MwAPATA Institute warns of dire effects of Russia-Ukraine war on Malawi’s food security situation

MwAPATA Institute has warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have detrimental impact on the food security in Malawi. The Institute has since urged the Capital Hill to contract commercial farmers for irrigated winter maize in a timely way to secure needed maize supplies later in the year.

MwAPATA Institute Executive Director William Chadza made the remarks on Thursday when the organization briefed journalists on how Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine will affect the food security situation in Malawi and implication for implications for Malawian policy response.

Chadza–But Malawi can mitigate or avert the adverse effects–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Chadza said as global fuel prices will be rising, this will put upward pressure of fuel, food, and fertilizer costs in Malawi.

“Food prices will also rise on the global markets due to supply shocks, especially for wheat and sunflower. As staple grains and edible oils are highly substitutable and often inputs for other foods, this will raise global prices for most foods, which will further raise food costs in Malawi. Rising fuel and food prices will put upward pressure on fertilizer prices due to higher costs of production  and increased demand for fertilizers,” he said.

Chadza emphasized that Malawi is particularly vulnerable because Russia is one of the five countries where the bulk of Malawiʼs food imports originates.

He cited the year 2018 when Malawi sourced about 17 percent of its total food imports (and most of its wheat) from the Russian Federation.

Prices for bread and other food products that use wheat are already going up. Interviews with bakery owners in Lilongwe reveal that the retail price of a 50kg bag of wheat flour has risen 42 percent from MK45,000 to MK64,000 since the beginning of the war; the price of bread has increased 50 percent, from roughly MK600 to MK900 per loaf,” said Chadza.

He further stated that fertilizer supply will also be directly impacted, as the countries involved in the conflict are major producers of chemical nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium used in agricultural production.

However, Chadza stressed that actions can be taken now to mitigate the effects on Malawian livelihoods, including changes to the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), promoting alternatives for wheat and maize, and facilitating local production of edible oil crops, such as sunflower and soya.

He also challenged Malawians to seriously consider diversifying their diets by increasing reliance on other foods such as cassava, sorghum, rice and potatoes in order to reduce their expenditures on maize and wheat products.

He further said the government can explore working with the large millers to blend sorghum or other locally produced grains with wheat for bread products.

“The government can invest in increased productivity of commodities which are typically imported but which could be produced locally, such as wheat and wheat substitutes,” Chadza recommended.

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