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Pressure mounts on food prices

ESSENTIAL—Maize availability

Lobin Lowe

The country’s retail maize prices shot by six percent in December 2020, to average K199 per kilograme (kg) as the lean period starts, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has said.

In its Maize Market Report for December 2020, IFPRI Malawi says the price of maize was two percent higher than in November 2020 but 28 percent lower than in December 2019.

“Prices rose in 16 markets and remained constant in 10 markets. The largest price increases were recorded in northern markets: Chitipa (33 percent), Karonga (31 percent) and Rumphi (23 percent).

“Most markets in the Central and Southern regions of Malawi remained stable throughout the month. By the end of December, 19 out of 26 markets monitored reported prices equal or above K200/kg,” IFPRI says.

It says retail maize prices remained highest in the South and lowest in the North, as is the usual pattern.

“Prices in the South and Centre remained stable throughout the month of December, with a slight increase towards the end of the month. During the second week of the month, there was a sharp increase in prices in Northern markets, with prices rising to the level of Central Region markets.

“The average price in the Centre was K14/kg higher than in the North and K30/ kg lower than in the South,” the report says.

It adds that, in December 2020, no Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) purchases or sales were reported in the 26 markets IFPRI monitors.

According to the report, as at mid- December, stocks in the Strategic Grain Reserves were approximately 51,000 metric tonnes (MT) including 35,000MT of purchases since July.

It adds that Admarc has procured almost 50,000MT of maize since July and had approximately 106,000MT in stock in mid-December.

The rise in food prices is likely going to exert pressure on the country’s headline inflation which is largely driven by food prices, especially maize.

As at November 2020, Malawi’s headline inflation stood at 7.3 percent, with food inflation seen at 10.4 percent and non-food inflation recorded at 4.4 percent.

Speaking during the Agriculture Joint Sector Review meeting in Lilongwe last month, Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe said the country has enough maize stocks which is in the hands of Admarc, Nation Food Reserve Agency and farmers in the villages.

Lowe said the maize stocks the country has are enough to take the country to the next harvest.

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