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Overall favorable food security conditions to prevail across the country until the next harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Malawi
  • October 2017
Overall favorable food security conditions to prevail across the country until the next harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • National Level Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • With the start of the lean season in the next 1-2 months, food security outcomes at the national level are favorable and will continue to be throughout most of the outlook period. Households across the country are consuming own-produced stocks and experiencing stable access to market purchases due to low food prices and the slightly above-average 2017 production. However, very poor and poor households in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza, and Balaka districts experienced localized dry spells and pest attacks. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are expected in these areas during the outlook period.

    • According to national and international forecast models, a La Niña is expected by the end of 2017 and rainfall for the October 2017 to March 2018 period is expected to tend towards average. Based on the positive seasonal rainfall forecast for the 2017/18 season, normal production for rainfed crops is expected in 2018. 

    • FEWS NET’s integrated maize price projections indicate that national average prices will remain significantly below the five-year average and are expected to follow seasonal trends between October 2017 and March 2018. Maize prices are likely to peak in February and March, but should start decreasing as households begin accessing green harvests in March. 

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Following two years of poor maize production and supplies due to drought conditions, national production for the 2017/18 consumption period registered at slightly above the five-year average this year. Opening stocks are also above average owing to exceptionally high levels of maize imports from neighboring Zambia and private traders during the previous marketing season. Carryover stocks reported by the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) and Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) are approximately 136,000 MT. During this consumption season, no additional imports will be needed to satisfy national food requirements.
    Internally, the Malawi National Food Reserve Agency that manages the SGR is targeting internal maize procurement of about 86,250 MT of maize, while ADMARC is targeting internal purchases of about 44,000 MT. These government purchases and expected purchases by private traders will not be significant enough to absorb surpluses and lift the dampened maize prices.
    Average maize prices continue to remain stable for the fourth consecutive month owing to stable supplies on the markets and above average production realized during the recent 2016/17 harvests, as well as the former maize export ban imposed by the government. At MWK 102.90 per kilogram, the national average in September price was 14 percent below the five-year average and 53 percent lower than the average price in September 2016. As of late October, the government announced a lift in the maize export ban. The actual impact of the end of this ban on may take some time before it is reflected in food prices.
    Households across most of the country are consuming food from own production and obtaining income for food and basic non-food purchases through minimal crops sales, labor exchange, and self-employment. Most areas in the country are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes. However, very poor and poor households in the Lower Shire (LSH) livelihood zone are facing both food and income constraints due to low rainfed crop production, reduced irrigated crop production, as well as the lingering impacts of two consecutive years of poor production. In LSH, Chikwawa and Nsanje districts are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) because very poor and poor populations in these areas are experiencing livelihood protection deficits. 

    National Level Assumptions

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

    2017/18 Seasonal forecast and seasonal progress: According to the latest analysis of international forecast models by NOAA, USGS, and the Malawi Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS), a La Niña phenomenon is likely to develop over the Eastern Central Equatorial Pacific Ocean and will likely persist during the main rainfall period. As a result, Malawi is likely to receive normal to above normal rainfall amounts for the period October 2017 to March 2018 (likely tending towards average). The rainfall will facilitate a normal agricultural production season. According to the DCCMS, localized rainfall variations may still occur, so there is the possibility of localized flooding or dry spells.

    Staple food availability: Maize grain supplies on markets is likely to be at normal to above normal levels throughout the projection period owing to above average availability in source markets, as well as some modest inflows from informal cross border trade. Current maize supplies at the market level are atypically high owing to high supply and lower than normal demand this season.  Above-average 2017 harvests and above average opening stocks offset the effects of below-average stock levels from the previous two production seasons. Food availability will be normal to above normal throughout the outlook period.   

    Market functioning and price projections: National average prices of the staple maize grain are currently significantly below 2016 prices. Prices are nearly half of what they were during this time in 2016 and are expected to follow seasonal trends during the outlook period.  According to FEWS NET projections, national average maize prices will likely rise by about 13 percent between October and December 2017 and then by about 17percent between January and March 2018. The prices are estimated to be in the range of MWK 111/kg-125/kg between October and December 2017.  The peak price of MWK 155/kg is likely to be attained in February and March 2018 and begin decreasing as households start accessing green harvests.  Humanitarian assistance (in-kind and or cash) during the outlook period and ADMARC sales will help curtail steep price increases during the lean season.

    Informal and formal trade (Cross border imports and exports): Formal maize imports are unlikely given that current supply levels are adequate for national food requirements. However, below-average informal inflows into the southern and central regions from both Mozambique and Zambia are continuing. Despite the earlier export ban, an increase in informal outflows into Tanzania and Mozambique has been recorded by the FEWS NET informal cross border trade monitoring system.

    Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation (ADMARC): ADMARC normally enters the market between June and August to purchase grain across the country, but with delays in start of purchases and constant funds shortages, ADMARC is still currently purchasing maize and this will continue into the start of the 2017/18 lean period. In October, food sales are expected to start and continue until harvesting begins in March 2018. Since last season, ADMARC has been selling maize grain at the government set price of MWK 250/kg which is more than two times the prevailing prices. Households are very unlikely to purchase this maize grain from ADMARC during the consumption year given these very high prices.

    Livestock prices and conditions: FEWS NET assumes that livestock prices will likely remain average owing to the improved 2016/17 production season as well and the positive seasonal rainfall forecast. Livestock sales are the largest source of income for better off households and an important income source for middle households. Some households are likely going to sell their livestock at prices that are below normal due to distress sales. Typically, during the lean season (Dec-Mar) livestock prices decrease.

    Agricultural labor availability and wages: Labor opportunities will likely increase in the October to January period as middle and better-off households intensify preparations for the next growing season. On-farm labor demand from February to May is typically lower. Households in areas with lower labor demand and suppressed wages, especially in the southern region, will also need to engage in migratory labor-seeking ganyu in far off places within neighboring districts, urban centers, and across the border in Mozambique. Households will be working for both cash as well as in-kind (maize) payments. February to March are normally low labor months but some households start accessing harvest labor in the April to May period where wages are also average as households are less desperate for labor.

    Non-agricultural labor availability and wages: Very poor and poor household members normally work for better-off and middle-income households for cash or in-kind food payments. There has been a general decline in cash available for middle and better-off household due to the very low prices for selling crops this season. These events have raised concerns about the ability of middle and better off households to pay for labor during the outlook period. Opportunities are expected to be lower than normal, as are wages.

    Migratory Pests (Fall Armyworm): Since the arrival of the Fall Armyworm in late 2016 and early 2017, FEWS NET assumes that the pest will continue to be active in the country during the main season, as well as during winter/irrigated cultivation periods. FEWS NET assessments in May and September 2017 showed that crops had been attacked with varying degrees of damage. Unfortunately, no impact assessments on the extent of the FAW damage to crops has been carried out. As a result, there is no quantifiable basis for estimating possible impact of the FAW on crops in the 2017/18 season. FEWS NET was only able to access data from the Ministry of Agriculture on the percentage of land affected by the pest (Tables 1 & 2). Recent community interviews revealed that that the FAW was resistant to most known pesticide control and control with alternative chemicals was proving to be a burden on farming households.

    Farmer Input availability: FEWS NET assessments in September showed that fertilizer costs have increased since last season. Now, some farmers have not yet purchased inputs for the next season, some farmers are planning to purchase inputs once they receive income from labor, and other households reported that they will use the maize that they usually consume for seed this season. The national Farm Input Subsidy (FISP) program announced plans to target the same number of farmers targeted during the previous 2016/17 season. 

    Humanitarian Assistance: According to the latest WFP bulletin from August 2017, plans for the national food insecurity response are still being worked out. Funding for the response is at 50 percent. In the absence of response plans, FEWS NET assumes that humanitarian assistance is unlikely at this time and therefore has not been incorporated into the food security analysis. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    During the outlook period food security outcomes across the country will be mostly Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Households will be consuming food from their own production and supplementing their consumption with food purchases. Only very poor and very poor households in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Balaka and Mwanza districts in the southern regions are projected to face acute food insecurity, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the outlook period. Humanitarian assistance is required for areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). From mid-to-late February, households in the central and southern regions will begin supplementing their consumption with green foods from the 2017/18 harvest. A normal to above normal 2017/18 production season is expected and with this food availability is expected to be normal as well. GAM prevalence during the outlook period are expected be remain well below the WHO threshold of >5 percent.


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Table 1. Irrigated maize hectarage affected by Fall Armyworm (FAW) during 2017 season, May 2017.

    Figure 2

    Table 1. Irrigated maize hectarage affected by Fall Armyworm (FAW) during 2017 season, May 2017.

    Source: MoAIWD

    Table 2. Rainfed maize hectarage affected by Fall Armyworm (FAW) during the 2016/17 production season, May 2017.

    Figure 3

    Table 2. Rainfed maize hectarage affected by Fall Armyworm (FAW) during the 2016/17 production season, May 2017.

    Source: MoAIWD

    Figure 1. August 2017 Prices.

    Figure 4

    Figure 1. August 2017 Prices.

    Source: MoAIWD and 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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