Production of maize, Malawi's most important staple crop, is estimated at 1.25 million tonnes, the lowest in a decade and some 26 percent down on last year's relatively poor harvest.
Aggregate harvest of roots and tubers, the second most important group of food crops in Malawi, is estimated at 3.8 million tonnes, some 9 percent down on last year's poor harvest and some 15 percent down on the five-year average production. This aggregate includes some 2.1 million tonnes of cassava, 1.27 million tonnes of sweet potatoes and 455 000 tonnes of Irish potatoes.
Early and above average rains had led to optimism for a good crop, but hopes were dashed when rains failed at a critical time when the maize crop was at the stage of cob formation and pollination. It also coincided with cassava and sweet potato planting in some areas. In addition, heavy rains in late December and early January caused significant damage to crops through flooding and nutrient leaching.
Mineral fertilizers were delivered too late to be of use to the main summer crops, while commercially very little fertilizer was available in the markets, which also significantly contributed to the reduced harvest.
Aggregate domestic cereal supply, including roots and tubers in cereal equivalent, for the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) is estimated at about 2.51 million tonnes. National utilization is estimated at 3.35 million tonnes, implying an overall cereal import requirement of 834 000 tonnes.
Total maize import requirement is estimated at 767 000 tonnes. With commercial imports of maize, formal and informal, forecast at about 300 000 tonnes, and food aid quantities of 33 000 tonnes on hand and in pipeline, there remains an uncovered deficit of 434 000 tonnes, which will need to be imported with international assistance.
The Malawi VAC estimates that a total of 4.22 million people, or over 34 percent of the population, have insufficient production or income to meet their minimum food requirements and will require assistance in food or cash amounting to about 270 000 tonnes in maize equivalent during the 2005/06 marketing year. The number in need of assistance could increase to 4.61 million if maize prices rise sharply.
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