COVID-19, low demand sink Malawi grain prices

Maize crop

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) PRICES of grain in Malawi have been lowering significantly owing to subdued demand amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and increased availability of the commodity across the country.

Marked reductions have been observed particularly in the price of the staple maize during the current post-harvest period.

The average price is currently MK160 (US$0,22) per kilogramme.

The World Food Programme (WFP) noted that at this level, nominal grain prices were slightly over 40 percent lower than three months ago and significantly lower than the government-set minimum price of MK 200 per kg.

“This decrease is expected in line with seasonal trends and is anticipated to continue in the coming one to two months,” WFP projected.

The agency nonetheless stated that based on historical data, maize grain prices typically tended to start increasing again in late July/early August.

WFP added that said, given that there was currently relatively low demand emanating from big private traders—in large part because of the COVID-19 mitigating measure have hampered overall demand coupled with the fact that the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) was yet to start its maize purchase programme to replenish the strategic grain reserves—it might take longer than normal before maize prices started to really pick up.

Meanwhile, a report by the government also noted the decrease in prices, particularly of maize, in recent weeks.

The average price of rice is estimated as MK674,8 per kg for the past four-week period, with a declining price recorded from the beginning of May.

Data from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Malawi indicated that prices fell in 13 markets and stayed constant in four of 26 markets sampled.

The largest price decline was recorded in Chitipa (19 percent), followed by Jenda market (18 percent).

IFPRI Malawi rated retail maize prices in Malawi were lower than in most regional markets.
June marks the start of the third month since the government of President Peter Mutharika declared a State of Disaster due to COVID-19.

At the time of publication, Malawi had confirmed six deaths from 564 cases of the virus.

As neighbouring countries are beginning to ease on lockdown measures, attempting to balance the risks of reopening against the economic costs of lockdowns, discussions are underway on whether Malawi should ease restrictions.

The National Planning Task Force on COVID-19 intends to ease some restrictions beginning with the possible reopening of schools, colleges, and universities in mid-July.

– CAJ News

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