-normal rainfall in southern and central regions of the country will result in below-average production, which will result in localized food deficits as well as reductions in income from major cash crop production for the 2018/19 consumption season. This will likely lead to localized acute food insecurity in affected areas, especially during the lean period starting from October 2018 to March 2019.
Maize prices in March remained stable and even registered a slight decrease in areas where households have already started harvesting for the 2018 season. Ministry of Agriculture data from the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) shows that across the twelve markets monitored by FEWS NET, average prices declined by about 5 percent between February (MWK 123.21/kg) and March (MWK 115.90/kg). Average maize grain prices are expected to continue decreasing and following seasonal trends for the first three months of the new consumption year as more households start consuming own produced crops.
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes continue across most of the country because of adequate food stocks at the household, local market, and national level because of slightly above-average 2017 production. Contributing further to the Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are the low and stable prices of maize and other food throughout most of the 2017/18 consumption season.
In recent nutrition surveys conducted by the MVAC in January and February 2018 using the SMART methodology the prevalence of GAM among children between the ages of 6-59 months was 1.2 percent (CI:0.9-1.9). The survey was conducted during the peak of the lean season. When compared to the prevalence of GAM in December 2016 (4.1%), the latest survey reflects an improvement in the nutrition situation, which is probably a result of the favorable food security conditions throughout the 2017/18 consumption period.
Both local and international agroclimatology reports and products have shown relatively large rainfall deficits and poor moisture conditions during critical crop growing periods of the 2017/18 production season over southern and parts of central Malawi. Based on erratic and poorly distributed rainfall, both spatially and over time, the country is expected to register below-average production in major cereals including maize. Below-average production is also expected among major cash crops including tobacco, cotton and legumes. It is also possible that crop yields have been impacted by Fall Armyworm infestations, even after control measures have been put in place.
The average price for the staple maize grain recently registered a modest decline as demand in the southern region decreased and as farmers began consuming green foods from their harvests. Ministry of Agriculture data from the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) shows that across the twelve markets monitored by FEWS NET, average prices declined by about 5 percent between February (MWK 123.21/kg) and March (MWK 115.90/kg). Average maize grain prices are expected to continue decreasing and following seasonal trends for the first three months of the new consumption year as more households start consuming own produced crops. Additionally, significant carry-over stocks from the previous marketing season are expected to play an important role in keeping price increases in-check, ensuring that prices remain below average for the first few months of the marketing season.
Informal cross border trade of staple foods continues to play an important role in ensuring food availability in neighboring countries. Month-on-month informal maize grain imports (especially from Mozambique) into the perennially-deficit southern region increased by 21 percent. March imports (1,539 MT) are 11 percent higher than the five -year average. Total informal imports for the 2017/18 consumption year stand at 20,268 MT, which is 42 percent lower than the five-year average in Malawi. Month-on-month informal maize exports (especially into Tanzania) declined by 49 percent between February (4,562 MT) and March (2,314 MT) as farmers in Tanzania begin consuming their own produced food due to the start of the harvesting period. However, informal maize exports to Tanzania are at levels that are 6 times higher than the five-year average for the month. At 38,212 MT, the total informal exports for the 2017/18 season are 2.5 times higher than five-year average exports.
The tobacco selling season officially opened on April 10th. According to the estimates by the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), production this season is about 14 percent below trade requirements. TCC tobacco sales at auction floors across the country have showed a slight reduction (3-12 percent) in tobacco selling prices in comparison to prices last season. If the trend continues, this could reduce household incomes from related labor and sales in the livelihood zones where tobacco is a major source of income and it could have a negative macroeconomic effect on Malawi. Despite the government announcing higher selling prices for cotton, production of this cash crop has decreased by over 80 percent since 2012, when cotton production was at its highest. This reduction has resulted in lower household income from cotton-related labor and sales.