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Overall favorable food security outcomes as near average harvests come in

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Malawi
  • June 2017
Overall favorable food security outcomes as near average harvests come in

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • National Level Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • The overall food security outcomes for Malawi are expected to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until the next harvest in 2018, apart from a few localized areas in the extreme north and south that experienced abnormal dryness and Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations. Since national production for major food crops is estimated to be slightly above average, most households are consuming food from their own production and this will continue throughout the consumption season. Typically, poorer households will need to supplement their own produced food with purchases. This will occur this year, and households will use incomes obtained through agricultural and off-farm labor. 

    • Malawi registered production increases in major food crops ranging from 5 to 34 percent above the five-year average. The country also recorded a maize carryover stock level of about 130,000 MT in ADMARC and the Strategic Grain Reserve. Based on these supplies, a positive food supply outlook is expected for the entire consumptions season.  

    • Normal rainfall is expected for the next production season starting around October/November 2017. International forecast models indicated that ENSO neutral conditions are likely in southern Africa. These conditions are characterized by normal rainfall in the region. Normal rainfall will ensure a normal cropping season, which will maintain the favorable food security conditions. 


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Food and Income Availability

    Households began accessing their own production during the March to April period. In most parts of the country, households can meet their food needs by relying on their own production. During the April to June period, households in most areas of Malawi engaged in harvest activities for the main season as well as activities for irrigated crop cultivation. The Ministry of Agriculture released third round production estimates in mid-June that indicated that cereal production for 2017 was above average overall. These latest estimates show that maize production increased this year and is approximately 5-6 percent above the five-year average, while rice is 8.1 percent above average, sorghum 18.6 percent and millet 5.1 percent above average. Average cassava production was achieved as well, but one of the largest increases in production was for sweet potatoes, which was 34 percent above the five-year average. Groundnuts this season registered an increase of 13.9 percent above average as well. In comparison to the last two years, national maize production for 2016/17 is much better.

    Food Security Conditions

    Near average national maize supplies should ensure adequate household food availability for all wealth groups during the June 2016 to January 2017 period, except for a few localized areas in the north and south that faced shocks this season. Households started accessing food from their own production in March/April and are expected to be able to continue consuming own produced food up to the October to January period and some households even to the end of the consumption season in March 2018.

    Preliminary results of a SMART survey carried out during the harvest period in May 2017 showed improvements in food security indicators when compared to another SMART survey carried out during the lean season in November/December 2016. These improvements are expected since the most recent survey took place during the 2017 harvest period.

    Marketing Activities

    Because of the good production season and some carryover stocks, Malawi’s internal food supplies are slightly above average. The country recorded maize carryover stocks of about 130,000 MT in ADMARC, the grain marketing board, and the strategic grain reserve.  Currently, there is sufficient availability of the maize staple in all markets across the country and maize prices are falling steeply as compared to those recorded at the start of the 2016/17 consumption season. Nonetheless, food prices have remained above the five-year average.

    ADMARC markets are fully stocked with maize selling at the government fixed price of MWK 250/kg. This price is about 53 percent above the prices offered by private traders, which is leading to more households selling maize to private traders as opposed to ADMARC markets this season. Other internal food markets are fully functional and will enable those households that rely on markets for part of their food needs to access maize throughout the consumption season.


    National Level Assumptions

    The Food Security Outlook for June 2017 to January 2018 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    National food stocks: Food Supply situation: Malawi will likely have adequate national food stocks throughout the consumption season. After two consecutive years of significant reduction in crop production, Ministry of Agriculture crop estimates have shown that Malawi has realized near average production of maize and above average production in other food crops, which will ensure adequate food stocks.  National crop estimates show that Malawi has produced about 3.3 MMT of maize as compared to 2.3 MMT last year. The crop estimates have shown that surpluses have been achieved in alternative food crops, with sorghum, cassava, and rice registering production levels above the five-year average. In addition, ADMARC reported carryover stocks of about 100,000 MT while the SGR also reported carryover stocks of about 30,000 MT. Despite the lowest production season in 2015/16 in the past decade, Malawi has carryover stocks due to significant informal inflows of maize from Zambia and Tanzania.

    Household food stocks: In general, household food stocks in most households across the country will be adequate to cover consumption needs. For households in the very poor and poor wealth group, food stocks will be obtained from own production in the first six to eight months after harvest, and the rest from purchases and labor exchange to the end of the consumption season. For households in the middle and better off wealth group, most of the food will be obtained from their own production and supplemented by other non-staple food through purchases. This is because of a normal production year where households in all wealth groups manage to obtain over 95 percent of their food needs and register minimal or no gaps. However, food stocks in some localized areas that registered lower production due to localized shocks, including Nsanje and Karonga district, will have lower household food stocks and will have to employ other ways of coping and may even require assistance this consumption year.

    Incomes earned from cash crops (tobacco, cotton, soya bean): Household incomes obtained from cash crops across all wealth groups will be below normal. Households normally access incomes from key cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, and (more recently) soya beans in the post-harvest period of May to August, when sales are at the peak. However, this season there were significant reductions in the production of key cash crops, especially tobacco and cotton. This contrasts with the average to above average food crop production realized this season.  This reduction in cash crop levels will likely lead to reduced incomes at both the macro and micro level. Initial crop estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) show that tobacco production is 40 percent below average, while cotton production has declined by as much as 73 percent in comparison to normal production. Incomes in some households, especially central Malawi, may be boosted by sales of soya beans whose production is reported to be about 60 percent above five-year average. However, soya is not yet fully marketed on the export market, so it may not provide the same level of income for households and foreign currency for the country as tobacco and cotton.

    Labor availability and rates: Apart from a few localized areas, on-farm and off-farm labor demand and wages will be normal in most parts of the country. This income source can cover up to 40 percent of the basic food needs of poor and very poor households in normal years through in-kind and cash payments. Between the months of May and October, very poor and poor households obtain most of their income from some harvest and irrigated production activities, as well as from off-farm construction, and brickmaking. When the main farming season starts in October, poorer households transition to on-farm land preparation, planting, and weeding. The period from November through February, is considered the most labor-intensive time of the year, which also coincides with the peak of the lean season in Malawi. During this period, very poor and poor households rely on income from agricultural labor related activities to purchase food and for other livelihood needs. With average production registered in the 2016/17 production season, both post-harvest (2016/17) on farm and non-farm labor availability and wages are expected to be average throughout the outlook period.

    Irrigated maize production for south, central, and northern regions: Prospects for irrigated production this year are lower than normal. Households with access to wetlands or irrigable land normally produce maize, beans, sweet potatoes and vegetables for food and for sale during the September to November period, which improves food and cash access as the country enters the lean period. Irrigated production activities starting with land preparation, planting, weeding and harvests span Irrigation production activities start as early as April in the southern region through to November. In the central region, most irrigated activities take place from May to August where most of the irrigated maize is consumed or sold green. In the north, irrigation production activities normally commence in June and July until the start of the main rainfall season in November and December. District agriculture monthly reports estimate that the irrigated crop production which contributes about 10 to 20 percent of household needs in a normal year will increase in the south by about 10 percent, while irrigated maize is expected to reduce by 15 percent in the central region and by 4 percent in the northern region. Southern districts are at an advantage in terms of irrigated production since these areas received more rainfall this season. Another advantage for districts in the south is that they harvest early and start irrigated cropping before the rains fully tail-off. With an average rainfed production level this season, the impact of reduced irrigated production for the surplus producing central and northern Malawi will be minimal apart from areas that will suffer from localized food insecurity.  

    Impact of Fall Armyworm and other pests on irrigated production and 2017/18 seasonal progress:  An increase in Fall Armyworm (FAW) crop infestations (if not put under control) will likely lead to reduced prospects for irrigated crop production this season.  Since January 2017, FAW infestations among cereal crops have continued to cause damage. The outbreak has now spread countrywide and the damage caused by the pest varies. The MoAIWD has intensified control efforts by conducting monitoring exercises, providing pesticides, as well as carrying out sensitization campaigns. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that about 138,344 hectares out of the total 1,547,339 hectares of planted cereals was infested by the FAW. However, the presence of the FAW when the maize crop was in the advanced stages of development are believed to have minimized on rainfed production this season. However, the concentration of FAW in smaller plots of land for irrigated projection may cause severe damage to irrigated crops this year (Table 1).

    2017/18 Start of season: Malawi is expected to experience normal rainfall during the October to December period due the likely ENSO neutral conditions expected according to international forecast models as of June 2017. In southern Africa, the high chances of ENSO neutral conditions will likely lead to a normal start of main rains as well as average rainfall this season. Based on this international forecast model, FEWS NET assumes that middle and better off households will adequately invest in agricultural production during the 2017/18 season, thereby increasing labor availability for poorer households. The average rainfall conditions will likely contribute to stable food prices throughout the outlook period as well.

    Maize grain price trends and projections:  In comparison to the past two years, maize grain prices will be much lower this outlook period, but will remain above the five-year average. FEWS NET’s analysis shows that national average prices for the maize staple will be about 20 percent lower than last year, but will remain about 45 percent above the five-year average prices. Average maize prices, which are around MWK 170/kg, will decrease to about MWK 140/kg in May and June before rising to MWK 150/kg in July and gradually increasing to MWK 160/kg in October and MWK 175/kg in December 2017 and January 2018. The drivers for reduced maize prices this marketing year are the average harvests which have increased food supplies in households and markets, as well as some carryover maize stocks, especially with ADMARC. Another driver for the reduced maize prices is that the rainfall forecast for the 2017/18 season is expected to be average. 

    Prevalence of acute malnutrition: The results of a nutrition survey completed in May 2017 using the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) methodology found that the overall national weighted Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence was estimated at 2.2 percent (95% CI: 1.7- 2.8). The national prevalence falls below the 5 percent threshold and is “Acceptable” according to World Health Organization classification of malnutrition. The GAM prevalence is just slightly lower than the national prevalence of 2.5 percent (95%CI: 2.0-3.3) from the results of a similar survey completed in May 2016.  The nutrition situation is expected to worsen between October 2017 and January 2018 because this is the peak of the lean season, or when food prices are at their highest and local food supplies are at their lowest.  Nonetheless, the GAM prevalence is expected to remain within acceptable levels.


    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    June-September 2017: Food security outcomes for most parts of Malawi will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) due to the above average maize production this season. Households will be accessing incomes from crop sales and some harvest related labor in addition to non-agricultural labor. Food consumption is expected to be at borderline and acceptable levels. Based on the recent SMART survey, the national overall GAM prevalence is “acceptable”. Food prices will be much lower than they have been over the past two seasons. These more affordable prices should improve household purchasing power. Most households will attain average incomes from labor and crop sales, however a few areas that faced localized shocks in the north and south are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during this period.

    October 2017-January 2018: Acute food insecurity outcomes for most parts of Malawi will continue to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during this period and households will still be accessing their own produced food stocks. Some very poor and poor households will also be making market food purchases to supplement their own food stocks. Households will have access to income that they obtained from crop sales, on-farm and off-farm labor exchange, and from the sale of small livestock. The GAM prevalence is also expected to worsen slightly, but be within normal levels (still below the 5 percent WHO threshold), as expected in the lean period. Food prices will follow normal trends for this time of the year and are expected to increase, but will be much lower in comparison to the two previous seasons and more affordable to most households since they will be able to access average levels of cash/ income. Households in the few areas that faced localized shocks in the south and north are expected to transition from Stressed (IPC 2) outcomes to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during this period.

    Figures Current acute food security outcomes, June 2017.

    Figure 1

    Current acute food security outcomes, June 2017.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for Malawi

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Table 1. Rainfed maize hectarage affected for Fall Armyworm, May 2017.

    Figure 3

    Table 1. Rainfed maize hectarage affected for Fall Armyworm, May 2017.

    Source: MoAIWD

    Figure 1. National average maize grain price projections.

    Figure 4

    Figure 1. National average maize grain price projections.

    Source: EWS NET Estimates based on FSNAU data.

    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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