The rains normally finish at the end of March, but the erratic rainfall pattern this year makes predictions difficult.
Localized heavy rains caused flooding in Phalombe and Zomba Districts, reportedly causing more damage in Phalombe than Zomba.
Consumption of matured crops from the field has improved food supplies for some households.
The National Statistics Office released the first round of crop production estimates on March 13, suggesting a 4% drop in smallholder summer maize production; however, these figures do not include winter and estate maize production.
The president directed ADMARC to ensure that all ADMARC markets have sufficient supplies of maize and authorized the National Food Reserve agency (NFRA) to release 20,000 MT of maize from the SGR for sale in the ADMARC markets. However, it is still proving a big challenge for ADMARC to ensure that all markets have adequate maize stocks given the rising demand.
Local market maize prices continue to rise.
Of particular concern is the Lower Shire Valley, where prices are the highest of any February during the last three years, and where, following a poor winter season, summer production is at risk of failing.
1. FACTORS AFFECTING CROP PRODUCTION
Flooding in Phalombe and Zomba Districts; below normal rain in many other parts of the country in last third of February 2004.
In cumulative terms, February rainfall was below normal for most parts of the country. The month was characterized by temporal and spatial variability, however, with heavy rains in Zomba and Phalombe Districts in the south and Nkhotakota District in the central region. On the other hand, there was almost no rainfall at all in Mwanza during the last part of February.
Localized heavy rains caused flooding which resulted in damage to crops and property. It is estimated that 640 hectares of various crops were washed away in Phalombe where the floods appear to have had more serious effects. The government and some NGOs have provided various form of assistance to affected households, including cassava and sweet potato planting materials.
Rainfall generally improved during the first ten days of March 2004, easing the negative effects of February's relative dryness, and supporting the growth and development of late-planted crops. Cumulatively, by March 10, the country as a whole had received near normal (50% to 74% of normal) to normal (75% to 125% to normal) rainfall. This is a great improvement over the first half of the rainfall season (see Figures 1a and 1b).
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