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Harvests improve food access across the country, but localized dryness will affect some areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • May 2014
Harvests improve food access across the country, but localized dryness will affect some areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Most households across all wealth groups are consuming food from their own produced harvests and acute food insecurity is currently Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Improved household food access, appreciation of the Malawi Kwacha due to ongoing tobacco sales, and the improved forex availability are all factors that have contributed to a 16 percent reduction in the national average maize prices between March and April.
    • During the 2013/14 planting season, prolonged dry spells of over a month and the early cessation of rains in localized areas resulted in production shortfalls. This reduced crop production has resulted in significantly less crop sales, labor availability, and income for poor households. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in Central Karonga and Middle Shire livelihood zones between May and June, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between July and September.

    Current Situation
    • At the national level, food access and availability has improved as households start to consume own produced food during the harvest. As a result of the ongoing harvest, most poor households are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase) acute food insecurity outcomes. However, localized areas in the north and south that experienced weather related shocks, namely Karonga, parts of Balaka, Neno, Blantyre, and Zomba districts are reporting Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to significantly reduced access to both food and cash crop production this season following prolonged dry spells and an early cessation of rains.
    • The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) completed the second round production estimates and announced a total production this season of an estimated 3.9 million metric ton maize production for the 2014/15 consumption year. This maize production estimate is 8 percent higher then last year’s estimate. With localized poor crop production reported in a few districts this consumption year, the country has enough cereal to cover national consumption needs.
    • Between March and April, average national maize prices declined by 16 percent in response to improved food household food access and the appreciation of the Malawi Kwacha. The national average price is lower than FEWS NET’s earlier maize price projections and lower than prices during the same time last year. Based on FEWS NET’s updated maize price projections,  the lower prices will prevail in the first two quarters of the consumption season with average prices projected to range range from MWK 65 to MWK 92/kg from  May to June and MWK 74 to MWK 102/kg from July to September.
    • Informal cross border trade maize imports from Zambia and Mozambique increased by 40 percent between March and April; this is typical for this time of the year when traders start stocking for future sales. Cross border exports were approximately 20 percent higher between March and April, as compared to the same time last year. At Songwe border point approximately 222 MT of maize was exported into Tanzania, while at the Mchinji border point 910 MT of maize was exported to Zambia.


    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the April-September Outlook period have been updated based on a recent FEWS NET field assessment. A full discussion of the scenario is available in: Malawi Food Security Outlook for April to September 2014.


    • Original assumption: Maize prices are likely going to be slightly higher this year in comparison to last year on account of the average annual inflation rate of 27.3 percent which translates to about 2.25 percent month-on-month inflation. 
    • Updated assumption: With an increase in national food production and fewer areas facing limited food access, maize prices are going to be slightly lower from May to September, in comparison to last year.
    • Original assumption: Second round crop estimates by the MoAFS have been completed, but the official results have not been released yet. 
    • Updated assumption: Despite some localized areas experiencing dry spells and an early cessation of rains, the country will experience an increase in cereal production due to favorable distribution of rains across most of the country and an increase in agricultural input uptake from the subsidized input program and a newly introduced input loan program.

    Areas of Concern: Central Karonga and Middle Shire Livelihood Zones

    • Livestock sales: Households are likely to sell livestock at near normal prices to access food from May to June. However, due to low holding sizes this option will be exhausted by July. Any livestock sold from July to September will be sold for significantly lower prices due to distress sales.
    • Irrigated cropping: Due to limited or no rainfall in March, low moisture levels will significantly limit irrigated maize and sweet potato production, which normally offers some respite for households.
    • Labor availability and demand: Labor for cash and food will be lower than average between May and September due to reduced production and limited access to irrigated farming because of dry conditions. In-kind labor will be nonexistent in these areas because production for middle and better-off households was also adversely impacted by the dry spell. From July to September, a 40 percent reduction in available labor for poor households is expected. With the rains having ceased earlier than normal, ganyu opportunities for irrigated cultivation will be nonexistent. Ganyu wages may also be reduced from July to September.
    • Maize prices and supplies: Local maize supplies are limited as a result of poor harvests and lower irrigated crop expectations due to lower moisture availability. National price projections based on current (April data) and normal maize supplies, prices from April to September are expected to be approximately 10 percent lower than they were during this same period last year. However, maize prices in CKA are likely to be around 40 percent above last year’s prices as a result of production shortfalls and a lack of a developed maize market structure.


    Projected Outlook through September 2014

    Central Karonga Livelihood Zone (CKA), Karonga district

    Lupembe, Mpata and Nyungwe EPAs

    In the April to June period, poor households will run out of own produced food stocks earlier than the normal and will be dependent on markets for food purchases. In the July to September period, poor households will face reduced in-kind payments due to lower food stocks in wealthier households that are hiring labor. They will seek income through ganyu/labor, handcraft sales, firewood and charcoal sales. The lean period will start around July as opposed to January during normal years. Therefore, this income will be inadequate to fulfill basic food needs due to reduced purchasing power. Food prices are projected to increase and will be approximately 40 percent above last year’s prices. These higher prices will negatively affect food access and may force households to reduce the number of meals eaten. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are projected between April and June. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected between July and September.

    Middle Shire Livelihood Zone (MSH), parts of Balaka, Neno, Zomba, and Blantyre districts

    Phalula, Rivirivi, Utale, Lisungwi, Chingale, and Kunthembwe EPAs

    In the Middle Shire livelihood zone, rains started late and the area experienced prolonged dry spells, along with an early cessation of rains. All of these factors caused poor crop establishment as well as permanent wilting of some planted crops. Early planted crops dried prematurely while late planted crops dried before maturity. Balaka district reported a 10 percent reduction in the production of the staple maize crop, as compared to last season. This is significant because maize is a food that provides poor households approximately 90 percent of their caloric needs. This season the area also suffered lower cash crop production. Cotton production reduced by 20 to 40 percent due to a decrease in the area planted, stunted growth due to dryness, and pest infestation caused by a lack of adequate pesticides. Limited rains since March have reduced prospects for irrigated cultivation. The MSH zone has suffered from food insecurity for about five consecutive years and household coping capacity has dwindled. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are projected in these localized areas in MSH between April and June. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected between July and September.



    Figure 1


    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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