Reference Date: 14-January-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Below-average rains since start of 2015/16 cropping season in central and southern districts adversely impact early crop development, but conditions in north are generally satisfactory
Maize production in 2015 declined sharply to a below-average level
National average maize price at record high level in December 2015, reflecting tighter market supplies
Tight food security situation in 2015/16 due to reduced 2015 crop production as a result of flood damage and prolonged dry spells
Suppressed rains at start of 2015/16 cropping season adversely impact crop conditions in centre and south
Planting of the 2016 cereal crops concluded in December, under generally satisfactory conditions in northern districts, while drier conditions in the Central and Southern regions resulted in delayed plantings and adversely impacted early crop growth. Harvesting of the cereal crops is expected to commence in May.
The erratic rains since the start of the 2015/16 cropping season (October/June) are associated with the prevailing strong El Niño episode. Reports indicate that some districts in the south and centre have already experienced localized crop wilting due to the dryness, while the severe moisture deficits have also prevented planting from taking place in localized areas of the Southern Region. Although Malawi is normally less affected by the impact of El Niño compared to neighbouring countries to the south, rainfall forecasts point to below-average rains in central and southern parts until the start of the harvesting period, resulting in unfavourable production prospects with negative implications for food security.
Following the sharp decrease in the 2015 cereal output, a joint Government/UN Humanitarian National Response Plan was initiated in 2015, with components focusing on agriculture and food security. Support to the agriculture sector included input assistance and investment in irrigation infrastructure. As of November 2015, 231 000 households in 23 districts were identified to receive support, however, a lack of funding has impeded the implementation of some activities supporting the livestock sector.
Tighter supplies in 2015/16 marketing year
The 2015 maize output was estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, 27 percent lower than the record 2014 harvest. The decrease reflects severe dry periods that resulted in a drop in average yields by about one-fifth compared to the high level of 2014. In addition flooding, which mostly affected the southern districts of Mulanje, Nsanje, Mangochi and Chikwawa, destroyed 89 100 hectares of cropped land and resulted in the loss of 195 032 animals. The Post Disaster Needs Assessment Report from March 2015, estimates that the floods resulted in USD 13.6 million of losses to the agriculture sector, including the damage to infrastructure. Overall, 2015 cereal production is estimated at a below-average level of 3.1 million tonnes, about one-quarter lower than the record 2014 harvest.
On account of the lower 2015 cereal harvest, both national and household stocks are estimated to be sharply reduced in the 2015/16 marketing year, with Malawi importing about 90 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia to boost national supplies.
Maize price at record level in December 2015
The national average maize price reached a record level in December 2015, and at MWK 150 per kg was nearly double its year earlier value. The main driver behind the elevated level is the tight supply situation, while the depreciation of the currency during 2015 contributed to exacerbating the upward trend. The highest prices in December were recorded in the Southern Region, up to MWK 190 per kg, while lower prices were observed in northern markets.
Large number of food insecure in southern districts
Currently, an estimated 2.84 million people require food assistance in 25 districts, up from 640 000 persons in the previous year. The current food insecurity situation is a result of the overall decrease in food production in 2015 and the impact of the floods earlier in the year, which prompted the Government to declare a state of national disaster. About 0.89 million of the total number of food insecure were affected by the floods, while 1.95 million suffered from the dry spell that reduced their harvests. Food assistance programmes are being implemented, through both in-kind support and cash-based schemes. However, funding gaps for the Humanitarian National Response Plan may result in curtailed operations from February.
Although the country tends to be less affected by El Niño weather patterns, the early erratic rainfall in parts of the centre and south, combined with forecasts of below-average rains in southern parts, may result in a second consecutive reduced harvest, further aggravating food security.