GIEWS Country Briefs

Malawi PDF version    Email this article Print this article Subscribe FAO GIEWS RSS  Share this article  

Reference Date: 06-August-2015


  1. Production of maize in 2015 declined sharply to below-average level, as a result of extended dry period, as well as flooding in southern parts of the country

  2. National average maize price in July above its year-earlier level, reflecting tighter market supplies

  3. Steep increase in number of people requiring food assistance in 2015/16 due to reduced supplies and flood damage

Cereal production decreases sharply in 2015

Harvesting of the 2015 maize crop, representing over 90 percent of the total national cereal output, was completed in June and production , is estimated at about 2.9 million tonnes, 27 percent lower than the record 2014 harvest. The sharp decrease follows an extended period of dry weather which affected crops during a critical development stage in the first quarter of 2015, which caused a drop in yields by about one-fifth compared to the high level of 2014. In addition, severe flooding, mainly impacting southern districts of Mulanje, Nsanje, Mangochi and Chikwawa, caused widespread crop losses, in total destroying 89 100 hectares of cropped land and resulting 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.

Production of other cereals also decreased. Sorghum and millet declined by 8 and 12 percent, respectively, while the rice output is estimated 8 percent lower than the above-average level of 2014 Overall, cereal production is estimated at a below-average level of 3.1 million tonnes, one-quarter lower than the record 2014 harvest. This year’s output is the lowest since 2008.

Production of cotton, a main cash crop, fell by 31 percent. By contrast, small increases were registered for pulses, pigeon peas and beans.

In consideration of the presence of an El Niño weather phenomenon, which is historically associated with reduced rainfall levels compared to the average in Malawi, the possibility of a subsequent poor 2015/16 cropping season (October-June), is elevated. GIEWS will continue to monitor climate forecasts and weather conditions for the forthcoming season.

Increasing maize prices persist throughout 2015

The national average maize price has been increasing since late 2014, including during the harvest period (April and June) when prices tend to decline, reflecting the reduced 2015 output and the impact of floods that disrupted trade flows and consequently decreased market supplies. The national average maize price in July was 54 percent higher than its year earlier level.

Sharp deterioration in food security conditions in 2015/16

As a result of the overall decrease in food production and the impact of the floods earlier in the year, which prompted the Government to declare a state of national disaster, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) reports that about 2.8 million people will require food assistance for a period of three to six months from October 2015 to March 2016 (the main lean period). This is a significant increase from last year, when an estimated 640 000 persons were assessed to be food insecure. The maize tonnage required to support the food insecure population is estimated at 124 183 tonnes.

About 886 000 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. In total, 25 districts, mainly in the south were impacted, with Balaka, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Mzimba and Zomba the main affected districts.

Furthermore, the higher maize prices are expected to constrain access and further exacerbate the already poor food insecurity conditions.

Relevant links:
 As of Jul 2015, included in the list of "Countries Requiring External Assistance for Food"
 Cereal Supply/Demand Balance Sheet
 Food Price Data and Analysis Tool
 Earth Observation Indicators
 Seasonal Indicators
 Vegetation Indicators
 Precipitation Indicators
 Graphs & Data
 NDVI & Precipitation
 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) Reports & Special Alerts: 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002
From FAO:
 FAO Country Profiles

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