More people face hunger
Many Malawians could face hunger this year as agricultural yields are expect to be low due to harsh weather conditions experienced in most parts, agricultural policy experts say.
Initially, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment (Mvac) estimated that about 3.5 million people were expected to face hunger.
But this was prior to Cyclone Freddy, which washed away farmlands in the 10 districts of the Southern Region.
“As a result, crop yields will be significantly reduced, consequently reducing food availability in the affected households. Some of the affected crops were already mature and almost ready for harvest, and the prolonged submersion triggered rotting,” a report by Department of Disaster Management Affairs reads.
However, other districts, especially in the Northern Region, experienced a dry spell.
In Karonga District, maize production is expected to drop by 60 percent while rice output will drop by 44.1 percent due to the drought which has affected 38,605 hectares.
In an interview Tuesday, agricultural policy expert Leonard Chimwaza said the outlook remains murky, and many people risk facing hunger unless authorities intervene.
“This is the right time the country ventures into small scale irrigation because the soil where there were floods is still moist and rivers will take time to dry but, aside from that, the country should embrace post-harvest management policies so that the little we have harvested should not be lost,” he said.
His fears were echoed by former Farmers Union of Malawi president Frighton Njolomole, who said the immediate solution is that Admarc should be equipped to purchase maize.
“People do not have money and the vendor is already in villages buying maize, Admarc should; therefore, buy now so that we have enough maize stocks that will stabilise prices when food insecurity hits hard,” he said.
Centre for Social Concern Programmes Coordinator responsible for Economic Governance Bernard Mphepo said the food insecurity spells doom on the cost of living.
“The shortage of food will mean that food inflation will rise and that automatically translates to the rise in cost of living. Therefore, the country should invest in irrigation, have enough maize stock and purchase crops before vendors do,” Mphepo said.
Economist from Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences Betchani Tchereni said the expected low yield would exert more pressure on the economy and affect recovery strides.
He said the drop means dwindled economic growth, high inflation rate, and high interest rates, less employment opportunities, increased poverty levels and drop in revenue collection.
“The country should embark on a serious winter cropping and if the private sector is not willing, government should come in and take it up because, if not for that, the economy will suffer,” Tchereni said.
President Lazarus Chakwera last week asked the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that Admarc is well stocked with maize.
Justin Mkweu is a fast growing reporter who currently works with Times Group on the business desk.
He is however flexible as he also writes about current affairs and national issues.