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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 21-November-2016


  1. Above-average rainfall conditions forecast for 2016/17 cropping season, with planting underway

  2. Maize supplies tight on account of drought-reduced output in 2016 and depleted stocks

  3. National average maize price remains at near-record level

  4. Food security situation worsens significantly in 2016/17, mostly reflective of reduced 2016 cereal production and high food prices, with estimated 6.5 million people in need of assistance

Forecasts point to enhanced chance of above‑average rainfall conditions during 2016/17 cropping season

Localized heavy rains were received in parts of the south and centre in November, prompting farmers to commence plantings in those areas, while land preparation is still ongoing in northern districts. Rainfall forecasts for the 2016/17 main summer cropping season (November‑June) point to an enhanced chance for above‑average rainfall conditions, indicating an early positive production outlook for the 2017 crops. As in previous years, the Government is supporting farmers through the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), which will benefit 900 000 farmers this season, down from 1.5 million farmers in the previous season. The FISP has also been modified to increase private sector participation, with farmers provided with coupons to purchase inputs directly from private traders, while legume seeds will also be distributed under the Programme in an effort to diversify agricultural production.

In addition, FAO is supporting the Government’s efforts to improve agricultural input access through input trade fairs that will be implemented in ten districts. Currently, FAO and members of the Agriculture Cluster have planned to support 238 000 households with agricultural inputs during the main and the secondary (irrigated) seasons. This is in response to the impact of the drought-reduced 2016 harvest that limited income opportunities and consequently adversely affected farmers’ productive capacity, particularly regarding their access to agricultural inputs. Although these programmes will help ameliorate the situation, plantings for the 2016/17 cropping season are likely to be constrained.

Maize supplies sharply reduced following poor harvest in 2016

The 2016 maize production is estimated at almost 2.4 million tonnes, approximately 15 percent down from the reduced harvest in 2015 and significantly lower than the previous five-year average. Prolonged dryness associated with the El Niño episode was the main reason behind the production decline and mainly affected central and southern cropping areas. Significant production declines were also recorded for rice, sorghum and millet. As a result, total cereal production stands at just over 2.5 million tonnes, 34 percent below the previous five‑year average.

Moreover, cash crops (mainly tobacco and cotton) production is also estimated to have fallen in 2016.

Higher import needs in 2016/17 marketing year

As a result of the reduced 2016 cereal output and significantly depleted stocks (household and public reserves), the country’s import needs in the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March) have risen significantly to approximately 0.7 million tonnes. While some of this volume is expected to be sourced from within the subregion, the bulk is anticipated to be procured from outside Southern Africa given the tight regional supply situation; moreover, the recent maize export ban in Zambia will further impede import opportunities. The Government allocated MWK 35.5 billion for the procurement of maize with financial support from international partners.

Maize prices remain at near-record levels

The national average maize grain price, following a moderate month-on-month decline, stood at MWK 219 per kg in October. At this level, the average price was nearly 50 percent higher than its year-earlier value. Most of this year’s price gains stem from the tight supply situation and a higher reliance on imports, compounded by the weaker currency. Furthermore, inflationary pressure is expected to be sustained resulting from the recent increase in fuel prices in November (petrol costs increased by 4.6 percent and diesel by 6.4 percent).

The Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), the Government parastatal that procures and retails grain, has begun selling maize at it depots at a price of MWK 250 per kg.

Food security worsens significantly in 2016

As a result of the poor agricultural performance and high food prices, the number of food insecure who require emergency assistance in 2016/17 is estimated at 6.5 million, compared to the 2.84 million people categorized as food insecure in the previous year, according to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (MVAC) annual evaluation. The most affected districts are in the south and correspond to the areas that were most affected by the El Niño‑induced dry conditions. In July, the Government released the Food Insecurity Response Plan to be implemented until March 2017, normally the end of the lean season. Under this programme, food assistance, through in-kind distributions, cash or vouchers, or a combination of these modalities, will be provided to the most food insecure in 24 of the most affected districts identified by MVAC. Approximately 260 000 tonnes of cereals are required for the response plan.