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Food prices remain high as farmers harvest their crops

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • May 2013
Food prices remain high as farmers harvest their crops

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Key Messages
    • As the rainfall season comes to a close, most households in the country are in the process of harvesting their crops.  While overall staple maize prices have reduced slightly since March, as expected during harvest time, current prices are still more than double last year’s levels. 

    • The food security situation has improved across the country as harvests continue, increasing household food stocks. Additionally, income from the sale of cash crops during the May-July period is expected to allow rural households to meet their livelihood protection and food needs.  Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected between May and June (Figure 1). 

    • Between July and September, the food security situation will likely begin to deteriorate in localized areas in the central and northern region, where some households experienced low crop yields due to dry spells. It is expected that poor rural households will begin to deplete their food stocks and run out of cash from crop sales, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes in some districts in Southern Lakeshore (SLA), Kasungu Lilongwe Plains (KAS), Mzimba Self Sufficient (MZS), and Western Rumphi and Mzimba (WRM) livelihood zones during this period (Figure 2). 

    • Informal cross border trade records for April show increases in both imports and exports for the staple maize grain, despite a maize export ban which has been re-affirmed by the government. The highest amount of imports were recorded at the Malawi-Mozambique border of Muloza, while highest amount of exports were recorded on the Malawi-Tanzania border of Songwe.   

    Current Situation
    • Based on a report from the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DoCCMS) (April 21-30), the rainy season has ended  and the annual cumulative rainfall performance across the country was good, with localized deficits recorded in parts of Balaka district in the southern region, Salima district in the central region, and Mzimba district in the northern region. Based on the second round crop estimates, these moisture deficits resulted in reduced production in both Salima and Mzimba districts when compared to last year’s levels, however the production forecast for Balaka district is good.
    • According to DoCCMS, widespread dry conditions have been experienced in all the regions of the country and have facilitated drying and harvesting of crops in some areas.  At the national level, this has resulted in significant improvement in household food security situation as a result of increased food from own production.
    • In April, maize grain was available in local markets, but at very high prices. According to the Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS), the national average retail price in April 2013 was 154 percent higher than the average price in April 2012.  In monitored markets in the northern and central region, average April 2013 maize prices were 157 and 171 percent higher, respectively, when compared to average prices in April 2012.  While in monitored markets in the south, maize price averages were 111 percent higher than average prices in April 2012. Over the past month, average maize prices have started to decrease slightly, in accordance with seasonal trends.  National average maize prices declined by approximately 21 percent between March and April. This drop was expected, however April maize prices still remain unusually high and well above the five-year average.
    • The informal cross border trade monitoring system recorded an increase of 21 percent in maize grain imports in April 2013 when compared to recorded imports in April 2012. This year more than half of these imports were recorded at the Malawi-Mozambique border of Muloza in April. It is possible that given the maize supply problems that traders faced in the southern region earlier this year, traders are now stocking up on maize imports from Mozambique in preparation for the current marketing season. Maize continues to flow out through the northern borders since demand in the Horn of Africa is high and because the depreciation of the Malawi Kwacha has made Malawian maize very low-priced.
    • National maize grain stocks in the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) managed Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) are practically exhausted.  In April, the Norwegian and Irish governments released funds for WFP to import about 14,000MTs maize grain from Zambia to fill the pipeline breaks experienced earlier in the year. The 50,000 MT pledge to replenish the SGR from the same donors still stands and the NFRA is in the process of selecting maize grain suppliers for the replenishment.
    • The Agriculture Marketing and Development Corporation (ADMARC) continued to purchase maize in southern Malawi markets at around MWK80/kg, while selling the same grain in its markets in the southern and central districts at MWK60/kg. 
    • The UN World Food Program (WFP) in collaboration with Government of Malawi started providing food assistance to about 6,700 households that were affected by floods in April 2013.  The food assistance to flood-affected communities will take place in Phalombe, Mangochi and Nsanje districts until June 2013, when some irrigated crops are expected to start being available in these areas.  

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of March April to September 2013.  A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Malawi April 2013 Food Security Outlook

    Projected Outlook through September 2013
    • As indicated in the April Food Security Outlook Report, the national food security situation will continue to improve as households have access to their own production from the ongoing harvests in May and June. Due to the harvests, Minimal or no acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected from May to June. 
    • The food security situation will likely begin to deteriorate in the July to September period, as some poor households that experienced low crop yields due to dry spells begin to deplete their household food stocks and run out of cash from crop sales.  It is expected that from July to September, poor households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Southern Lakeshore (SLA) livelihood zone (Mangochi, Dedza and Salima districts), Kasungu Lilongwe Plains (KAS) livelihood zone (Dedza, Dowa, Ntchisi, Mchinji and Kasungu districts), and Mzimba Self Sufficient (MZS) livelihood zone (Mzimba south and west) and Western Rumphi and Mzimba (WRM) livelihood zone (Rumphi and Mzimba north).
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    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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