The World Bank Groupâ€™s latest report has placed Malawi among 14 countries in Africa that are food insecure and vulnerable to recent food price spikes on the global market.
The report, titled Africaâ€™s Pulse and analyses issues shaping Africaâ€™s economic future, has also observed that the prevailing high food prices in Malawi are due to poor harvests and high inflation rate, currently at 25.5 percent as of August 2012.
The World Bank findings come barely a few days after a latest report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance between October 2012 and March 2013 has jumped from 1.63 million to 1.76 million.
â€œFourteen countries are particularly vulnerable to recent food price spikes. In many [countries], maize and wheat provide 20 percent or more of the average householdâ€™s caloric intake,â€ reads the report in part.
Other African countries that are also food insecure according to the report are Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Sudan, Mali, Niger and South Sudan.
â€œPrices in southern Africa are in line with seasonal trendsâ€¦maize price in Malawi are on the rise due to poor harvests and high rate of inflation,â€ reads the report in part.
World Bank has since warned Malawi and others that the recent spikes in international food and grain prices could have negative implications in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Bretton Woods institution said while implications of the current spikes in food prices are unclear, increased expenditures on food and cases of malnutrition are a concern.
The bank admitted that the impact of the prevailing high food prices across Africa is difficult to determine as current trend shows significant variation in domestic prices across the region.
â€œIn west and central Africa, prices of cereals are still at record high levels owing to low production in 2011. However, better rains in 2012 have caused prices in the coastal countries to decline,â€ says the bank.
Low maize production
Malawi maize production in 2012 is estimated at 3.6 metric tons, representing a 7.1 percent decrease over the final round in 2011, according to a 2012 government annual economic report.
The reduction, according to the annual report, is attributed to poor onset and erratic distribution of rainfall experienced in many parts of the country in 2011/12 season.
According to the Fewsnet report, current maize prices are double those of 2011 and have continued to rise on most local markets in the South, exceeding recent Fewsnet price projection.
In July this year, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) said 1.63 million people are food insecure in 15 districts and will require support.
A 50 kilogramme (kg) bag of maize in Lilongwe, Zomba, Blantyre and Mzuzu as of the month of August this year, was selling at K2 814, K3 350, K3 417 and K2 450, respectively, according to the Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for August 2012.
On the contrary, in August 2011 CfSC basket shows that a 50kg bag of maize in Lilongwe, Zomba, Blantyre and Mzuzu was selling at K1 586, K1 383, K1 958 and K1 580, respectively.
Minister of Economic Planning and Development Atupele Muluzi, who disputed the Fewsnet figures last week and whose ministry also chairs Mvac, said currently government officials are in the field to assess the current food security situation.