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Country Briefs

  Malawi

Reference Date: 13-July-2017

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Cereal production in 2017 is estimated at an above-average level following beneficial weather conditions

  2. Imports of maize and rice expected to decline in 2017/18 due to the larger domestic output

  3. Prices of maize and rice declined reflecting the favourable supply outlook and harvest pressure

  4. Food security situation expected to improve in 2017/18 due to the increased cereal output and lower prices

Beneficial weather boosts cereal production in 2017

Harvesting of the 2017 cereal crop is nearly complete. Owing to generally favourable weather conditions during the 2016/17 summer cropping season (October-July), the maize output is officially estimated at an above-average level of nearly 3.5 million tonnes. At this level, maize production in 2017 is about 46 percent up on a yearly basis. Production gains are also anticipated for sorghum and rice, and these increases are forecast to contribute to an overall average cereal output of 3.7 million tonnes in 2017.

The continuation of the Government’s input programme, which provides subsidised agricultural inputs including fertilizers, also supported this year’s production gain. However, in localised pockets, dry spells in northern and southern areas, flood damage and an outbreak of fall armyworm (a new invasive species), are expected to have constrained yields in the affected areas. More information will be available following the release of the Government’s vulnerability assessment, expected to be published in July.

Regarding cash crops, tobacco production is forecast to fall reflecting lower prices in 2016 that induced farmers to reduce plantings in 2017, while a moderate increase in cotton production is foreseen.

Import needs decline on account of the larger harvest

As a result of the larger domestic output, imports of maize are expected at only minimal levels in the 2017/18 marketing year (April/March). Similarly, rice imports are forecast to fall moderately, as the increase in paddy production will satisfy a larger proportion of the domestic consumption needs. In the previous marketing year, to compensate for both the reduced 2016 output (34 percent below the five‑year average) and the significantly depleted stocks (household and public reserves), maize imports exceeded 0.5 million tonnes, a well above-average level.

Cereal prices fall on favourable supply conditions

Reflecting expectations of larger domestic maize supplies as well as harvest pressure, maize grain prices fell steeply between March and May; the national average maize price was 15 percent down on an annual basis. Rice prices also declined in recent months to similar levels of a year earlier. These decreases contributed to pushing down the annual inflation rate to 12.3 percent in May compared with 21.5 percent in the corresponding month of 2016.

Food security conditions expected to improve in 2017 following sharp deterioration in 2016

Overall food security conditions are expected to improve this year on account of the improved supply situation that will help to augment households’ stocks and declining cereal prices that will improve food access. However, lower tobacco production and reduced crop prices may constrain income opportunities for some farming households, partly offsetting the benefits of lower retail food prices.

Results from the 2017 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (MVACs) evaluation are yet to be released, but it is anticipated that the number of food insecure will be significantly lower than the estimated 6.7 million who required food assistance in 2016/17.

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