Malawi: Winter Maize Harvest in Doubt
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
September 20, 2004
Posted to the web September 20, 2004
Malawi's winter harvest should ordinarily ease the country's existing
food shortage, but there is concern that the new crop could be affected
by poor summer rains.
The cultivation of winter crops starts soon after the main summer crop
has been harvested, usually around July, and takes place in areas where
there is residual moisture after the end of the rainy season, or farmers
have access to irrigation facilities.
Due to a poor summer harvest it is estimated that up to 1.6 million
people will require food assistance up to March 2005, but aid agencies
have noted that a bumper winter harvest could narrow the existing food
"In the past few years, the government of Malawi has been encouraging
winter crop production through various means, and this has resulted in a
steady production increase," the Famine Early Warning Systems Network
(FEWS NET) said in its latest country report.
However, the 2003/04 rainfall "was significantly worse than that of
2002/03, especially in the winter maize producing areas", FEWS NET
noted. "This poor rainfall would have resulted in relatively less
residual moisture and water availability, necessary preconditions for
winter crop production. The general expectation is that winter crop
production should be lower than last season, especially in the southern
region, which was the most hit by the dry spells and shortness of the
The National Statistics Office (NSO) has forecast a winter maize
harvest of around 225,000 mt, slightly higher than the previous year's
224,000 mt. However, FEWS NET said the NSO forecast was questionable,
given the poor rainfall this year.
"Although the coming winter harvest - around October to December -
would help improve the aggregate national food availability situation,
the improvements for smallholders in the southern region will be
short-lived, and a majority of the households will continue to rely on
the markets for food," FEWS NET commented.
But the rising cost of staples has limited household access to food.
"Prices have already started to rise, consistent with predictions of a
worse than normal [harvest] year ... continued prices increases will
adversely affect households' ability to purchase food," the report
It will take an estimated 56,000 mt to 83,000 mt of emergency food aid
to assist the rising number of households in need until the next
harvest, FEWS NET forecast.
Zimbabwe court drops paper case
A Zimbabwean court has dropped charges against four directors of the
banned Daily News newspaper.
The privately-owned paper was shut down a year ago by police under the
country's tough media laws.
The magistrate said there was insufficient evidence to show they had
published the paper illegally.
But the publication will stay off the news-stands pending a decision by
the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the media legislation.
Zimbabwean and international rights groups have condemned the law,
which compels all journalists and newspapers to be accredited by a
government-appointed media commission.
Magistrate Lillian Kudya said the state failed to prove the paper
intentionally violated the law, as the paper had won court cases
granting the paper a licence, AFP news agency reported.
"We are free. We knew justice was going to prevail," said Samuel Nkomo,
the paper's chief executive after the ruling.
Launched five years ago, the Daily News was the country's sole
privately-owned daily paper and was a persistent critic of President
Robert Mugabe's government.