Agricultural labor opportunities provide insufficient income as food prices rise
Most of the country is experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes. However, populations in southern Malawi and in northern Karonga district continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, with an increasing number of people in need of assistance as the lean season progresses. As of late December, Malawi’s humanitarian food assistance program had just commenced. Due to delays the assistance program, the Malawi government conducted a one-off maize distribution in November as an interim measure.
Maize grain prices remain significantly above average and continue to increase as a growing number of households become reliant on market purchases during the lean season. Across most markets, maize prices increased by 5 to 20 percent between October and November. Above-average prices are attributed to production deficits in flood-affected areas, atypically low supply from neighboring countries, and atypically high levels of informal maize exports due to higher prices being offered in Tanzania. Prices in November were between 61 and 108 percent higher than the most recent five-year average and between 55 and 105 percent higher than November 2018 levels.
The October to March rainy season has started erratically, with planting not yet fully completed as of mid-December in most central and northern areas. Ongoing planting is increasing opportunities for agricultural labor and improving access to income for the poor, though an increase in the supply of labor is depressing wages. Meanwhile, stormy weather in some southern and northern areas is damaging infrastructure, especially dwelling houses and other buildings.