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November 02, 2011

Malawi sees dry spells in planting season key phase

Malawi expects normal-to-above normal rainfall in the 2011/12 harvesting season but the first crucial phase of planting could be beset by dry spells, a government forecast showed.

"Sporadic dry spells are likely to occur in the first half of the rainy season. Therefore, farmers are advised to plant drought-resistant crops, in addition to maize," read a statement signed by Erica Maganga, secretary for agriculture, irrigation and water development.

The government further advised farmers to plant early-maturing varieties of maize.

Malawi's economy relies heavily on agriculture. Consecutive years of a surplus in maize, the country's staple grain, have helped to keep inflation down and have made Malawi a key source of the grain for the drought-hit Horn of Africa. But Malawi's 2011/12 maize harvest is seen increasingly under threat given the likelihood of a drought, coupled with transportation glitches affecting distribution of subsidised inputs to peasant farmers due to shortages of fuel.

The southern African country also faces difficulties in moving produce from rural areas to the markets and problems stemming from a lack of adequate grain storage facilities. Malawi's annual inflation edged up to 7.7 percent year-on-year in September, the National Statistical Office (NSO) said, owing to continued increases in prices of non-food items. Food carries the greatest weight of Malawi's CPI at 58.1 percent. However, a devaluation of the local currency and shortages of fuel and foreign currency have seen inflation rebounding in recent months.


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