Reference Date: 15-November-2013
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Planting of the 2014 cereal crop is underway
Maize production in 2013 is estimated at a similar level to the 2012 harvest
Generally firm maize prices in October 2013 following strong gains in the preceding months
Approximately 1.46 million people are estimated to be food insecure, due to poor harvests and persistent high food prices
Favourable conditions foreseen for the 2013/14 cropping season
Land preparation and planting of the 2014 cereal crops commenced in October, under generally sporadic rainfall. However, preliminary rainfall forecasts indicate an increased probability of normal to above normal precipitation between November 2013 and March 2014, with a high possibility of heavy rains during the latter months. As in previous years, the government will continue to subsidise fertilisers, as well as other inputs, providing basal and top dressing at a fixed price of MWK 500 per 50 kg. In addition to promoting traditional crops, such as maize, the government has targeted increased investment in irrigation and legume production, with an aim to diversify the agricultural output and lessen the reliance of rain-fed production.
Maize production estimated at above average levels in 2013
In 2013, the primary staple maize crop is estimated at approximately 3.6 million tonnes, similar to the previous year but about 5 percent above the average for the previous five years. Production in southern districts recovered from the drought affected harvests of 2012. However, in the more productive northern and central districts, maize outputs declined slightly from the good levels of 2012, partly off-setting the gains registered in the south. Production of sorghum and millet increased by 30 and 15 percent respectively over the previous season, while the wheat and rice crop remain relatively unchanged. Overall, cereal production in 2013 is estimated at approximately 3.9 million tonnes.
Based on the latest crop estimates, the country has sufficient domestic maize supplies from the 2013 harvest to cover national food requirements, estimated at approximately 2.7 million tonnes in 2013/14 marketing year (April/March).
Tobacco production increases, but cotton declines
An expansion in tobacco plantings contributed to a larger crop in 2013, estimated at approximately 133 000 tonnes, nearly double the level of last year. Cotton production on the other hand, estimated at about 158 000 tonnes, is about 35 percent lower than in 2012, following a significant contraction in plantings, partly on account of lower prices in 2012.
Prices of maize stabilised in October following steep rises in preceding months
In Malawi, maize prices remained generally stable in October marking a departure from the large increases recorded in previous months. New supplies from the irrigated winter crops, currently being harvested, helped stabilize prices, particularly in southern and central markets, where most of the irrigated winter crops are grown. However, prices still remained twice their last year levels, owing to the higher costs of transportation and production, as well as localized production declines in 2013. The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), the government’s parastatal, is selling maize at a subsidised price of MWK 80 (about USD 0.2) per kg, but is restricting the quantity sold to 10 kgs per person per day.
The inflation rate, despite a marginal rise in the food component, continued its downward trajectory in September which began in March 2013, after significant increases in the preceding year following the liberalisation of the exchange rate regime.
Food security conditions still critical, but improved compared to 2012/13
Results from the 2013 Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (MVAC) evaluation, released in July, indicate a 26 percent decrease in the number of food insecure to 1.46 million persons in the 2013/14 marketing year. The largest numbers of food insecure persons are located in Kasungu (Central Region) and Mzimba (Northern Region) districts, reflecting production declines in 2013. The continuing high price of both food and non-food commodities has also contributed to stressing food security conditions, with many households’ experiencing a severe contraction in their purchasing power; approximately 54 percent of income is normally allocated to food purchases.
The MVAC results are based on the assumption that the maize price will not exceed an average level of MWK 125 per kg during 2013/14 marketing year. Given the current increasing prices and the large proportion of a households’ budget allocated to food purchases, which reached 75 percent in some cases, close monitoring of the market and prices are warranted.