Malawi maize prices plunge as harvest season starts

Bumper maize crop for South Africa

Bumper maize crop expected in Malawi

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) PRICES of the staple maize are dropping in Malawi as a result of the onset of the main harvest season.

This is a major boost for the majority as prices had been at their highest in years during the lean season.

Surveys indicated the average price for ‘old’ maize, which was harvested in the 2018/19 season, had declined by 35 percent to MWK322/kg (US$0,44/kg) in March.

On average, retail prices of ‘old’ maize were MWK87/kg higher than for ‘new’ maize during the month.

‘Old’ maize fetches a higher price because it has lower moisture content.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) corroborated the prices were declining as a result of the new produce trickling into the markets with the harvest season typically starting in the southern and gradually moving to the northern parts of the country.

Research by IFPRI established prices declined in 24 markets of the total 26 markets surveyed in the Southern African country.

Prices stayed constantly and rose in one market during the harvest period.

M’baluku market, in the south of Malawi, recorded the largest price decline (61 percent) while only the northern Mzuzu recorded a price increase of 5 percent.

Prices in the northernmost Chitipa market remained constant throughout the month of March.

“By the end of the fourth week of March, markets that recorded the largest price fall were reporting newly harvested maize stocks only,” IFPRI stated.

IFPRI, which has been monitoring retail maize prices in selected markets since 2016, projects the prices to decline further in the coming months on the back of maize production expected to be above-average this season.

The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) also expects above-average production.

Its assessments in mid-March also noted maize prices have declined with the beginning of harvests in some parts of southern and central Malawi regions, thus increasing market supply and reducing demand as households begin consuming own-produced food.

“However, prices remain significantly above average,” FEWS NET stated.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development’s Agricultural Market Information System stated that March maize prices in Mitundu market in the capital (Lilongwe) were 90 percent higher than five-year average levels and 48 percent higher than the same period last year.

Mitundu is the national reference market.

IFPRI corroborated the ministry, stating retail maize prices were still 79 percent higher than in March 2019 and were above MWK300/kg in the majority of markets monitored during the first two weeks of the month.

“Maize prices were highest in the South and lowest in the North, as is the usual pattern,” IFPRI stated.

In line with anticipated declines, towards the end of the second week of March, prices in the South started to reduce rapidly. Prices in central Malawi also started declining towards the end of the third week of the month while prices in the North remained relatively stable.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development also expects the prices to continue decreasing in the coming months as more households across the country start harvesting.

In a related development, humanitarian assistance distributions have ceased as food security improves with households beginning the consumption of own-produced food from the green harvest.

This has enhanced access food among poor households in most southern areas of the country.

– CAJ News

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