Record $353 Million Malawi Corn Imports Seen as Shortages Loom

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Malawi plans to spend 250 billion kwacha ($353 million) importing a record amount of corn as about half the country’s population of 17 million faces food shortages.

The southern African nation is looking to Europe for the imports as its neighbors, including Zambia and South Africa, produced less corn because of the El Nino weather pattern, Agriculture Minister George Chaponda told lawmakers Wednesday in the capital, Lilongwe.

Malawi projects a corn requirement of 1.3 million metric tons to feed citizens facing food shortages through March 2017. Output has fallen to 2.4 million tons in 2016, the lowest in five years, Chaponda said. The nation’s need for the grain for human consumption, seed, stock feed and industrial use is estimated at 3.2 million tons.

The country wants to buy 1 million tons of white corn, its Agriculture Ministry said earlier this month. That’s 10 times more than the U.S. government expects it to import for the entire season. Corn prices in Malawi reached a record in February, according to the United Nations.

Mozambique’s port of Nacala has started receiving corn for Malawi and is set to get more than 300,000 metric tons of the staple from June, Portos do Norte SA Chief Executive Officer Fernando Couto said earlier this week.

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