Reference Date: 09-September-2014
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Favourable national maize supplies, following bumper 2014 harvest
Maize prices decrease sharply in response to the improved supply situation
Overall, food security conditions improve in 2014, but areas where production declines were recorded remain a concern
Improved national maize supplies following bumper 2014 harvest
The 2014 national maize crop, harvested between May and June, was estimated at 3.9 million tonnes, about 8 percent up on the above-average 2013 harvest. In general, rainfall was favourable for cereal production, and together with the continuation of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), contributed to a minor increase in average yields (+6 percent to 2.3 tonnes per hectare). In addition, a small expansion in area planted augmented this year’s overall maize production.
However, some districts in the north (Karonga) and south (Balaka, Dedza, Ntcheu, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Neno, Blantyre and Mulanje) experienced prolonged dry spells during the crucial maize grain-filling stage between February and April, limiting yields and consequently reducing production.
Rice and sorghum also registered production increases of 5 and 7 percent respectively, while millet and wheat outputs are estimated to have remained relatively unchanged compared to the preceding year’s harvest. Accordingly, total cereal production is estimated at about 4.2 million tonnes, about 300 000 tonnes (8 percent) above last year and the average of the previous five years. Given this year’s large harvest, the country is expected to retain a maize surplus of over 1 million tonnes.
In regard to cash crops, tobacco recorded a sharp 27 percent increase, while by contrast there was a 16 percent decline in the cotton output due to constrained access to inputs and the dry spell in southern cotton growing areas.
Forecasts point to favourable rains for the 2014/15 cropping season
Recently released rainfall forecasts for the 2014/15 cropping season (with plantings beginning from October) indicate an increased chance of normal to above normal rains for the October 2014-March 2015 period. These rainfall predictions also take into account the possibility of an El Niño occurrence, which is usually associated with periods of below average rains in parts of Southern Africa; current forecasts for an El Niño occurrence have been downgraded from earlier estimates and point to only a 60-65 percent probability that an episode will transpire in the last quarter of 2014.
Prices declined sharply in response to the large maize harvest
Reflecting the larger maize output in 2014, the national average maize price decreased sharply between March-June and remained comparatively stable in two following months. At MWK 79 per kg, the price of maize in August was nearly 32 percent below its level of a year earlier. The stabilization of the kwacha, the national currency, following a small appreciation against the US dollar earlier in the year, also contributed to easing of inflationary pressure. Furthermore, the 5 percent decrease in national fuel prices, announced by the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) in September, is expected to somewhat limit upward price pressure on food products.
Improved maize availability ameliorates food security conditions
Although the 2014 Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (MVAC) report is yet to be released, the number of food insecure people is expected to decrease from last year’s level of 1.46 million people, following the improved production and sharply reduced prices. However, households in localized areas of the north (Karonga) and south (Middle Shire) that experienced production declines, are expected to face constrained food access requiring some assistance.