Lilongwe - Drought-hit Malawi is currently hunting for one million tons of maize imports from its neighbours and Europe, an official has said.
Malawi’s agriculture minister George Chaponda told News24 in an interview that the government projects a total maize requirement of about 1.3 million metric tons to avert food crisis in the season.
"We have no alternative but to import about one million metric tons of white maize to fill the food gap," said the minister.
According to Chaponda, a recent assessment conducted by the government in collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) shows that by the end of this year the number of people requiring food aid will hit 8.4 million.
"We conducted a rapid assessment to determine the impact of El Nino phenomena on crop production. The results of this rapid assessment showed that close to 8.4 million people have partially or completely lost their crops through El Nino induced dry spells," he said.
Chaponda said the worst-hit affected population would require about 790 000 metric tons of relief food for a period ranging from now up to March next year while the rest of the maize imports would be sold through state-owned markets.
Despite several interventions to attain food security, El Nino propelled drought continues to affect food production in Malawi.
"It is now very apparent that the recurrence of low food production exacerbated by El Nino phenomenon and other weather related perils, pose a high risk for the country in terms of food production," said Chaponda.
Malawi's maize production declined from 2.8 million metric tons in last year to about 2.4 million metric tons this year.
Malawi is not the only country in southern Africa facing food crisis as its neighbours; Zimbabwe and Mozambique have also issued drought alerts.
According to World Food Programme (WFP), about 32 million people in southern Africa are facing hunger and will require food aid.
"There are already an estimated 32 million food-insecure people in the southern Africa region, largely as a result of drought which led to poor harvests last year," WFP observed in its latest report.
The report attributed the hunger crisis to El Nino coming on the back of a poor harvest from the previous year.
The region's former breadbasket South Africa, which many countries used to turn to for imports has also been affected by drought.