This paper examines seasonal food price crises in Malawi. In the 2000s, Malawi experienced three episodes in which seasonal maize prices rose in 2001–02, 2004–05, and 2007–09 by 354%, 218%, and 395%, respectively. These extreme price spikes resulted from a sequential interaction of economic and political events. A repeated pattern of cause, inapt response and adverse outcome is identified. The relative neglect in vulnerability analysis of staple food price movements as lead indicators of impending food crises is emphasized, and implications are drawn for price stabilisation, public–private coordination and social protection policies.