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Food stocks to deplete early than usual-report

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Households’ food stocks in the Southern Region are expected to be exhausted by August compared to October in a typical year, leading to increased reliance on markets.

The development will also raise the need for access to income to meet food needs through to March 2023, the latest Malawi Food Security Outlook report indicates.

In the report, released Wednesday, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) indicates that the Southern Region of Malawi is estimated to have the most significant decrease, with maize production estimated to be between 30 and 50 percent below the five-year average.

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This has been attributed to an unprecedentedly dry start to the agricultural season in the Southern Region and back-to-back tropical storms which significantly impacted crop production.

“From June to September 2022, very poor and poor households in southern Malawi are expected to deplete food stocks, resulting in earlier-than-normal reliance on markets to access food. Further, income during the post-harvest period will be below average while food prices are expected to be significantly higher than last year and the five-year average.

“As a result, rural households in southern Malawi are expected to experience a reduction in financial access to food, forcing households to mitigate food consumption gaps through increased engagement in consumption and livelihood-based coping. As a result, by September, most very poor and some poor households in southern Malawi will experience stressed acute food insecurity outcomes,” the report reads.

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Despite the ongoing harvest, prices for maize staples continue to be significantly above the same period last year.

In April 2022, the second round of national estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that staples, rice and tobacco would be 16, 11 and 17 percent below last year’s production, respectively.

According to the ministry, Malawi had significant carry-over food stocks to start the 2022- 23 consumption period, including 139,000 metric tonnes held by the National Food Reserve Agency and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation plus private holdings by traders and farmers.

A recent report, called Malawi Post Floods Assessment by World Food Programme, also indicated that the 2022-23 lean season has strong indications that more people would be food insecure, requiring additional recovery support.

As reflected in a United Nations Flash Appeal, the aftermath of several storms left at least 990,000 people in need of life-saving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance and protection, including 190,400 people who were temporarily displaced by floods.

Commenting on the report, Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula said, under the Tropical Storm Ana Emergency Response Plan and as part of recovery interventions, the department, through the agriculture cluster, plans to distribute farm inputs for families whose crops were destroyed following devastating effects of Tropical Storm Ana.

Khamula said the cluster already sourced K3.1 billion from the Contingency Emergency Response Component under the agricultural commercialisation project.

“In terms of long-term plans, the department is working with various stakeholders to enhance winter cropping in flood-prone areas to achieve food security at household, community and national levels. As a department, we are of the view that it is illogical for farmers living in flood-prone areas to keep on cultivating during the rainy season when their crops end up being washed away.

“We believe that, through enhanced winter cropping, communities will be self-reliant as they will be engaged in meaningful farming. The provision of relief food should be the last resort,” he said.

Commenting earlier, African Institute of Corporate Citizenship Head of Programmes Leonard Chimwaza said reports of this nature provide the basis for planning and designing food security-related programmes.

But Chimwaza said, for these reports to bear fruit, the country has to adopt a holistic approach when dealing with the challenges that come with calamities such as floods.

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