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Consecutive Tropical Storms in southern Malawi further limits harvest expectations

  • Key Message Update
  • Malawi
  • March 2022
Consecutive Tropical Storms in southern Malawi further limits harvest expectations

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Despite an unprecedented dry start to the 2021/22 agricultural season, parts of central and most of northern Malawi are expected to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes. In most of southern Malawi, and parts of central, Stressed (IPC Phase 2), outcomes are expected due to back-to-back tropical storms. In Nsanje and Chikwawa districts in southern Malawi, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to persist, given the effects of the tropical storms on top of underlying vulnerabilities and poor 2021 harvest. With the upcoming harvest, outcomes are expected to improve slightly. However, the benefits of the harvest will be brief as multiple climatic shocks and unfavorable macroeconomic conditions will limit crop production and increase food prices. By September, poor and very poor households are expected to deplete own stocks and increase their reliance on markets earlier than usual. Simultaneously, prices are expected to increase above seasonal trends through September, reducing financial access to food for poor households. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are expected to persist through September 2022.

    • From March 11-13, southern Malawi was impacted by Tropical Storm Gombe, the third major climatic shock to affect households in southern Malawi this agricultural season. On top of drought conditions earlier in the season and Tropical Storm Ana in late January, the recent heavy rains and localized flooding resulted in further displacement, cropland damage, and livelihood disruption. Initial reports indicate that approximately 41,00 households were affected, including 22,000 households displaced. Further, the heaviest impacted districts include Blantyre, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Manghost, and Zoma, which are still recovering from the recent impacts of tropical Storm Ana. As a result, in southern Malawi, the upcoming harvest is expected to be 35 percent below average, an additional 10 percent lower than the initial estimation from the February Food Security Outlook.

    • Reduced foreign exchange inflows are likely to negatively impact Malawi's macroeconomic conditions in the 2022/23 consumption season due to reduced production and tobacco sales. Tabaco sells and exports, Malawi's number one forex earner, comprises about 70% of total foreign exchange and contributes to approximately 30 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). According to a statement released by the Tobacco Commission on March 17 March, tobacco production will be 20 percent below last year's production and 26% below the five-year average. With ongoing disruptions to global supply chains, increasing commodity and oil prices, a reduction in foreign exchanges will likely add further inflationary pressure in Malawi, impacting household financial access to food.

    • Maize prices were mixed from January into February 2022. During the lean season, prices were atypically stable in seven of the twelve FEWS NET monitored markets, atypically lower at Jenda (-8%) and Nsanje markets (-6%). Only Lilongwe and Mzuzu prices aligned with seasonal expectations, with slight increases of 15 percent and 11 percent. Overall, prices were trending above 2021 averages for the first time in the 2021/22 consumption season; however, prices were still between 5 and 22 percent below the five-year average. FEWS NET still assumes prices will seasonally decline with the onset of the harvest in April and May.

    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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