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Maize output to reduce by 10%—Report

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HINTED AT FAVOURABLE
WEATHER—Mtilatila

A report by Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) has predicted a 10 percent crop production reduction in the 2022-23 growing season owing to the erratic start of rains.

To arrive at the estimates, Fewsnet indicates in its December 29 2022 update that it has based its analysis on historical crop production data, among other things.

The network notes that the main rainy season, which starts from October to March, became fully established in December.

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“However, rainfall distribution is still erratic across time and space, and most of Malawi has received cumulatively below-average rainfall since October. Based on Fewsnet’s analysis of historical crop production data, the shortened growing season for long-cycle crops is expected to reduce total crop yields by up to 10 percent,” the report reads.

Overall, local and global forecast models are pointing to a normal to above-normal rainfall season, with localised below-normal rainfall over southern and central Malawi.

Although the onset of the rains has seasonally increased farming activity and, therefore, agricultural labour demand, “the erratic start of the season and other factors are hindering this key source of income”, the Fewsnet update further indicates.

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“Typically, very poor and poor households earn about 20 to 40 percent of their annual total income from labour. Due to high food prices and consecutive years of below-average crop production, however, labour demand and wage rates are below normal, as middle and better-off households have fewer resources to hire labour, especially in central and southern Malawi.

“As a result, households have insufficient cash incomes from agricultural labour to purchase their food and basic non-food needs,” the report adds.

On the other hand, the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services has said there are strong indications of floods in some parts of the southern and central region and lakeshore areas.

In an interview Sunday, Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services Director Lucy Mtilatila also said the probability of having tropical cyclones is still high, a development that could affect Malawi.

“As we are going into January, February and March, we are expecting normal to above normal rainfall which signifies that we still have a threat of floods because the moment you hear about above normal rainfall [you realise that] that could cause the likelihood of floods. This is also the case because there is a lot of land degradation; so, even the little rains we receive could cause floods.

“So far, there have been two cyclones on the Indian Ocean but none came to Malawi and the potential of having tropical cyclones is still there because the temperatures are still favourable. However that does not mean we will be affected, I cannot tell at the moment,” she said.

In the 2021-22 growing season, the country harvested 3.7 million metric tonnes of maize as compared to last year’s 4.5 million metric tonnes, depicting an 18.9 percent drop.

The decrease was attributed to late onset of rainfall, back-to-back tropical storms Ana and Gombe as well as low inorganic fertiliser uptake in some areas.

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