A food harvest projection by the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) indicates that Malawi will harvest nearly three million metric tonnes of maize.
Malawi requires 3.2 million tonnes of maize per year.
In its report, Food Security Outlook for Southern Africa, Fewsnet observes that although there is a slight increase from last year’s 2.3 million metric tonnes of maize, the situation is contrary to the expected average-to-above-average production based on rainfall forecasts this year.
“Fewsnet assumes that national food production is expected to be average due to other factors that will negatively impact production.
“These include lack of inputs leading to high number of farmers using recycled seeds, registering lower fertiliser use, as well as some fields in localised areas suffering from pest attacks,” reads the forecast in part.
Fewsnet—a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity—also projects a reduction in cash crops such as tobacco due to reduced farm area following two consecutive seasons of poor prices on the market and drought.
This, Fewsnet predicts, will lead to a decrease in incomes at the macroeconomic and household level this season.
“Reductions in incomes from cash crops are expected this season due to a decline in the area planted by farmers. Many farmers significantly reduced the area planted for tobacco and cotton because of consecutive poor marketing years for these crops, as well as losses incurred from two consecutive years of drought,” the forecast further reads.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development officials were not immediately available for comment but Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi said the projected average harvest in maize could be a result of sporadic dry spells in the Southern Region at some crucial stages of the crop.
The Agriculture Production Estimates Survey of 2016/17 indicated that the country would realise a 35.9 percent maize production increase and a 36.6 decrease in tobacco production.
Commenting on the projections, Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) National Director, Tamani Nkhono-Mvula, backed Fewsnet, observing that armyworms that attacked maize crops in most districts might be behind the dip in harvests.
“This is due to the fact that the maize crop was attacked by the armyworm in most districts such as Mzimba, Salima and Mchinji.
“At the same time this year, we had a relative low use of fertiliser among smallholder farmers because of reduced numbers of beneficiaries of Fisp [Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme],” Nkhono- Mvula said.
Despite the projection, Fewsnet indicates continued food stress for households in the Lower Shire districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje because they will not have fully recovered from the impact of two consecutive years of drought and the significant reduction in cotton production.
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