GIEWS > Data & Tools > Earth Observation
GIEWS - Global Information and Early Warning System

Country Briefs


Reference Date: 22-September-2016


  1. Maize production declines in 2016 due to prolonged and severe dryness

  2. National average maize price rebounds after seasonal declines

  3. Food security situation in 2016/17 worsens significantly, mostly due to reduced 2016 cereal production, with estimated 6.5 million people in need of assistance

Tighter maize supplies following sharply reduced harvest in 2016

The main maize harvest was completed in July, with the minor winter irrigated crop to be harvested at the end of the year. The latest official estimate for maize production in 2016 stands at almost 2.4 million tonnes, about 15 percent lower than the reduced harvest in 2015 and significantly down on the previous five-year average. The delayed onset of seasonal rains and El Niño‑induced dryness throughout most of the cropping season, particularly impacting the southern and central areas, were the main drivers behind this year’s reduced harvest. More favourable conditions in northern districts resulted in near‑average outputs in these areas and prevented a further reduction at the national level. Significant production declines were also recorded for rice, sorghum and millet, while the 2016 wheat crop is also estimated to have decreased.

Total cereal production is estimated at just over 2.5 million tonnes, 16 percent down on last year and 34 percent below the previous five‑year average.

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

Maize imports forecast rise significantly in 2016/17

As a result of the reduced 2016 cereal output and low carryover stocks, the country is expected to significantly increase imports in the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March). Imports of maize are forecast at over 0.5 million tonnes and, while some quantities are expected to be sourced from within the region, the bulk is anticipated to be procured from outside Southern Africa given the tight regional supply situation. In addition, although there is a strong preference for the consumption of white maize, the relatively low availability on the international market compared to yellow maize may result in the importation of yellow maize for human consumption.

Maize prices rebound following seasonal decreases

The national average maize grain price remained firm in August, following a two-month increase. At MWK 221 per kg, the average price was 80 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. The weaker currency, kwacha, compared to year-earlier values, has also added inflationary pressure.

Food security worsens significantly in 2016

As a result of the poor agricultural performance and high food prices, the number of food insecure in 2016/17 has increased to 6.5 million, up from an estimated 2.84 million people 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. In addition, an estimated 1.85 million people are expected to receive agricultural support, including the provision of crop and livestock inputs.