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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

Food security conditions are expected to remain stable

October 2012 to March 2013

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • As the lean season approaches acute food insecurity conditions in the country have mostly remained stable (IPC Phase 1). Households are currently accessing basic foods either through their own stocks or through market purchases. Maize grain levels in households and markets is significantly reduced, which is typical for this time of the year. However both maize grain and meal prices remain relatively stable as the quantity reaching markets is adequately meeting demand.  

  • Although large maize purchases by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) and low maize exports will ensure stable maize meal supplies in markets, there are concerns over the availability of adequate and safe storage space for the 1 MMT of FRA maize stocks once the rainy season starts.

  • Seasonal rainfall forecasts indicate a chance of dry spells in the south-western  parts of the country during the  October-December period , followed by normal to above-normal  rainfall in the northern half of the country and possible flooding in western areas between January and March, which could cause some downstream flooding in the southern parts of the country. 

National Overview

Current Situation

The food security situation is generally favorable in view of the four consecutive years of good harvest. According to official reports there are currently no districts reporting food deficits, so acute food insecurity conditions are Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Many households are currently accessing basic foods either through their own stocks or through market purchases. As of early October, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) maize purchase program has acquired an estimated 920,000 MT of maize and is well on its way to their 1 MMT target by late October. Several farmers are concerned about FRA payment delays because they are relying on this income in order to purchase inputs for the start of the 2012/13 season in November.

Increasing purchases by FRA for strategic reserves and private traders and millers has substantially reduced maize grain levels and the amounts reaching public markets in the urban areas of Lusaka and the Copperbelt. This reduction in grain availability in public markets is typical for this time of the year. During this point in the season farmers have sold off the bulk of their surplus grain in order to purchase inputs for the upcoming season and to reduce stocks due to limited safe storage at the household level.

In general, staple prices are following seasonal trends. Prices remain stable in most rural markets, suggesting that despite reduced maize amounts, current supply is adequately meeting demand.  Within urban areas, poorer households are beginning to rely on industrially processed roller meal (slightly processed maize meal) as opposed to buying maize and taking it to the mills, as a result of reduced maize grain supplies in markets. Prices for roller meal have been stable and steadily increasing since July (Figure 4). As the lean season approaches this price trend is typical for this time of the year. Poorer households are engaging in normal off season activities, especially wage labor, in order to meet their basic food needs. Labor prospects remain good in rural areas as land preparation gets underway.

Following the implementation of firmer permit regulations for maize exports, FEWS NET observed a slower informal maize outflow in the month of September.  At the major trade border point with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kasumbalesa, unusually low exports were recorded for this time of the year (Figure 5).   Between August and September, informal maize and meal export levels to the DRC remained relatively stable, however when compared to the previous year these exports were 38 percent lower. As informal maize exports slowed down in September, informal maize imports continue to follow previous seasonal trends and have continued to rise steeply.  This rise in informal maize imports is attributed to ongoing purchases being made by the FRA maize purchase program, and the attractive buying price of ZMK 1,300/kg. As a result of this purchase program there was an increase in maize import volumes from Tanzania through Lummi and Zombie borders in Mable district and from Mozambique via Chikalawa border in Petauke district.

Assumptions

For the Outlook period, the following national assumptions have been made:

Staple food supply and prices: While maize grain supplies on the market and at the rural household level will decrease as the lean season begins, maize meal supplies will continue to adequately meet the increasing market demand. Prices of both maize grain and maize meal will remain within the five-year average during the Outlook period as domestic stock availability remains high and maize exports are heavily regulated. An estimated 1 million MT of maize grain will be held by the FRA and the agency is likely to start selling some of the grain to millers towards the end of 2012 in order to ensure that prices remain stable during the peak of the lean season.  

Labor demand in rural areas: As land preparation intensifies and agricultural activities get underway, labor demand will remain high during the October to January period as the better-off household’s food security situation remains favorable. The better-off households will be employing poorer households for land preparation and planting labor.  Because of the favorable food security situation, terms of trade (for livestock sales) will remain good similar to the previous season as households will not be desperate to sell off their livestock. Since households are meeting their basic food needs they are better able to negotiate higher prices for their livestock as they are not selling out of desperation.   

Seasonal rainfall: Based on 2012/13 seasonal forecast by the Zambia Department of Meteorology, there is a high chance of receiving mostly normal rainfall during the October to December period leading to timely planting in most areas. However, the extreme southern parts may experience dry spells during the October to December period which could delay planting in these areas. Furthermore, flood prone areas of western Zambia are likely to experience extended flooding due to above normal rains in the northern half of the country during the January to March period which may cause some downstream localized flooding in the extreme southern parts of the country.  

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Food insecurity is largely expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) throughout the Outlook period. As the lean season commences in November, staple food prices are expected to remain within the five-year average, allowing greater accessibility for market-dependent poor households in rural and urban areas. Maize meal supplies and prices are expected to remain stable as the FRA begins to sell maize at fixed prices to millers and rural communities after October. Poorer households are expected to engage in typical agricultural activities during this period, including the sale of labor to better-off households and work on commercial farms in exchange for food; allowing for households to earn income to purchase agricultural inputs and meet their food needs. These poorer households may also be able to access government subsidized inputs as the agricultural season gets underway.

Restricted maize exports are expected to continue. High domestic maize supply levels are being sustained by stricter export permit regulations that have resulted in limited maize exports. This supply level will help to stabilize maize and meal prices even during the lean period. However, due to limited safe storage space there is concern over maize spoilage as the rainy season begins.

The possibility of dry spells in the south and heavy rainfall in northern parts of the country is unlikely to significantly deteriorate current food security conditions. Although possible dry spells may delay planting and negatively affect early growth of the crops in the extreme southern parts of the country, most crops will recover as the season progresses given past experience. In addition, possible flooding during the second part of the season will most likely be moderate and localized. Consequently the impact on food access will be low to moderate. This is supported by official International Research Institute (IRI) and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) consensus forecast which suggests higher chances of continued weak El Nino conditions. Furthermore, the full impact of any extended dryness or heavy rainfall on the household food security will mostly be felt after March 2013(beyond the Outlook period). However, close monitoring will be required as the season begins and progresses.    

Events that Might Change the Outlook

Area

Event

Impact on food security outcomes

Zambezi West Bank Livelihood Zone

Extensive flooding

Loss of stored food, displacement of households, loss of income from reduced labor demand by better-off households, resulting in reduced access to food.

Kazungula Mwandi Plains and Gwembe Valley Livelihood Zones

Extensive downstream flooding from Zambezi River

Loss of stored food, displacement of households, loss of income from reduced labor demand by better-off households, resulting in reduced access to food.

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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