The Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services says although most parts of Malawi received good rains, prolonged dry spells are likely to reduce crop yield, including maize, in most areas of the country.
In its bulletin released on March 26 2012, the department said the weather forecast suggests that moderate to heavy rains will continue over Malawi, particularly along the lakeshore and over the eastern sector of the Southern Region up to March 31 2012.
It said the highlights of the forecast is that â€œmost parts of Malawi had experienced good rainfall performanceâ€¦prolonged dry spells to cause reduced crop production in most areas [and] moderate to heavy rains are likely to persist over Malawi during end of March 2012.â€
The department said most parts of the country continued to receive light to moderate rainfall during the second 10 days of March which supported crop growth and development, particularly in the late planted fields where crops were prematurely drying due to prolonged dry spells.
â€œAlthough some crops recovered from soil moisture stress, generally southern Malawi will again realise lower crop production due to erratic start of the main rains and prolonged dry spells that have been experienced during the month of February,â€ said the MET agrometeorological assessment.
The affected were the late planted crops that had reached flowering stage, it said. The department said, however, heavy rains that the country experienced at some point replenished soil moisture reserves and facilitated growth and development of roots and tuber crops.
â€œThe crop stand in most fields has been hampered by erratic rains and prolonged dry spells; hence, reduced crop yields are inevitable, particularly in the South.
â€œMost areas in central and northern Malawi, however, have experienced relatively better seasonal rainfall performance and near-normal to normal crop production is expected this season,â€ said the department.
Secretary for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga declined to comment on the crop outlook, saying government will release figures once the estimates are done.