BLANTYRE (Reuters) - Malawi's President Peter Mutharika declared a national disaster after a severe drought ravaged the southern African nation and appealed for 1.2 million tonnes of maize to plug a looming deficit of the staple.
Mutharika said Malawi faces a maize deficit of 1.072 million metric tonnes in the 2015/16 (December-March) growing season, representing a decline of over 12 percent compared to prior season.
A drought in the region, exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern, has scorched maize fields and placed about 16 million people at risk of hunger, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said in March.
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.
Estimates of maize production taken between mid-February and March pegged the output at 2.431 million tonnes from 2.776 million tonnes in the previous season, the president said late on Tuesday.
Malawi's maize requirement for human consumption, seed, stock feed and industrial use stands at 3.205 million tonnes, he said.
(Reporting by Frank Phiri; Editing by James Macharia)