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Libyan Newswire

FAO GIEWS Country Brief on Malawi (29-January-2015)

Reference Date: 29-January-2015


  1. Heavy rains in southern areas during January 2015 caused flooding, resulting in crop losses and deterioration in food security conditions

  2. National average maize prices declined throughout 2014 in response to overall improved supply situation in 2014/15

  3. Floods caused sharp deterioration in food security conditions in southern areas, with emergency food assistance being provided to affected households

Floods, following prolonged dry spell, cause crop losses

Consistent and heavy rains since early January 2015 have resulted in flooding, mainly impacting the Southern region. During the first two dekads of January, estimates indicate that rainfall levels were more than twice the average for this period (see graph on the right). This marks a reversal of the dry conditions experienced from October to mid-December 2014, which delayed planting of the 2015 cereal crops, to be harvested from April, by up to one month and hindered early crop development. Preliminary estimates indicate that up to 35 000 hectares of cropped land have been potentially affected by the floods, impacting about 116 000 farmers. Although this represents a small portion of the area planted at the national level, production losses will have a significant impact on localized food supplies. However, in areas not affected by flooding, the abundant rains have helped to diminish early seasonal water deficits and improved maize crop conditions. Reports also indicate large-scale livestock mortality in the flood-affected areas.

Overall favourable maize supplies in 2014/15

The 2014 crop was estimated at 3.9 million tonnes, about 8 percent up on the average 2013 harvest, on account of an expansion in the area planted and a small increase in yields. However, some districts in the north (Karonga), centre (Dedza and Ntcheu) and south (Balaka, Chikwawa, Nsanje, Neno, Blantyre and Mulanje) experienced prolonged dry spells, resulting in reduced localized outputs. Total cereal production is estimated at about 4.2 million tonnes, nearly 300 000 tonnes (8 percent) above last year and the average of the previous five years. Given the bumper 2014 harvest, the country is estimated to have retained a large maize surplus.

Maize prices remain lower than previous year

Reflecting the bumper 2014 cereal harvest, maize prices decreased throughout most of 2014 to levels well below the previous year. In December, at MWK 78 per kg, the national average price was about 40 percent down on its year-earlier level. The stabilization and slight strengthening of the national currency (kwacha) since December 2014 is also expected to help ease inflationary pressure. However, the annual national inflation rate still remained at a high level, estimated at about 24 percent in December 2014.

The floods are expected to have disrupted trade flows. Consequent decreases in market supplies may exert upward pressure on food prices, particularly in the most affected southern districts.

Emergency food assistance required for flood-affected households

Food security conditions have been adversely affected by the floods in the south, particularly the districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa and Phalombe. The President of Malawi declared a state of national disaster across 15 districts, with an estimated 638 000 people and 35 000 hectares of cropped land affected, and 174 000 people displaced in the worst affected districts, as of 27 January 2015. Preliminary assessments indicate the loss of displaced households’ food supplies, while crop and livestock losses are expected to constrain households’ food availability in 2015. WFP is planning to provide food assistance to approximately 368 000 persons for up to six-and-a-half months. FAO, together with partners, is planning to provide agricultural inputs to the most vulnerable affected households.

Heavy downpours are expected in the next week in southern parts of the country, which may cause further flooding and exacerbate the current situation.

In 2014, the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) had previously estimated that 640 009 persons were food insecure, a sharp decrease compared with the 1.46 million people estimated in the previous year. The lower number reflected the overall improved food availability and access in 2014, following the larger maize harvest and reduced prices.