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Access to food increases with the harvest improving food security outcomes across the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • April 2019
Access to food increases with the harvest improving food security outcomes across the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Heavy rainfall and flooding in early March associated with Tropical Cyclone Idai; destroyed crops, livestock, houses, and roads affecting nearly 1 million people in southern Malawi. Area level outcomes in districts affected by flooding are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Although, there are some households in southern areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) they have lost their crops, livestock, and livelihoods as a result of flooding. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) are likely to continue through September southern Malawi.

    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are present in most northern and central areas as households have started accessing own foods from the harvest. These outcomes are likely to continue through September as most households are expected to continue consuming own foods and are not reliant on markets for food.

    • Despite destroyed maize crops in the south, the 2019 harvest nationwide is estimated to be slightly above average. The harvest of other key food crops; such as rice, sorghum, ground nuts, and sweet potatoes is also anticipated to be above average. As the harvest began in late March, maize grain prices started to decrease, and prices continue to follow this trend in most areas of the country. However, in southern markets severely affected by flooding, maize grain prices atypically continued to increase.


    2018/19 season, rainfall across Malawi was above average, facilitating crop growth. In central Malawi, the 2018/19 season was the wettest season in the historical record. In early March heavy rain accompanied by strong winds hit southern Malawi; associated with tropical cyclone Idai. This led to severe flooding across some districts in southern Malawi affecting over 870,000 people, according to the Government’s Flood Response Plan. Over 87,000 people were displaced, with 60 deaths and 672 injuries reported. The heavy rains damaged infrastructure, including houses, roads, bridges, water wells and irrigation systems. Most of the displaced households are living in displacement sites such as schools, churches, community buildings and other temporary shelters.

    The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) estimates over 71,000 hectares of cropped land was either washed away or water logged as a result of Tropical Cyclone Idai. This reduced production prospects in southern Malawi. Despite the lost crops, the MoA second round production estimates indicate slightly over 3.3 million metric tons is expected with this year’s harvest nationwide. This figure is slightly above the five-year average and well above last year’s production. The MoA estimates the production of other food crops is also expected to increase compared to last year for rice, sorghum, groundnut, cassava, and sweets. The tobacco selling season officially opened in late April and current estimates by the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) indicate this year’s tobacco production is above average.

    Maize grain prices vary across the country. In northern and central areas as farmers started harvesting maize grain, maize grain prices in March started to decrease, as is typical for this time of year. Households have started relying on own foods for consumption; decreasing market demand. However, in southern areas impacted by flooding, prices continued to atypically increase or remained atypically high as households continue to rely on markets for food. In some southern markets, March prices are doubled compared to March 2018 and 50 percent above the five-year average. The flooding in the south caused road infrastructure damage rendering some areas inaccessible, restricting market function. Most of the supplies in the southern region are sourced from the central region decreasing market supplies in late March/early April. Market access has mostly returned to normal and supplies are slowly returning to markets; however, there continue to be some hard to reach areas in Nsanje district, keeping food prices atypically high.

    Most areas across central and northern Malawi with the start of the harvest are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Area level outcomes in in districts that experienced flooding in early March are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2), namely; Mangochi, Machinga, Zomba, Mulanje, Phalombe, Chikwawa, Nsanje and Balaka districts. However, there are households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as they have lost their crops, limited to no harvest, limited access to markets.


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Malawi February 2019 to September 2019 Outlook remain unchanged except for the following:

    • The harvest is likely to be below average in localized areas of southern Malawi as a result of flooding and destroyed crops.
    • In southern Malawi, market prices are likely to atypically increase as result of destroyed crops and more households relying on markets for food.


    April to June is the main harvest period across the country and most households will be consuming own foods and will likely access income from crops sales. As a result, households are anticipated to replenish their household’s food stocks and access their own foods through September. Labor opportunities will return to average levels allowing households to access income. Furthermore, the post-harvest period is the time when food prices decrease. As a result, most of the country is anticipated to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). However, households in southern Malawi affected by flooding and Karonga district in northern Malawi affected by severe dry spells and flooding will most likely be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with many households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Some households lost all their crops and assets during the flooding and have depleted livelihoods and are most likely to continue registering food and income deficits even during the harvest and post-harvest period.

    Figures Rainy season is from mid-October until April. Planting is from November until January. Winter planting is from April to Augus

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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