Most rural households continue to consume food from own production supplemented by market purchases, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected to persist across most of the country through at least January 2021. However, in the southern districts of Nsanje, Balaka, and Neno—as well as some localized parts of Machinga, Blantyre, and Chikwawa in southern Malawi and Salima in central Malawi—an increased number of households are expected to begin facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes in October and transition to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the December to January 2021 period. These areas were impacted by localized production shortfalls due to poor rainfall performance.
In August and September, a decrease in the number of new reported COVID-19 cases led to the easing of some restrictions and a resultant phased re-opening of businesses and institutions. As a result, impacts of COVID-19 on income-earning particularly in urban areas are expected to ease in the October to December 2020 period as the national economy begins to recover. This will likely improve access to food and income for low-income urban populations who are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes due to COVID-19 related disruptions in employment and business opportunities, with improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes expected by December 2020.
In August, retail prices for the maize staple continued to follow seasonal trends, remaining stable in most markets across the country due to favorable market supply. Though prices in August were trending at levels 10 to 34 percent below prices at the same time last year in most markets, they remained between 9 and 13 percent above the five-year average. Meanwhile, institutional purchases by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) are yet to begin after the government temporarily suspended planned purchases in June, while ADMARC purchases have also temporarily stopped due to insufficient funding. Given that funding has been allocated in the new budget, it is likely that purchases will resume around October 2020.
According to national, regional, and international seasonal forecasts, the start of the 2020/21 season is likely to be normal, with average rainfall most likely across the country from October 2020 to March 2021. Although average rainfall is the most likely scenario, there is an elevated probability of above-average rainfall (particularly in the southern half of the country) due to the establishment of La Nina conditions, which are associated with above-average rainfall across much of southern Africa including parts of Malawi.