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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist as high food prices limit household access to food

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • January 2023
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist as high food prices limit household access to food

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most of the Southern Region, parts of the Central Region, and pockets of the Northern Region continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3), Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!), and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the ongoing lean season. Following large crop and labor income losses during the 2021/22 production year, households in these areas have insufficient access to food amid persistently high prices for both food and essential non-food commodities. While deliveries of humanitarian food assistance are currently ongoing, the scale of need exceeds available resources for the humanitarian response in several districts where at least 20 percent of the population still faces food consumption gaps.

    • In December, the average price of maize across FEWS NET monitored markets in Malawi was 453 MWK/kg, which is 193 percent above last year and 156 percent above the five-year average. The lowest price was recorded in Lilongwe at 325 MWK/kg, where supply has benefitted from surplus production in northern and central Malawi. The highest price was observed in Karonga in northern Malawi (531 MWK/kg), which is influenced by higher-price imports from Tanzania and Kenya, as Karonga and neighboring Chitipa district are the main export transit points for maize to the rest of the country. While prices are high in Karonga, households in the surrounding livelihood zones have more resources and diverse food and income sources to meet their food needs compared to the rest of the country.

    • The main crop production season is fully underway, and rainfall performance has significantly improved compared to the late and erratic start of the season. In January, monthly rainfall totals ranged from near to above average, driving recovery in cumulative seasonal rainfall totals. According to global and regional forecasts and the Malawi Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS), rainfall from January to March will also most likely be above average. However, there remains a risk of flash floods in flood-prone areas and localized dry spells.

    • The 2023 maize harvest, which begins in April, will likely be below average due to the late and erratic start of the rainfall season and reduced utilization of fertilizer, which directly affect crop yields. Due to economic constraints, the government only plans to deliver subsidized fertilizer to 2.5 million farmers this year, compared to 3.7 million last year. Additionally, deliveries have been delayed, and only 30 percent of the targeted number of farmers have reportedly received the supplies, increasing the risk that many farmers will miss the window for fertilizer application. Additionally, the price of subsidized fertilizer has doubled from 7,000 MWK per 50-kg bag to 15,000 MWK.

    • Labor demand and wage rates remain below normal, reducing a key source of income for poor households as this is the peak season for agricultural labor opportunities. On the one hand, the number of households in search of income from on-farm labor is elevated due to the loss of their own-produced crops last year, leading to an increase in the labor supply. On the other hand, middle and better-off households that typically hire labor have fewer resources available to hire labor after consecutive years of below-average revenue from below-average crop production seasons. In a typical year, labor provides up to 40 percent of the annual total income earned by very poor and poor households.¬†

    This Key Message Update provides a broad summary of FEWS NET's current and projected analysis of likely acute food insecurity outcomes in this geography. Learn more about our work here.

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