Analyze trends in the consumption of nutrient dense foods in Malawi.
These results are from two complementary IFPRI studies: An analysis of Malawi’s Integrated Household Survey (2004/05; n=11,280 and 2010/11; n=12,271), and a tri-district study of smallholders’ attitudes towards specific foods (n=80).
Consumption of dairy, fresh fish, legumes and leafy greens decreased, in line with price increases. Conversely, pumpkin and egg consumption increased, in line with price decreases. These trends are not surprising, given these foods’ price elasticity relative to staples. What is surprising is that consumption of poultry, fruit, and red meat increased, despite substantial price increases.Explanations include a steep drop in the price of maize, and reductions in the prices of non-food goods and poverty rates. That these foods are considered “aspirational” is also important: As budget constraints relax, consumers are willing and able to pay more for foods considered to add tastiness, volume and nutritional value to meals.
Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) may be improving the enabling environment by decreasing maize prices, relaxing budget constraints and facilitating purchase of aspirational foods. This theory is in line with findings indicating a positive association between subsidy receipt and diversification of food purchases. More research is needed on the net effects of FISP on diets, as there are implicit trade-offs between continued heavy investment in this subsidy program relative to increased investment in value chain development, the latter important for increasing availability of aspirational and other nutrient dense foods.