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Food security conditions improve with the start of 2020 harvests

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • March 2020
Food security conditions improve with the start of 2020 harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most northern and central areas are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as households begin consuming own-produced food from the green harvest. Though humanitarian assistance distributions have ceased, premature harvesting (before the crop has fully dried) is increasing access to food among poor households in most southern areas. However, many households in southern areas affected by poor production during the previous season are still facing income gaps, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes expected through April. In May/June, households will likely access more significant income from crop sales, expected to support Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes across most areas in the country through at least September 2020.

    • Overall, above-average production is expected at the national level. However, some localized production shortfalls are expected in areas of southern Malawi, with Nsanje and Chikwawa expected to be worst affected due to the impacts of erratic and below-average rainfall through early March. According to FEWS NET pre-harvest assessments in March 2020, many households in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts – especially those farther from the Shire River who do not access significant irrigation – will experience reduced production and exhaust food stocks atypically early. Some households are likely to face food and income gaps beginning in late August to early September 2020, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area-level outcomes expected in Nsanje in September.

    • In order to access some income, households are engaging in atypically early crop sales, selling partially dried maize at significantly reduced prices. In the central region, some small tobacco farmers have also started selling partially dried maize atypically early and at lower prices due to the government ban restricting vendors from buying tobacco from farmers, delaying and impeding farmers’ access to income from tobacco sales. Though no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Malawi as of March 30, preventative measures to date include closed schools, increased screenings at borders, and size restrictions on gatherings. No significant disruptions to trade or income-earning have so far been reported, though Malawi’s tobacco auctions have been postponed. Despite delays in accessing income, households are expected to access overall average levels of income from crops sales during the 2020 marketing season.

    • According to a FEWS NET assessment in mid-March, maize prices have declined slightly with the beginning of harvests in some parts of southern and central regions, increasing market supply and reducing demand as households begin consuming own-produced food. However, prices remain significantly above average. According to Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) data, March maize prices in Mitundu – the national reference market – were 90 percent higher than five-year average levels and 48 percent higher than prices observed at the same time last year. Maize prices are expected to continue decreasing in the coming months as more households start harvesting across the country, though are expected to remain significantly above average through at least September 2020.

    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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