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The start of the harvest improves acute food insecurity in the southern and central regions

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • April 2017
The start of the harvest improves acute food insecurity in the southern and central regions

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2017
  • Key Messages
    • The start of the main harvest in the south and some parts of the central region is contributing to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes across most of the country. However, some populations in Nsanje and Karonga district are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes, in the absence of humanitarian assistance. These projected outcomes are expected through September 2017.

    • Updated reports from the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that the average crop production projected in the first round crop estimates in March will be maintained. This confirms that the country will register improved cereal availability during the 2017/18 consumption year. Improved acute food insecurity outcomes are also expected during this period. 

    • In March, the price of the staple maize continued to decrease across the country. The national average price for maize dropped from MWK 219 in February to MWK 199 in March. Key drivers for this decline are primarily increased availability of diverse foods from green harvests, as well as drying of the main maize harvest in the south and some parts of the central region. 

    Current Situation
    • Humanitarian assistance to 6.7 million people across the country ended in March. According to a WFP update, by the end of March about 80 percent of the monthly beneficiaries were reached, with the remaining 20 percent to be reached in the first two weeks of April. The delay was mainly due to logistical challenges
    • While most of the households in the southern region and some parts of the central region are already harvesting their maize and other crops, households in the northern region are yet to start accessing green foods and are still dependent on the market for food purchases due to a delayed start of the 2016/17 rainfall season in the northern region.
    • Based on updated reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, the country is expected to register an average production especially in most of the cereals including maize. This is likely going to improve cereal availability across the country.
    • Food prices continue to drop as households in the southern and central parts of the country start harvesting. Households in these regions are consuming own produced food. Even with the start of harvesting some households in Nsanje are still facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes because these households cannot afford basic non-food expenditures due to depleted income opportunities as a result of two consecutive bad years.
    • Anecdotal reports show atypically increased informal cross border maize exports into Tanzania and the rest of the east African region. Over the past two years, this trend has not been observed because of below-average production during the previous two cropping seasons. This consumption year, average maize production is expected. Normal production levels and increased availability of maize on the local markets are anticipated to be the main drivers of these informal exports, amid huge demand due in the eastern Africa region due to drought.
    • The tobacco selling season was officially opened on 11th April. According to estimates by the Tobacco Control Commission, this year’s production is about 19 million kilograms below the tobacco buyers’ requirement and about 30 percent below five-year average production. This is expected to reduce household income both for tobacco related labor activities and from sales. Nationally, the total cropped area dropped by about 40 percent compared to the five-year average due to price disincentives in the last marketing season.
    • Production for other cash crops like cotton is also expected to be 40 percent below average due to reduced cropped area and price disincentives last season. However, according reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water development, average production is expected in crops like soya beans and groundnuts.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the February to September 2017 Outlook period are still valid.

    Projected Outlook through September 2017

    April to June is the main harvesting period across the country and therefore during this period most households will start accessing food from their own production. The expected average maize production across the country will likely increase maize supplies on the market, thereby pushing maize prices downwards. Tobacco processing and marketing will further increase casual labor opportunities for poor households, especially in the tobacco growing areas. However, less income from tobacco related labor activities is expected this year when compared to normal years due to projected significantly below-average tobacco production. This season’s lower than normal tobacco production is mainly due to reduced planted area for the crop. However, alternative cash crops such as soya beans and groundnuts will provide more income as their production is expected to be just around average. The majority of poor households therefore will likely be able to afford most basic non-food expenditures throughout the outlook period. Most districts across the country will likely experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes from April through September, with few districts in the south and north experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes.  

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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