Malawi’s Agricultural Production Estimates Reveal Maize Production Decline, Cereal Surplus

The Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi has released the results of the third round of the 2022/2023 Agricultural Production Estimates Survey (APES) and provided an update on the national food security situation. The survey, conducted annually, assesses the country’s agricultural production to inform planning and policy direction concerning agriculture, food, and nutrition security.

The third round of the survey, which took place during the harvesting period from April to May, has revealed a decline in maize production. The results show that maize production has decreased to 3,509,837 metric tons, marking a 5.6 percent decline from the previous year’s final estimate of 3,716,479 metric tons. This drop in maize production is attributed to reduced inputs uptake and use, resulting in a decrease in both planted area and yield. Unfavorable weather conditions, such as floods in the southern region and dry spells in the northern region district of Karonga, have also played a role in the decline.

However, there are positive indications in the production of other cereals. Millet and sorghum production have increased by 20.8 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively, due to seed and market availability, as well as resilience to adverse weather conditions. On the contrary, rice production has declined by 8.6 percent due to the impact of dry spells and floods.

The survey also covered root crops, with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava registering increments in production by 5.1 percent, 1.6 percent, and 0.04 percent, respectively, owing to the availability of planting materials and favorable weather conditions.

Regarding livestock, the population of cattle has increased by 6.6 percent, reaching 2,187,583. Other livestock populations that have shown growth include quails, pigeons, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, and rabbits.

The Ministry of Agriculture has compiled the cereal-based National Food Balance Sheet (FBS) for the period between April 2023 to March 2024, showing a total maize supply of 3,517,839 metric tons. The total maize requirement for the projected 12 months, which includes food, industrial, and seed use, stands at 3,469,597 metric tons. This leaves a maize surplus of about 48,243 metric tons. When considering all key cereals, including rice, millet, and sorghum, the projected cereal surplus is estimated at 314,598 metric tons.

Despite the reported cereal surplus, the Ministry has emphasized that the country has enough food to meet the needs of the entire population. However, it acknowledges that some areas may still experience food shortages, and the government is committed to ensuring equitable food distribution and providing assistance to hotspot areas through humanitarian aid and price stabilization strategies.

To address food deficits effectively, the government has a stock of 68,420 metric tons of maize through the National Food Reserve Agency and ADMARC Limited. Additionally, the government plans to procure about 42,000 metric tons of additional maize for the Strategic Grain Reserve using funds from the National Budget, the Agricultural Commercialization Project, and the African Risk Capacity Insurance payout.

The Ministry will continue to monitor maize prices through its price surveillance system to ensure the nation’s food security. Efforts are also underway to expand the food balance sheet to include other food commodities like sweet and irish potatoes, cassava, and plantains to encourage consumption diversification and boost the value of various agricultural commodities.

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