Gloomy first-round maize production estimates


The results of first-round of 2015/16 agriculture production estimates survey that the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development released yesterday show that national maize production is projected at 2,719,425 metric tonnes which is two percent lower than the 2014/15 final-round estimate.

The development paints a successive year gloomy picture as the 2,776,277 metric tonnes last recorded in 2014/16 season were also a decrease from 3,978,123 metric tonnes produced in the 2013/2014, representing a 30.2 percent production decline and translating into 223,723 metric tonnes maize deficit.

The deficit rendered over 2.8 million people, which is over 15 percent of the country’s population, at risk of hunger across 25 districts of the country forcing President Peter Mutharika to release a US$147 million (K84 billion) emergency response plan.


The first-round production estimates survey is conducted from September of the preceding year to January of the current year and results from the first round estimates are based on farmers’ intentions on crops to be grown and related hectarage.

While the last growing season was characterised by drought and floods, the 2015/16 growing season has seen devastating dry spells in some Southern and Central Region areas.

“The results from the first round may not conclusively inform the ultimate agricultural production as farmers’ intentions can change in the course of implementing respective farm activities; weather conditions and related parameters may also change in the course of the agricultural season.


“Nevertheless, results of the first round provide early warning signals on national food security so that policy makers in the public, private and non-state sectors can make informed decisions regarding impending food situation,” the statement from the ministry reads.

However, rice production is projected to slightly increase by 1.4 percent with the production of groundnuts, beans and pigeon peas expected to decrease by 4.5, 5.2 and 3.1 percent, respectively.

Production of soya beans is also projected to go up by 6.1 percent.

Tobacco production will increase from 192,967,541 kilogrammes in the 2014/15 agricultural season to 211,083,000 kilogrammes this season while cotton production is expected to decline significantly by 43.2 percent.

The population of cattle has increased from 1,398,376, to 1,440,706 representing 3.1 percent increase as compared to the final round for the 2014/15 agricultural season.

The population of goats and pigs has also increased by 6.8 percent and 11.8 percent.

National fish production has increased from 120,894 metric tonnes to 149,299 metric tonnes representing 23.5 percent increase.

The second round is conducted from February to March and focuses on verification and adjustment of area measurement for crops grown by the sampled agricultural households and the results obtained are used to determine crop area planted for the season.

The third round, which is normally considered as the final round, is undertaken during the harvesting period from April to May and involves weighing of the harvest to obtain actual yield for crops.

The third round of production estimates survey indicates the national food basket and determines the food deficit or surplus.

According to the ministry, the second round activities for the survey are currently underway throughout the country and the round will be released end-March 2016.

“The Ministry further wishes to inform the general public that it is only the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, which is mandated to estimate and release figures on all agricultural production, except tobacco. Hence, should there be any need to quote figures for agriculture production, it is strongly recommended to use official government figures to avoid misleading the public,” the statement reads.

Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) National Executive Director, Tamani Nkhono Mvula, said the situation necessitates Malawians to practise crop diversification.

“Maize is one of the crops that are susceptible to the effects of both dry spells and too much rain. The estimates indicate that we will even have a larger maize deficit than we had last year which is not good. Apart from irrigation farming, it is also time we diversify by growing more of other crops like cassava. It is a wakeup call for us to step up intervention measures,” Nkhono Mvula said.

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