Most rural households continue to consume food from their own production supplemented by market purchases, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected to persist across most of the country throughout the projection period. However, in the Lower Shire Livelihood Zone districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa in southern Malawi, very poor households are starting to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the September/October 2021 period and are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes beginning in the November/December 2021 period. Localized production shortfalls impacted these areas due to dry spells in the 2020/21 rainfall season. Some poor households are also expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in other parts of the country during the lean period, though this will not be significant enough to change area-level classification.
According to international ensemble forecast models as of September 2021, average cumulative rainfall is most likely across the country in the coming rainy season from October 2021 to March 2022. The annual Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) report released in early September 2021 is also projecting overall normal to above-normal rainfall across Malawi throughout the rainy season. While there is a typical risk of localized dry spells and periods of below-average rainfall in parts of northern and southern Malawi, overall rainfall performance for the season is expected to be favorable.
Prices for the maize staple continue to trend below prices recorded at the same time last year and below average levels. From July to August 2021, maize prices increased between 5 and 30 percent across most monitored markets, remained generally stable in Lilongwe, Lunzu, and Mangochi markets, and declined by 22 percent in Mzuzu market. The increase in prices is seasonal and a response to increased demand, especially from ADMARC which in August 2021 entered the market, purchasing maize at the government-set producer price of MWK 150/kg. Despite the increases in most markets, maize prices in August were trending at levels significantly lower than at the same time last year by between 10 and 35 percent and below five-year average levels by between 12 and 33 percent. In late September, the government announced that ADMARC will be selling maize at MWK 205/kg during the coming lean season.
In September 2021, the number of new COVID-19 cases recorded daily has continued to decline from the peak of the third wave in recorded in July 2021. In response, the government downgraded the COVID 19 emergency status to Phase 2 and further eased restrictions on the size of gatherings (from 50 to 100 indoors and from 100 to 250 outdoors) and permitting some events such as concerts and sporting events (though with vaccination requirements for the latter). This has slightly increased income-earning opportunities for petty traders in urban centers. However, given low vaccination levels in Malawi and the region, COVID-19 remains a threat to the health, livelihoods, and food security of Malawians, especially for low-income households in urban centers.