Reference Date: 13-May-2013
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Maize production in 2013 is forecast at an above average level, similar to last year
Maize prices continued to climb sharply in March 2013, reaching alarming levels
Nearly 2 million people were estimated to be food insecure. However, conditions are expected to improve with the arrival of the 2013 harvest
Maize production forecast at an above average level in 2013
Harvesting of the main 2012/13 season’s cereal crop is underway, with generally dry conditions facilitating harvesting activities; however, heavy rains in April delayed harvesting activities in northern parts. During the main cropping season (October-June) rains were generally satisfactory, particularly in the Southern Region, which suffered from a prolonged dry period in the previous season. The Government’s second round crop assessment in February, indicated a possible production increase, particularly in the drought prone southern areas, despite a small reduction in the area planted to maize. Preliminary estimates point to a crop of about 3.7 million tonnes, slightly up on 2012’s level. However, a short dry spell in March in some northern and central areas, which followed the second round assessment, could affect final estimates. Production of other cereal crops - rice, sorghum and millet – is also expected to increase over the previous year’s output, while wheat production, although very minor, is estimated to fall in 2013.
An expansion in tobacco plantings contributed to a larger crop in 2013, estimated at approximately 120 000 tonnes, about 64 percent up on last year. Cotton production on the other hand, another important cash crop, is anticipated to decrease by 33 percent in 2013 to 163 000 tonnes, following a significant contraction in plantings, partly on account of lower prices recorded in 2012.
Stock build-up expected in 2013/14
Based on the second round crop assessment results, the country will have more than sufficient domestic supplies from the 2013 harvest to cover national food requirements, estimated at approximately 2.7 million tonnes for the 2013/14 marketing year (April/March). A sizeable stock level is expected to be retained during 2013/14, even allowing for feed and industrial use requirements.
However, in 2013 approximately 30 000 tonnes of maize from the strategic reserves were lost due to heavy rains and inadequate storage facilities. Consequently the government authorised the importation of 35 000 tonnes from Zambia.
Maize prices continued to climb steeply
Maize prices continued their strong month-on-month increases in March 2013, unlike previous years when prices tend to fall with the start of the early harvest. The national average price reached MWK 135 per kg, nearly three times the level of the previous year, well above the annual inflation rate. The devaluation of the currency (kwacha) in May 2012 triggered the strong price rises, following increases in cost of transportation and other imported goods. In addition, localized production shortfalls in southern regions and increased exports created tighter domestic supplies adding to the upward price pressure.
The inflation rate declined for the first time in March for almost two years, partly on account of a decrease in the food sub-component of CPI. The decrease reflects better availability and lower prices of some food items such as sorghum, millet and beans, with the start of the 2013 main season’s harvest. However, the annual inflation rate still remains at a high of 36.4 percent.
Food security conditions expected to improve with the 2013 harvest
Results from the last Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (MVAC) evaluation in October 2012 indicated that almost 2 million people (about 13 percent of the population) were food insecure. High price of both food and non-food commodities was the main driving factor, with many households’ experiencing a severe contraction in their purchasing power; approximately 54 percent of income is normally allocated to food purchases.
The Southern region was the most affected area, with all but three of the 16 affected districts located there. In response, the Government and partner institutions launched response plans with the government releasing 25 000 tonnes of maize from the strategic reserve. In addition, a further 47 500 tonnes of maize was planned to be distributed until March 2013.
Improvements in food security conditions are expected in the next few months, as new supplies from current harvests improve food availability. In addition, the government announced in May that the minimum wage will be increased, which is expected to help stabilise and improve households’ purchasing power. Results from the 2013 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment (MVAC), expected in July, would provide more details on the number of food insecure and required interventions.