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Floods threaten food security—Fao

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By Feston Malekezo:

DESTRUCTIVE—The floods

The food security situation is expected to worsen due to floods in the Southern Region which produces about one-third of Malawi’s maize output, Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (Fao) food security snapshot warns.

The report, published on Monday, indicates that although there is no official data regarding the impact of the floods on the agriculture sector, crop losses are expected in the worst affected areas.

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Production of maize, Malawi’s main food staple, was forecast to increase to above average of about 3.3 million tonnes in 2019.

The principal factor that supported the favourable production outlook is beneficial rainfall since the start of the cropping season in October 2018.

“The recent floods in the Southern Region, which have affected over 900,000 people, have further compounded the situation. Losses of food supplies, damages to the soon-to-be harvested 2019 crops and reduced access to markets are likely to aggravate food security conditions.

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“Heavy rainfall, forecast for much of the second half of March, could increase the risk of further flooding, potentially resulting in larger crop losses and interruptions to humanitarian operations,” the report reads in part.

The report says in the Central and Northern districts, there is a likelihood of an increase in cereal production, which is expected to foster improvements in food security in 2019 compared to 2018.

“Following a tight maize supply situation in the 2018/19 marketing year, April and March, due to a sharply reduced harvest, prospects for 2019/20 are more favourable resting on the likely increase in production. The forecast supply upturn is expected to enable a build-up in stocks for both households and national strategic reserves, while import requirements are foreseen to fall and remain at below average levels,” the short report reads further.

According to Fao, prices of maize increased steeply since the last quarter of 2018, with seasonal trends exacerbated by a tighter-than-normal supply situation.

As a result, prices of maize in January 2019 were more than one-third above their year-earlier levels and, in areas such as, Mzuzu, doubled.

“In the southern districts, the recent impact of the floods could result in temporary price spikes, due to disruptions to the food supply chain. Looking further ahead, if the above average production in 2019 occurs, maize prices are expected to come under downward pressure in 2019 following the main harvest that is expected to begin late April,” the reports notes.

Irrigation and Water Development Ministry spokesperson, Hamilton Chimala, Tuesday said no Malawian would die of hunger as promised by President Peter Mutharika.

“We shall be releasing a statement next week. Currently, we are consolidating effects of the flooding and incessant rainfall on crop stand, livestock, infrastructure, fisheries, among others. So, we are going to provide steps which the government will take to address the emerging gaps,” he said.

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