Due to the above-average production year, most rural households are currently accessing adequate food from own production and market purchases, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected to persist in most areas through at least May 2021. However, households in six districts of southern Malawi and one district in central Malawi faced localized production shortfalls. In these areas, humanitarian assistance—anticipated to start in the December 2020 to February/March 2021 period—is expected to improve Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Supported by assistance, these outcomes are expected to last until the harvest improves outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in April. Meanwhile, low income households in the four cities of Malawi are expected to face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes given the provision of assistance expected to start around December 2020. Given continued gradual economic recovery following COVID-19 impacts, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in urban areas from January to May 2021.
In November, the Malawi Department of Disaster announced that plans for humanitarian assistance in the 2020/21 consumption season were 49 percent funded. Distribution of assistance is planned to start in December 2020 in the worst affected district of Nsanje, and in January 2021 in Balaka and Neno districts. Though information is limited, distribution is expected to start in the February to March period in the remaining districts which were previously expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the lean season in the absence of assistance. Based on historical trends and the expectation that the government will prioritize worst affected areas, assistance is expected to support Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in these areas through March 2021. Provision of assistance in urban areas is also expected around December 2020.
National food availability remains above average due to above-average production in the 2019/20 production season. Staple maize grain is readily available in markets across the country. Informal imports of maize—largely from Zambia and Mozambique—increased by 19 percent from September to October. At around 5,000 MT, October import volumes were 82 percent higher than the five-year average, likely due to increased production and export volumes from Zambia over the years, previous poor seasons in the region which reduced trade in those years, and better access to markets within Malawi for some farmers along the border. Meanwhile, informal exports of maize grain—mostly into Tanzania through Mbirima border—declined by 73 percent, at least partially attributed to the recent harvest in Tanzania. These trade patterns are generally normal, with no notable impacts on food security expected due to average to above average production in the region.
Maize grain prices across most FEWS NET monitored markets increased by between 5 and 17 percent in October 2020 relative to the previous month, to reach prices of MWK 150 to MWK 227 per kilogram across all markets. Maize grain prices in October were trending at levels 5 to 39 percent below their respective 2019 levels and 5 to 36 percent above the five-year average. These increases in October are in line with typical seasonal trends as an increasing number of households run out of own-produced food and become reliant on market purchases. Prices as of October were lower than last year, and also lower than the government-set minimum buying price of MWK 200 per kilogram.
According to international and local weather forecasts, La Niña conditions associated with above-average rainfall are expected to persist through March/April 2021. Overall, Malawi will likely receive above-average rainfall, expected to result in an average 2020/21 production season.