Malawi will experience a longer lean period due to late planting, especially in the Southern Region, a situation that will worsen the food situation and lead to higher prices.
The Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) Quarterly Food Security Outlook for January 2014 indicates that late planting, particularly in parts of southern Malawi is likely to delay and reduce green harvest that are normally expected around February or March.
The report has also warned that in Malawi, hoppers will form adult swarms by March which will migrate and pose serious danger if they are not controlled in time.
However, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security spokesperson Sarah Tione in an interview on Monday said government is aware of the situation and has put in place control measures.
Tione said the ministry has engaged a local company to assess the situation and spray the area that has been affected.
“Last year, we did not put in measures to control the red locusts, but now we have chartered a plane that is surveying the area. The plane will also spray the area. We will also assist the farmers in the affected areas in replanting,” she said.
The Weekend Nation last week reported that farmers in Blantyre, Machinga, Balaka and Mangochi have been affected by army worms and red locusts.
Commenting on the extended lean period which is certainly going to worsen the food situation in the country, Tione said the ministry will soon do an assessment to ascertain the areas that have been affected by the late rains.
She, however, said that government, based on recommendation by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac), is looking at the food situation in the country.
The latest Mvac report has shown an increase in the number of people that would require food assistance from January to March from 1.5 million people to 1.8 million, adding three districts to the list requiring humanitarian assistance.
Commissioner of disaster affairs Jeffrey Kanyinji earlier said their own estimation was that about 1.9 million people would require food assistance.
However, Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) national coordinator Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said if government does not intervene on the food situation, maize prices reach K15 000 per 50 kilogramme bag.
Due to the food situation, Nico Asset Managers late last year argued that since food contributes 50.2 percent to national inflation basket, shortages and the associated increases in food prices during the lean period may push up inflation.