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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the south despite increased food access from the recent harvest

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • April 2024
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the south despite increased food access from the recent harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected in most southern areas due to effects of El Niño and dry spells leading to below-average harvests. However, most poor and very poor households are able to access food following the recent harvest in the southern and parts of the central regions and will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. Humanitarian food assistance is expected to conclude in April 2024, with only a few districts awaiting their final distributions. Meanwhile, the northern region is yet to harvest and is expected to continue experiencing localized Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, which are likely to persist through August 2024.
    • Maize grain prices have begun to decrease in most markets, showing a 10 and 15 percent decline from February and the previous year, respectively. In March 2024, the average maize grain prices were 760 MWK per kilogram, with the highest price in the Lunzu market (960 MWK per kilogram) and the lowest in the Balaka market (580 MWK per kilogram). However, maize prices represent a 160 percent increase on average over the five-year average, with Lilongwe market registering the highest increase (210 percent) and Balaka market the lowest increase (90 percent). Despite the price fluctuations, maize remains available at ADMARC markets at a price of 600 MWK per kilogram. The FEWS NET price projections indicate that the price of maize grain will gradually start increasing and reach a peak of 1,080 MWK per kilogram in November. On the informal maize cross border trade, total imports are at 20,125 MT compared to 9,592 MT in February 2024; a 110 percent increase from the previous month and a 450 percent increase from the five-year average. The majority of maize is being sourced from Tanzania.
    • In March 2024, inflation rates improved slightly, declining to 32 percent from 34 percent in February, as reported by the National Statistics Office. Food and Non-Food inflation rates are at 39 and 22 percent, respectively. Inflation for both the urban and rural areas stand at 0.9 percent month-to-month rates. According to the Reserve Bank of Malawi, the country’s economy remains fragile, with the country’s foreign currency reserve reaching 144 million USD; this is only sufficient to cover food and non-food imports for half a month, below the World Bank recommendation of a minimum of three months. Additionally, the ongoing shortage of foreign exchange will likely impact the procurement of essential commodities, including medicine and fertilizers.
    • The Ministry of Agriculture has released the second-round production estimates for the 2023/24 agricultural season which indicate a decline in production for nearly all crops. Maize production is estimated at 2.9 million metric tons, a 17 percent decrease compared to the 2022/23 production season and 23 percent decrease compared to the five-year average. Only rice, sweet potatoes, and pigeon peas did not show a production decline. All the Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs) have registered reduced production due to low rainfall and extended dry spells with the exception of Mzuzu ADD, which had a 2.5 percent increase in maize production. Furthermore, there was a decrease in input uptake attributed to higher prices of inputs, reduced beneficiaries for the Affordable Input Program (AIP), below-average income earning opportunities, and fall armyworm infestation, which damaged about 15 percent of the planted area with over 20 percent level of infestations. 
    • The 2023/24 tobacco marketing season has commenced across all auction floors in Kasungu, Lilongwe, Limbe, and Mzuzu, with average prices of 3 USD per kilogram, marking an increase of over 25 percent from the previous season’s price of 2.35 USD per kilogram. Tobacco sales are anticipated to be above average due to the increased number of farmers growing tobacco and enhanced support from tobacco companies in certain ADDs. Additionally, the area under tobacco cultivation has expanded by 15 percent from the previous season. There has been increased uptake of tobacco fertilizers, particularly in Mzuzu, Kasungu, Blantyre, and Machinga ADDs, which are likely to favor above-average productions. 
    • Food insecurity is expected to increase in areas affected by recent heavy rains and flooding, which have damaged matured crops and caused fatalities, loss of livelihoods, and damage to infrastructure. According to the Department of Disaster and Management Affairs (DoDMA), three deaths and over 2,300 households were affected due to floods in Chikhwawa, Mangochi, Nkhotakota, Nkhatabay, and Rumphi districts. The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) reported moderate to scattered rainfall across the country, with normal to above normal rainfall in the northern areas and heavy rainfall over parts of Nkhata Bay. In contrast, most central and southern areas experienced below-normal rainfall due to El Niño-driven weather conditions, which will likely affect the late-planted crops. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Malawi Key Message Update April 2024: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the south despite increased food access from the recent harvest, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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