1.7 million face hunger in Malawi despite massive farm input subsidies
The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance between October 2012 and March 2013 in Malawi has jumped from 1.63 million to 1.76 million, but response plans remain inadequate and maybe exhausted be by November to December 2012.
The new figure is contained in a report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), which provides an update on the food security conditions in Malawi from August 2012 through March 2013. The report was released on Monday.
Reads the report in part: “If funding is not ramped up immediately, ...acute food insecurity conditions are likely by December 2012. Current maize prices are double those of 2011 and have continued to rise on most local markets in the South, exceeding recent Fewsnet price projections in several areas.”
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that relief food distribution is short of at least $30 million (about K8.7 billion) to reach out to 1.6 million people that need food assistance due to localised crop failure and high prices.
The report adds that compared to the previous year, August cross-border maize imports from Mozambique declined by 90 percent due to diminishing household purchasing power in maize deficit areas of southern Malawi.
But Minister of Economic Planning and Development Atupele Muluzi, whose ministry chairs the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac), disputed the new figures, arguing they are not reliable.
“The Mvac is the only authority that deals with reliable information in terms of monitoring vulnerability in Malawi. So, nobody can bring out a different outcome or different figures.
“We are in the field at the moment. We are yet to receive a report as to what the current situation is at the moment,” said Muluzi.
In July, the Mvac said 1.63 million people are food insecure in 15 districts and will require support. Three of the districts are in the Central Region and the 12 districts in the South which has 13 districts.
The latest Fewsnet report observes that consumer purchasing power continues to decline as a result of the devaluation of the local currency in May, subsequent depreciation, rising inflation and fuel costs.
Current maize prices in the Southern Region range from K55.50/kg in Liwonde, Machinga to K79.41/kg in Phalombe (southern Malawi districts). Average maize prices in the Southern Region (K64/kg) continue to be the highest when compared with the Centre (K51.86/kg) and Northern Region (K49.83/kg).
As of the end of August, maize stock levels in Admarc markets across the Southern Region are at varying levels. With stocks running out fast in some locations, several markets have started rationing maize at 20 kg or 25kg per person.
In the absence of Admarc’s low fixed selling price of K60/kg, the only available maize in local markets in the region is sold by private traders sourcing from Central Region markets.
Fewnet says, according to government, the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) holds 145 000 metric tonnes after drawing 25 000 metric tonnes for humanitarian assistance in the South.