Maize prices declined by four percent in March 2018 ahead of the 2017/18 harvesting season, International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) has said.
In its March 2018 monthly maize price bulletin, Ifpri said maize prices tend to be on a downward trend, especially in the second half of the month across the regions as the main harvesting season approaches.
At an average nominal retail price of K115 per kilogramme (kg), maize prices were 44 percent lower than in March 2017.
In recent months, maize prices have been rising, with a 50kg bag selling at K7 000 from K5 000 due to speculation in the wake of the expected deficit due to the dry spell and fall armyworms attack, which has cut maize output by 40 percent or 210 740 tonnes and 10 percent or 73 201 tonnes respectively.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development figures show that the country has about 240 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize stock in grain reserves.
The availability of maize has continued to push down inflation rate, which is currently to 7.8 percent as of February 2018 from 8.1 percent in January, according to the National Statistical Office (NSO).
Maize is the country’s staple grain that, as part of food, accounts for about 45.2 percent of the consumer price index (CPI), an aggregate basket for computing inflation.
Spot checks in some markets in Blantyre show that vendors are now selling maize at around K5 000 per 50 kg bag.
Earlier, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe said Treasury will set aside money to buy a further 200 000MT of maize to offset the shortage.
About 850 000 households are expected to be affected by hunger this year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.