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Minimal food insecurity outcomes to prevail amid prospects of a good harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zambia
  • April - September 2014
Minimal food insecurity outcomes to prevail amid prospects of a good harvest

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  • Messages clé
  • National overview
  • Areas of concern
  • Events that may change the outlook
  • Messages clé
    • Food insecurity will remain at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels as the country has adequate staple food supplies and as farming households access own-produced staple foods and other seasonal foods from the current harvest. This is also providing improved dietary diversity.
    • Maize production prospects from the ongoing harvest are likely to be near the five-year average, and adequate to cover national food requirements for the 2014/15 consumption year. However, a few areas in southern province (Choma, Gwembe and Siavonga districts) and Lundazi district in Eastern Province estimated yield reduction at about 30 percent below average due to late start-of-season and early cessation of rains.
    • Maize and maize meal prices are likely to follow a seasonal trend and decrease as market supplies increase. This will improve staple food access for poor, market-dependent households. This will be the case even though prices are likely to remain above the five-year average due to increased transport costs, as fuel prices have been adjusted upwards by 8.3 percent as of April 18, 2014.

    National overview
    Current Situation

    The overall food security situation remains favorable at Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase I) outcomes. The country has adequate staple food stocks, with both FRA and the private sector to supply the market before the new harvest comes on the market in May. In addition, most farming households are accessing staple foods and other seasonal foods (pumpkins, sweet potatoes, groundnuts) through own production from the current harvest, which is also providing improved dietary diversity after the lean season.

    Maize prices have started to decline after increasing, as is normal at this time of the year. Price decreases were recorded between February and March in Lusaka (-6.5 percent) and Mongu (-10.5 percent), while prices continued to increase in other markets, such as Kabwe (12.4 percent), Kasama (19.4 percent) and Solwezi (15.2 percent). March Maize meal prices were mainly stable, but increases were recorded at Chipata (6.7 percent), Choma (9.9 percent) and Kasama (7.1 percent). These higher prices are typical for this period as supplies are low and most households are market-dependent while own production is depleted and households do not yet have access to the new harvest.  Despite following seasonal trends, maize and maize meal prices remain significantly (18 to 87 percent) above the five-year average.

    Indications are that maize production will be near the five-year average and should be adequate to cover national food requirements for the 2014/15 consumption year (official estimates are expected to be announced the first week of May).  In addition to small-scale maize production, there is maize available from commercial farmers, who are back into production following significantly reduced maize market interventions by the government. Currently, commercial farmers and the Grain Traders Association have requested that the government allow them to export 180,000 metric tonnes of maize during the 2014/15 marketing season.

    Despite a late start-of-season in southern and eastern Zambia, almost the entire country had received normal total rainfall by April 10, as reported by the Meteorology Department. However, a number of districts (Choma, Monze, Gwembe and Siavonga in Southern Province and Lundazi in Eastern Province) have reported that crops were negatively affected by the late start-of-season, coupled with erratic rainfall, dry spells and an early cessation of rains. Yields for maize, sorghum, groundnuts, sunflower, cotton, and tobacco are likely to be reduced by about 30 percent on average in these districts. For areas adversely affected by poor rainfall and/or floods, the Vulnerability Assessment Committee annual assessment to be conducted in April/May will recommend a plan of action for the 2014/15 consumption year.

    National Level Assumptions

    The April to September 2014 Food Security Outlook is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Agro climatology: According to the Zambia Meteorology Department, despite a late start-of-season in southern and eastern Zambia, normal total rainfall has been recorded for most of the country, with only a few districts (Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi, Nyimba and Petauke) reporting below-normal rainfall as of April 10, 2014. In addition, a normal cessation of the rains is expected in (March/April) for most areas, which has provided enough moisture for late-planted maize to reach maturity. This excludes parts of eastern Zambia where the start of season was 3-4 dekads (i.e. 30-40 days) late and parts of southern Zambia where rains ceased by early March. 

    Staple food availability: With the expected average 2013/14 maize harvest and 300,000 MT minimum carryover stock, the country is expected to have adequate staple food supply on the market during the outlook period of April to September. During this period, most farming households will access staple food and a variety of seasonal foods through own production, thereby increasing household dietary diversity.

    Maize market and prices: Most farming households will reduce dependence on markets for staple foods, lessening demand and subsequently leading to the typical seasonal drop in prices at a time when farmers are offloading maize on the market. However, given the high prices maintained in the 2013/14 marketing season, prices are likely to remain above the five-year average as the government has implemented a further fuel price increase of 8.3 percent, effective April 18, 2014. The FRA annual maize purchase programme is expect to begin in June and increased private sector participation is likely if FRA purchases are restricted to the strategic reserves (target of 500,000 MT), as was the case last year.

    Maize flows and trade: Informal maize and maize meal trade/export to the DRC will continue as more maize becomes available on the market. Furthermore, informal maize inflow from Mozambique and Tanzania (Mbala border) is likely to increase and follow a seasonal trend as traders and farmers take advantage of the maize marketing opportunities in Zambia provided by the FRA and private buyers. On the other hand, at Nakonde border with Tanzania, the flow is likely to be low and dependent on the comparative prices being offered on either side given the favorable maize production estimates, though prices are currently lower on the Zambian side.

    Labour opportunities: As farmers carry out harvesting, processing and marketing activities, it is expected that both agricultural and non-agricultural labour opportunities will be typical of the April-September period. Poor households will engage in these activities for both in-kind and cash payments. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected for both the first and second half of the outlook period. The country expects maize production near the five-year average, in addition to carryover stocks that should be adequate to cover annual food requirements. During this period, most farming households will depend on own production while the poor households will also have access to limited own production. In addition, they will be able to access staple food through labour exchange from the better-off households and market purchases at reduced prices.

    Maize and maize meal prices are likely to decrease along seasonal trends due to increased food stocks at the household level, which will result in lower demand while market supplies increase as producers offload their maize on the market. This will benefit urban and market-dependent households, even though prices are likely to remain above five-year average. Agricultural labour opportunities (harvesting, processing, storage and marketing) for poorer wealth groups will remain good between April and August, providing in-kind food and cash payments for staple food purchases.

    The government policy of restricted maize exports is expected to continue as the government considers it a means of sustaining national food security. This is intended to ensure adequate national food supplies, while providing for exports when feasible.

    Areas of concern

    Gwembe Valley livelihood zone (Gwembe and Siavonga Districts)

    Current Situation.  Overall current acute food insecurity is classified as Minimal (IPC Phase I). The start-of-season in this area was approximately 3 dekads (or about 30 days) late, and production was further hindered by reduced access to fertilizer due to the increased cost of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP pack). While rainfall progressed well for much of the remainder of the season, the rains ceased early by the first week of March, leading to some crops drying before full maturity. Crop yields are estimated to be down by 40 percent of average. Sorghum, which is recommended for these drought-prone areas, has also not performed well due to late planting as a result of late receipt of seed under the FISP. In addition, most farmers did not even plant, which led to reduced area planted for sorghum. Despite these issues, poor households are meeting basic food requirements from consumption of own crop production and working for better-off farmers in exchange for food.

    Relief food distribution has been ongoing to about 10 percent of the population, as recommended by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee in-depth assessment of April/May 2013, but this comes to an end in April. In addition, some areas have been accessing FRA community maize sales at slightly cheaper prices of ZMW 1.60/KG compared to ZMW 1.78 in Choma (reference market). The FRA sales are also likely to end in April.

    Cattle and small livestock are generally in good condition due to the availability of good pasture and water, as the areas received normal total rainfall for the season despite the early cessation of rains.


    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about the areas of concern,Gwembe and Siavonga districts:

    Staple food production is likely to decrease by as much as 40 percent. Therefore, poor households may run out of own-produced food by August, which is about two months earlier than normal.

    Agricultural labor opportunities (harvesting, processing and storage) will be increasingly available in May to June as better-off farmers’ production was not affected as they were able to plant early without wholly depending on subsidized inputs and while benefitting from conservation farming practices.

    Traders are likely to increase supplies of maize from the neighboring surplus-producing districts of Monze and Mazabuka to Gwembe and Siavonga districts as demand will increase by September.

    The production and sale of vegetables will increase between June and September as households take advantage of available water in rivers and streams.

    Most-Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Poor households will have adequate food consumption for the April to June period, mainly from own production. As the season progresses, minimal adequate food consumption is likely from July to September as most poor households will have reduced food stocks and low diet diversity. Households will obtain income from the sale of vegetables, agricultural and non-agricultural labour, as well as brewing. Additionally, households will engage in normal coping strategies, such as reducing non-essential expenditure and increasing the sale and consumption of wild foods in order to maintain minimal adequate food consumption levels. Overall, the most-likely food security outcome for the whole outlook period is Minimal Acute Food Insecurity (IPC Phase I).

    Events that may change the outlook

    Table 1. Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Gwembe Valley Livelihood Zone, (Gwembe and Siavonga districts)

    Significant reduction in maize production in high producing areas of Choma, Monze and Mazabuka districts, source of supply.

    Reduced supplies to the markets and therefore increased prices making staple food inaccessible to poor households.

    Choma and   Lundazi districts

    Food and cash crop yield reduction of over 30%.

    Even as these districts are surplus producing areas this may lead to poor households running out of food by August, and left with little alternative income sources as mainly depend on sale of crop produce.


    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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.

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