Maize prices up but Malawi’s harvest prospects bright



from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) PRICES of the staple maize are escalating in Malawi as demand outweighs in the wake of the lean season reaching its peak.

On a positive note though, a better harvest is forecast for 2019/20.

The average retail prices of the commodity rose by 5 percent in January and are 98 percent higher than in January 2019.

By end of January, maize prices were at or above MWK 300 (US$0,41) per kilogramme in 19 of the 26 local markets the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) monitors in Malawi.

The Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) sales at a subsidised price of MWK 150/kg were reported in 17 of the 26 markets on some days.

IFPRI noted average retail prices remain highest in the South and lowest in the North.

According to the institute prices in Lunzu in the south are now higher than in most African capitals.

Prices in the central Mitundu are noted to higher than in Harare (Zimbabwe), Kampala (Uganda), Lusaka (Zambia), and Nairobi in Kenya.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) confirmed retail maize grain prices increased by up to 36 percent in most markets from November to December 2019.

FEWS NET said process had reached levels 69-125 percent higher than the previous year and 83-119 percent higher than the five-year average.

According to the agency’s assessment in early- to mid-January, prices in selected markets ranged from MWK 245-300/kg in the northern parts, MWK 240-300/kg in central towns and MWK 300-400/kg in southern Malawi.

Supplies in most markets remain significantly below average and ADMARC sales have had minimal impact on the market.

FEWS NET projected the maize prices – as well as prices for other food commodities like beans, cassava and rice would likely increase in most markets up to March as the lean season reaches its peak.

Cassava, maize and rice are the most important food commodities in the Southern African country.

Most of Malawi is experiencing minimal food security outcomes.

In southern Malawi, the provision of humanitarian food assistance has improved outcomes in many areas although non-beneficiary households are facing worse outcomes.

There have been delays in grain distribution, for example in Balaka, where distributions planned for December had been deferred.

As a result of the deficits, some Malawian households in affected regions are consuming less preferred foods and reducing quantity and frequency of meals, FEW NET established.

Favourably, most of the country has received average to above-average cumulative rainfall since the start of the planting season in November.

This has led to favorable crop development and good water availability across most of the country.

In Nsanje district in the south, however, erratic rainfall has resulted in poor crop conditions.

Recently, when the rains came, they resulted in destructive floods.

Chikwawa and Phalombe were also affected as the rains damaged the homes and crops of more than 600 families.

Pests have also been an issue, especially the Fall Army Worm and the African Army Worm that have attacked fields across the country since November.

Control measures have been generally effective in protecting crops.

“Overall, an average to above-average harvest is expected in April 2020,” FEWS NET concluded.

– CAJ News

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