Malawi to import 50,000 tonnes of maize after drought worsens

Agriculture is Malawi’s mainstay, accounting for a third of the economy.

A local mother of twins collects her family's monthly food aid ration from a United Nations World Food Programme. Picture: EPA/Jon Hrusa.

LILONGWE - Malawi will import 50,000 tonnes of the staple maize from Tanzania to avert hunger after a drought that affected 2,8 million people in the southern African nation, state officials said on Monday.

Agriculture is Malawi's mainstay, accounting for a third of the economy and providing livelihoods for 80 percent of the population of about 15 million people.

"With the 30,000 tonnes coming in from Zambia, we expect to add on another 50,000 tonnes from Tanzania that we have authorised (state-owned grain marketing company) ADMARC to import," Erica Maganga, the principal secretary in the ministry of agriculture told Reuters.

The United Nations World Food Programme this month extended the harvest period by another month to April because annual harvests will be delayed by the El Nino related drought. The lean period usually ends in March when farmers start harvesting.

The WFP said last week that Malawi needs $38 million to help the most vulnerable during the extended lean period.

But Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe told Parliament last week that the 30,000 tonnes from neighbouring Zambia and the 50,000 to be imported from Tanzania will be enough to feed the affected population.