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Staple maize grain prices decrease atypically during the peak of the lean season

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • March 2021
Staple maize grain prices decrease atypically during the peak of the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Food security conditions remain generally favorable as rural households begin to access food from the green harvests. In most areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to persist through at least September. In areas currently experiencing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, transition to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is expected in April as harvesting improves access to food, with further improvement to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) expected in May in southern areas and in May/June in central areas as households increasingly access food and income from own crop production. However, by August/September, area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to re-emerge in Nsanje and Chikwawa districts due to the impacts of localized dry spells on crop production, while poor households in other areas impacted by dry spells (including in parts of Balaka, Neno, and Thyolo districts in southern Malawi and Kasungu district in central Malawi) are also likely to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes by this time.

    • According to Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MOAFS) first round production estimates, Malawi is expected to produce 4.4 million MT of maize, 42 percent above the five-year average. However, these estimates may be revised downward due to dry spells in some southern districts. Meanwhile, production of major cash crops is expected to be below average. According to March 2021 estimates from the Tobacco Commission, Malawi is expected to produce 122 million MT of tobacco (15 percent less than last year) against an estimated buyer demand of 132 million MT. According to a media statement by the MOAFS in March, production of cotton is expected to be around 70 percent below average due to ongoing challenges around access to inputs and marketing.

    • Prices of maize grain decreased atypically from January to February 2021, by 8 percent to 24 percent across MOAFS/FEWS NET monitored markets. Maize grain prices in February ranged from 123 to 200 MWK per kilogram, 43 to 53 percent below prices at the same time last year and 13 to 38 percent below five-year average levels. These price decreases at the peak of the lean season — when prices are normally highest — are likely due to above-average market supplies (following above-average 2019/20 production) and subsidized ADMARC sales that commenced in January.

    • Informal imports of maize grain decreased by 26 percent from January to February as the end of the marketing year approaches, likely at least partially due to declining prices in Malawi. However, import levels in February remained 123 percent above average. Most of the 5,012 MT of maize grain imported in February was from Zambia, through the Mchinji border. Meanwhile, informal exports of maize grain increased atypically by 43 percent, from 596 MT in January to 852 MT in February. This is also likely at least in part due to shifting price dynamics, though export levels in February remained 37 percent below average. Most February maize exports were transported into Mozambique through the Muloza and Kolowiko borders.

    • In urban areas, many low-income households who were previously facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes due to impacts of COVID-19 on income earning are currently expected to be facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in the presence of a three-month cash-based humanitarian assistance program that started in February. In March, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily has generally continued to decline. As a result, the government has continued to relax restrictions that were suppressing economic activity. Schools, airports, and borders are currently open, with enforcement of other measures eased. Overall, the business and work environment continues improving, increasing access to income for low-income households. As a result, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected in urban areas in the July to September 2021 period. However, another increase in COVID-19 cases and control measures could change expectations for outcomes.

    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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