Despite Malawi procuring additional 10,000 metric tonnes of maize stock last month from neighbouring Zambia, a latest report from the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) indicates that the grain stocks will only last the nation up to end of March, about one month before the harvest is expected to begin.
Fewsnet is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on acute food insecurity, operating in 35 countries and was created by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The outlook report released on March 4, 2016 paints a typical situation on the maize process with an increase of between 85 to 155 percent higher this year compared to last year further indicating that the prices of maize grain are expected to remain high between now and the official harvest period in April.
The situation has also highlighted a gloomy picture on the part of thousands of starving Malawians currently sleeping in queues at Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) markets seeking the cheaper grain which is being rationed at 20 kilogrammes per buyer.
“The prices of maize grain are expected to continue trending significantly above average for the entirety of the outlook period. In the absence of additional imports, subsidised maize supplies through Admarc depots are estimated to run out in March,” reads the report.
It also says, not many Malawians who live on less than a dollar a day (about K720) can afford the maize at private markets where it is selling between K260 and K300 per kilogramme.
Admarc is selling the grain at a subsidised price of K110 per kilogramme.
In January this year, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) announced that the number of vulnerable households facing food shortage had increased to 2.9 million people from 2.8 million as indicated some time last year.
Though not in total agreement with the network’s report, Admarc Chief Executive Officer Foster Mulumbe, said it is too early to conclude that government will not acquire additional stocks.
“If we are banking on the acquired stocks, then the network’s observations could be substantiated. But I think it is too early to start making conclusions,” indicated Mulumbe,
He added: “Government has not indicated that this was its last acquisition and final round crop estimates will also give us the right picture.”
Agriculture Minister, Allan Chiyembekeza, insisted that the maize stock was enough to feed hungry Malawians until harvest time.
“I indicated that what the country has is what is available. If others think what we have will not last the nation till the next harvest, that is their school of thought depending on their measure,” said Chiyembekeza in an interview on Monday.
The food situation continues to aggravate each passing day with people spending countless hours at Admarc markets to buy the staple grain, for those who can afford, while others who cannot have, resort to other coping mechanisms like surviving on maize bran and wild fruits.