Lilongwe — After successive years of food crises aggravated by extreme drought and flooding, things are looking up for Malawi, which is anticipating the highest output of the staple maize in five years.
A significant increase in the production of such key commodities as millet, pulses and rice is also projected.
The increased yields have driven down the prices of these commodities and culminated in vast populations in the Southern African country becoming self-sustainable and halting dependence on humanitarian aid.
Preliminary crop estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security indicate Malawi will produce more than 3,691 million metric tonnes of maize for the 2020/21 consumption year.
This is about 25 percent higher than the five-year average and 9 percent higher than the previous year.
The ministry projects that other key cereals - millet, pulses and rice-are expected to register increases of 8 to 11 percent above last year's production levels.
Subsequently, prices for the maize staple decreased significantly between February and March in most monitored markets.
Data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), maize prices in the southern Balaka and Nsanje markets decreased by 28 and 41 percent respectively between February and March.
During the period, prices of maize grain decreased by between 6 and 52 percent to reach MWK 157 (US$0,21) to MWK 338 ($0,46) per kilogramme across most markets.
Maize prices followed seasonal trends, declining due to improved availability from the newly-harvested crop.
Poor households in most rural areas are also forecast to access own-produced food from the favourable harvest.
Most families started accessing food from 2020 harvests in March and April.
Households that produced surplus are partly selling their produce, including selling traditional cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, and legumes as well as food crops such as maize, groundnuts, rice, sweet potatoes and cassava.
As such, an increasing number of households in districts that were dependent on humanitarian food assistance are no longer on the relief scheme.
While the production of most crops is projected to increase, tobacco is an exception.
The Tobacco Commission (TC) estimates that about 151 000 tonnes of the golden leaf was produced this year.
This represents a reduction from last year's production of 165611 tonnes, and a 10 percent drop from the five-year average.
The projections follow the opening of the tobacco selling season on April 20.
FEWS NET noted the declining production might eventually affect Malawi's macro economy as the cash crop is the main foreign exchange earner for Malawi.
Malawi is an agro-based economy, with 85 percent of locals' primary source of income coming from agriculture.
It has over the years experienced droughts, most severely in 2002 when death estimates were estimated from 300.
There were subsequent food crises in 2012 and 2015 leading to the declaring of a state of emergency.
The government of President Peter Mutharika has adopted some programmes to address climate change, poverty and diversification in terms of agriculture and ultimately, the economy.