Harvesting of the 2020 maize crop, which accounts for the bulk of the country’s cereal output, concluded in June and production is officially estimated at 3.7mn tonnes, about 25 per cent higher than the five‑year average. The large output is the result of an above‑average planted area and high yields, underpinned by favourable weather conditions. Reports from the country indicate an increased use of fertilisers and hybrid seeds, supported by government‑funded subsidy programmes, which have supported the increase in crop productivity.
Looking further ahead to the 2020/21 cropping season, the government announced an increase in the number of households that will benefit from the input subsidy programme, up from 0.9mn in the 2019/20 season to 3.5mn.
Cereal import requirements below average in 2020/21
The aggregate cereal import requirement in the 2020/21 marketing year (April/March) is estimated at about 185,000 tonnes, virtually unchanged from the previous year’s low level and 40 percent below the previous five‑year average. The reduced volume reflects two years of above‑average maize harvests in 2019 and 2020, which have enabled the country to bolster stocks.
Prices of maize fell steeply from March 2020
Retail prices of maize declined significantly between March and April from their all‑time highs in February, mainly reflecting the boost to market supplies from the then ongoing harvest. In May 2020, prices of maize levelled off and, as of June 2020, they were slightly above their year‑earlier values.
In early April, the government announced an increase in the minimum farmgate price for maize grain. The revised price was set at MWK 200 per kg compared to MWK 180 per kg in the previous year.
Prevalence of food insecurity expected to increase due to effects of COVID‑19
According to the last official estimates from SADC, an estimated 2.7mn people are assessed to be food insecure in 2020, of which 1.9mn live in rural areas and the remaining 800,000 people live in urban areas. This level is similar to the previous year. The high prevalence of food insecurity is mainly associated with the direct and indirect effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, which are expected to curtail access to food, through both income losses associated with the economic slowdown and disruptions to the food supply chains.