A Climate and Food Vulnerability Index published this month by Christian Aid has placed Malawi in top 10 countries to be vulnerable to pangs of hunger this year.
The index, which attributes the country’s vulnerability status to the March 2019 flooding triggered by Cyclone Idai and pockets of dry spells in Karonga, puts Malawi on position seven out of 113 assessed countries.
At least 15 districts were affected by the cyclone rendering about 868,895 people destitute.
“The 2018/19 season exemplified this, with southern districts affected by erratic rains and dry spells delivering drought-stressed crops, ending with extreme, cyclone-related flooding sweeping away what little yield farmers were expecting to harvest,” reads part of the report.
The top 10 countries are Burundi, Congo, Madagascar, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Chad, Malawi, Haiti, Niger and Zambia.
But reacting to the report, Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said, according to current crop estimates, the country has enough maize.
Nankhumwa, however, said they are aware that maize prices are currently going up, a situation they have to control.
“We have enough maize, especially in the Central Region areas, that is what is on the ground. We also have a surplus.
However, the current situation in the country is that maize prices are going up due to speculation.
“So, as government, we are coming up with strategies to make maize available on the market at affordable prices. We will be releasing a statement very soon on the strategies,” he said.
Projections from the ministry indicate that Malawi has 355,000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize surplus.
Maize output rose to 3.35 million MT, representing a 24.36 percent increase when compared to the 2017/18 final-round estimate of 2.7 million MT.
Commenting on the maize fluctuations and how they can be stabilised, Economics Association of Malawi president Chikumbutso Kalilombe, said the situation is manageable once the State-owned statutory corporation, Agricultural Development Marketing Corporation, is strengthened.
Kalilombe said, going forward, the country needs to strike a balance between maize production and selling where it has emerged production costs are very high.
“For us, we think there is a consideration that people should do; thus, prices should reflect the production costs. Maize is a vital commodity for the country. Maybe because maize production is continuously subsistence, we need to be thinking of going commercial because the cost of production is way high than selling. We need to strike a balance between the two,” he said.
The report has since suggested that vulnerable countries need to be supported towards being more food secure.
“The first step may be humanitarian relief but to really tackle food security, it’s vital that richer countries provide financial support and technology as well as expertise from agro-ecological experts to enhance the resilience and productivity of small-scale producers,” read part of the recommendations.
Organisations such as Food and Agriculture Organisation also projected that food security is expected to worsen in the Southern Region of Malawi which produces about one-third of the national maize output due to the floods.