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Crisis (IPC Phase3) outcomes will likely persist through the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Malawi
  • December 2018
Crisis (IPC Phase3) outcomes will likely persist through the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most southern and some central districts are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes due to below-average cereal and cash crops from the 2017/18 production season. Poor households also have below-average incomes as most income earning opportunities are agriculture and depend on rainfall, which has to date been well below normal. In some northern and central areas, where poor households are unable to afford many basic non-food needs, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes exist. The rest of the country is in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    • The start of the 2018/19 rainfall season has been characterized by below-average and erratic rainfall, especially in central and southern areas. This has resulted in limited agricultural activities, lowering labor opportunities in this sector. Forecasts for below-average rainfall through the remainder of the season in the southern half of the country will likely result in continued below-average agriculture labor opportunities for poor households who depend on this as an income source to meet their basic non-food and food needs during the lean season.

    • National maize grain prices will likely follow normal season trends, although above last year’s prices. Prices will trend slightly above the five-year average. However, some districts in southern Malawi are already starting to report price increases of maize grain as the national demand will increase through the lean season.


    Current Situation

    Most areas in southern and central Malawi did not received effective rains well into the first week of December 2018. The Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) indicates the start of season to be 10 days late in southern areas and little to no delay in the start of season in the center and northern areas. This delayed farming activities especially planting of various staple and cash crops and decreased the availability of seasonal agricultural labor. In some areas of the center and north, where sufficient rains for planting have been reported, planting started. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MOAIWD) distributed seeds and fertilizers through the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) to an estimated 1 million farming households throughout the country.

    National food stocks are near average, despite the 28 percent reduction in overall production in 2017/18. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MOAIWD) as carryover stocks were above average, the national cereal availability is estimated to be above the national consumption need. The Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) and Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) are estimated to hold above-average maize grain stocks for this time of year with over 270,000 MT. SGR and ADMARC are providing the maize grain for humanitarian assistance and after humanitarian food assistance drawdowns, roughly 100,000 MT are likely to remain. Informal cross border maize imports in October from Mozambique and Tanzania decreased by 15 and 3 percent, respectively, while imports from Zambia increased by 33 percent compared to September. Overall informal cross border trade is 11 percent above the five-year average.

    The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) indicates the 2018 inflation rate remained stable, although there have been government-imposed fuel prices increases. In July 2018, the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) raised petrol and diesel prices by 7.68 and 9.21 percent, respectively after about two years of stable prices. Towards the end of November 2018, petrol and diesel prices were raised again by 6.20 and 5.86 percent, respectively. However, MERA announced a reduction of petrol and diesel prices in mid-December stabilizing fuel and diesel prices to near July prices, despite decreases international fuel prices. The increase in fuel prices is affecting transportation costs and food prices especially in remote areas.

    Food prices are currently trending around or below the five-year average, but are on average 30 percent above prices compared to same time last year (Figure 1). In October 2018, prices ranged from 100 kwacha (MWK)/kg in northern markets to 150 MWK/kg in southern markets. On average across all monitored markets, October maize grain prices are 13 percent higher than last year’s prices. Rice prices are higher than last year and remain significantly higher than the five-year average due to the below-average 2018 harvest and very low national stocks. Bean prices remain stable mainly due to the above-average harvest due to irrigation as well as the above-average availability of pigeon peas, a substitute legume. Trends in cassava prices in October varied with some markets registering stable prices while others registered decreases in prices as compared to the five-year average and last year’s prices. According to MOAIWD’s June 2018, 3rd round Agriculture Production Estimates in June, prices for common livestock price increased 10 to 15 percent as compared to last season prices, current estimates on livestock prices were not available at the time this report was written.

    A SMART survey in January/February 2018 indicated the GAM prevalence during the peak of the lean season as measured by weight-for-height was 1.3 percent (CI 95%: 09-1.9) within the “acceptable” WHO threshold for severity of malnutrition.

    According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (MVAC) assessment in about 3 million people in central and southern areas currently face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. These household depleted their food stocks earlier than normal in late August/September due to the below normal production in the 2017/18 season and rely heavily on market purchases for food. To purchase food, poor households who have livestock are selling them as well as engaging in labor and self-employment activities, especially the sale of firewood and charcoal. These income earning opportunities remain limited as more households are engaging in these activities, market competition is increasing, driving down prices and incomes. The increase in food prices and the atypical length of time households have relied on markets has constrained purchasing power and access to food. The rest of the country is facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as these poor households have yet to deplete their household food stocks have access to labor opportunities for market purchases.

    National Assumptions

    The Food Security Outlook for December 2018 to May 2019 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • According USGS and NOAA, the forecast El Niño conditions will likely lead to below-average rainfall in the southern half of Malawi and average rainfall in the northern half of the country. Localized rainfall variations will likely occur resulting in prolonged dry spells and/or localized flooding, negatively affect agricultural production.

    • National cereal availability will likely continue to be average based on cereal estimates from SGR and ADMARC with normal level of imports, likely meeting national consumption needs.

    • The macroeconomy is anticipated to remain stable during the outlook period. The country’s currency has been stable over the past two years with overall inflation stable rate of inflation.

    • Agriculture labor opportunities are expected to be close to normal across most of the country, although households are likely to earn their wages after the harvest through in-kind and cash payments. In southern areas, labor opportunities are likely to be below-average as agriculture activities are restricted due to the erratic start to the rainfall season.

    • Overall, near-average crop production is likely, with a tendency toward above-average in the northern region, average in the central region and below-average production in the southern region.

    • Fall Armyworm (FAW), rodents, and other typical pests, including African Armyworm, Panama diseases, hornworm caterpillar, and stalk borer are likely to remain a threat to irrigated and rain-fed maize and other crops. This will likely have normal impacts on crops on as normal pest management strategies are implemented.

    • Livestock sales and prices will likely be average as livestock body conditions improve with the rains and pastures regenerate. Livestock prices are likely to be average to slightly above-average prices as poor households likely receiving humanitarian assistance in late December will decrease livestock sales through the lean season, helping to stabilize prices.

    • Maize grain market supply will likely be below average from January to March as some traders and farmers will hoard food stocks in anticipation of below-average production. Maize market demand is anticipated to be above-average through the lean season. ADMARC is likely to cap maize grain prices at MWK 170 per kilogram.  After the harvest in March, prices are anticipated to decrease drastically.

    • Informal cross border maize imports will likely be below average as maize availability is average owing to some carryover stocks. The below-average prices within Malawi will also act as a disincentive for traders. 

    • Humanitarian food assistance is planned and funded by the government to target there estimated 3.3 million people, according to the MVAC, in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) across the country. In late December 2018 through to March 2019, the Malawi government has pledged to start delivering assistance meeting about 70 percent of a household’s kilocalorie needs per day.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Through March 2019, northern districts are likely to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Although Karonga and Mzimba districts which will likely be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to below normal production, depletion of household food stocks, and decrease income access. Poor households in the central region will likely rely on market purchases for food owing to a poor season and Dowa, Karonga, Mchinji, Nkhotakota, Ntchisi, Lilongwe, and Kasungu districts will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Dedza, Ntcheu and Salima in the center region and districts in southern Malawi will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as these districts depleted their food stocks in June in some areas and have been relying on market purchases and coping strategies. Starting in late December/early January and continuing through April, humanitarian food assistance will be delivered monthly to the estimated 3 million throughout the country meeting about 70 percent of a household’s kcal needs for a month. As a result of humanitarian food assistance, Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes are likely across the country through March. Based on nutrition data that is currently available, the GAM (WHZ) prevalence is anticipated to slightly increase through the lean season, however based on historical nutrition trends, the GAM (WHZ) prevalence is still expected to fall within ‘acceptable’ WHO thresholds.

    As green foods become available in late March, poor households will reduce their reliance on market purchases and coping strategies and begin to rely on green foods and harvested crops. Areas likely to experience the negative impacts of the El Nino conditions during the 2018/19 wet season will likely be slower to recover. In the late April/May, household food insecurity outcomes will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for most districts and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the significant increase in food availability of food from the harvest and most foods will access food from their own production.


    For information on specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of this page for the full report.

    Figures Malawi Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Malawi Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1.  Mitundu Market Maize Grain Price Trends 2018/19

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Mitundu Market Maize Grain Price Trends 2018/19

    Source: MAIWD/FEWS NET

    Figure 2.  Reference map for Blantyre District

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Reference map for Blantyre District

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Price Projection Map for Lunzu Market in Southern Malawi

    Figure 4

    Figure 3. Price Projection Map for Lunzu Market in Southern Malawi

    Source: MAIWD/FEWS NET

    Figure 4.  Reference map for Salima District

    Figure 5

    Figure 4. Reference map for Salima District

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5. Price Projection Map for Salima Market in Central Malawi

    Figure 6

    Figure 5. Price Projection Map for Salima Market in Central Malawi

    Source: MAIWD/FEWS NET

    Figure 6.  Reference map for Zomba District

    Figure 7

    Figure 6. Reference map for Zomba District

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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