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Rising food prices and cyclone impacts drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in south

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • July 2023
Rising food prices and cyclone impacts drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in south

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most of southern Malawi is expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through at least January, driven by below-normal agricultural production, rising food prices, and loss of assets caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy. In contrast, most households in central and northern Malawi are expected to have Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, supported by above-average food and income derived from favorable cereal and cash crop harvests, including tobacco sales. A key exception in the north is parts of Karonga District, which is expected to transition from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) after October due to the effects of dry spells and flooding on the main 2023 harvest. In this area, household food and income will be insufficient during the lean season.

    • Maize prices in Malawi have continued to trend higher than both the previous year and the five-year average. In most markets across the country, there was an increase in food prices from 5 to 50 percent between May and June. However, food prices in Mangochi, Balaka, and Phalombe remained generally stable, and prices in Jenda and Mzuzu declined by about 10 and 20 percent, respectively, following seasonal trends. Regardless of the month-on-month decline in Jenda and Mzuzu, maize prices remained high at 520 MWK per kilogram and 700 MWK per kilogram, respectively. These prices are 55 to 250 percent higher than the previous year’s prices and 150 to 360 percent above the five-year average. Overall, high maize prices are have the most significant impact on poor households in southern Malawi, as they lost most of their own crops, which were ready for harvest, during Tropical Cyclone Freddy and have few sources of income with which to purchase food.

    • Malawi continues to face a foreign currency shortage, largely due to the country’s low sources of export revenue. The Reserve Bank of Malawi has reported that current foreign exchange reserves cover less than one month’s worth of imports, falling below the IMF threshold of a minimum of three months. As of July, sales of tobacco – which is Malawi’s main export and accounts for more than 60 percent of Malawi’s foreign exchange earnings – stood at approximately 110,000 MT, representing a 30 percent increase compared to last year's sales. The increase in sales volume was accompanied by an even higher increase in revenue from tobacco sales, which increased 42 percent compared to last year. Nevertheless, the increase has been insufficient to make up for Malawi’s persistent foreign exchange shortages. These shortages have led to elevated prices and a scarcity of imported goods, including fuel, adding more pressure on food prices and contributing to reduce access to food among purchase-dependent poor households.

    • Current levels of humanitarian food assistance are low to negligible and insufficient to meet the needs of the acutely food insecure population. The joint program by the government and WFP to provide humanitarian aid in the cyclone-affected districts ended in June 2023. Typically, humanitarian food assistance programs begin after October, during the lean season, with plans based on analysis conducted by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee. At this time, there is no official confirmation from the government or humanitarian partners regarding humanitarian assistance delivery targets during the lean season.

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Malawi Key Message update, July 2023. Rising food prices and cyclone impacts drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in south, 2023.

    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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