Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has reported a 22.1 percent drop in maize production this year at 2 697 959 metric tonnes (MT) from 3 464 139MT during the 2016/17 farming season.
In a statement on the third and final round of the 2017/18 Agriculture Production Estimate Survey results released yesterday, the ministry attributes the decline to combined effects of a prolonged dry spell and the invasion of fall armyworms.
The ministry’s survey results have coincided with the recently released 2018 Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) Report which projected that at least 3.3 million Malawians will be food insecure this year following a decrease in maize production.
The Mvac Report said the affected population will require 138 488MT of relief maize worth K23.5 million.
In its statement, the ministry says the results of the survey represent a 20.3 percent decline when compared to a five-year average production.
In the statement signed by Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Gray Nyandule-Phiri, rice production has declined by 7.8 percent while production of millet and wheat is down by 12.2 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, due to the prolonged dry spells.
In terms of production of roots and tubers—cassava and sweet potatoes—the survey found that production has increased by 8.3 and 3.5 percent, respectively. Production of potatoes, however, has declined by 8.9 percent.
On production of pulses, groundnuts, soya beans, pigeon peas and beans, decreases of 12.1, 18.9, 8.2 and 5.5 percent respectively, have also been registered.
Phiri said the third round of crop estimates, which involves weighing of the harvest to obtain actual yield for crops, gives a picture of the national food basket and determines the food deficit or surplus situation. The final round is undertaken during the harvesting period from April to May.
Reads the statement in part: “The objective of the survey is to assess the country’s agricultural production to inform planning and policy direction for the nation. The survey includes crops, livestock and fisheries. The survey is conducted in three rounds every year.”
But Phiri observed a general increase in the production of horticultural crops such as pineapples (8.3 percent), mangoes (28.9 percent), tangerines (12.3 percent) and tomatoes (8.5 percent) as compared to the final round of 2016/17.
On the other hand, there was a 33.3 percent decline in the production of oranges, 5.7 percent (avocado pears) and 14.2 percent (bananas) have also been registered.
Coffee production has gone up by 24.0 percent, while cotton production has gone down by 23.1 percent.
On livestock, the population of cattle has increased from 1 539 907 to 1 655 389, representing 7.5 percent increase as compared to the final round of 2016/17. The population of goats, sheep, pigs and chickens has also increased by 9.1, 5.1, 26.5 and 24.5 percent respectively.
National fish production from both capture fisheries and aquaculture has increased from 162 687MT to 216 347MT as compared to 2016/2017 season, representing 33 percent increase.
In comparison with other countries in the region, Malawi has the highest food insecure population as Mozambique has 531 476, Zambia has 954 120 and Zimbabwe has 2.4 million people in need of food assistance.
The Mvac Report indicates that out of the eight agricultural development divisions (ADDs), only Karonga registered a 6.5 increase in maize production while the rest have a deficit.
Machinga ADD has the highest deficit at 54 percent, Blantyre (45 percent), Kasungu (32.7 percent), Lilongwe (24.8 percent), Salima (23.1 percent), Shire Valley (11.5 percent) and Mzuzu (4.5 percent).
The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has since contracted the AHCX, a commodities exchange which is a subsidiary of AHL Group—formerly Auction Holdings Limited, to buy and deliver 32 000MT of maize to its storage facilities.
Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) programmes director Alfred Kambwiri recently told The Nation that the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) has failed to address the problem, and asked government to find a permanent solution to address chronic food insecurity.
He said Fisp has failed to address food insecurity as it benefits the same people who are also targeted with relief food items.