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End of lean season ushers in Minimal food insecurity outcomes throughout the region

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • April 2013
End of lean season ushers in Minimal food insecurity outcomes throughout the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outcomes through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity outcomes are Minimal (IPC Phase 1) over most parts of the region and are expected to remain so through June. Targeted humanitarian assistance is meeting household needs in food insecure areas of Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, southern Mozambique, and Lesotho. 

    • A prolonged dry spell in the southern half of the region has continued for over two months in some areas, resulting in crop yield reductions and dampened harvest expectations. Though crop prospects remain good in some parts of the region, other factors that have compromised expected harvests in other parts include an erratic onset of rains, armyworm outbreaks, input distribution challenges, along with flooding and waterlogging. 

    Current Situation

    Increased availability of seasonal crops over most parts of the region marks the end of the lean season. Many households are now supplementing market purchases with foods from the green harvest. In general, prices of the main staples are still rising seasonably, though a few markets in high production areas have started recording price drops as traders offload last season’s stocks in anticipation of the new harvests. Nonetheless, exceptions to normal trends continue to be noted in parts of the region where price levels (and increases) remain atypically high due to localized 2011/12 production shortfalls and overall tight supplies, strong export demand, macroeconomic instability, and high transport and marketing costs. These factors have put upward pressure on prices in certain reference markets in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia.

    The region has faced several challenges over the 2012/13 cropping season including an erratic onset of rains, armyworm outbreaks, input distribution challenges, flooding and waterlogging, and prolonged dry spells.  Large rainfall deficits in Botswana, Namibia, southern Angola, southern Zimbabwe and northern/central South Africa as a result of the prolonged dry spell have reduced crop yields and have had negative impacts on pasture conditions.  Nonetheless, crops in areas that have had generally satisfactory crop growing conditions are reported to be in good condition.  According to the March Southern Africa Seasonal Monitor, this includes most parts of Malawi, northern/central Mozambique, and the northern and south eastern parts of South Africa. Harvest forecasts and estimates are yet to be issued in most countries – these will provide an indication of overall regional staple food supplies for the 2013/14 consumption period which has commenced in many countries. Forecasts are only available from South Africa and the latest estimate released on March 26th indicates a 5 percent downward revision of the initial forecast (of 12.35 million MT) of the commercial crop due to the effects of the dry spells.


    • Throughout southern Malawi, consumption of the increasingly available staple foods (early and green harvests) is filling the food gaps that resulted from last year’s production shortfalls. The reported resumption of informal maize imports from Mozambique and the start of harvests have dampened maize price increases in the affected districts in the south.  As harvests begin countrywide, prices are expected to stabilize and decrease, but are likely to remain above last year’s levels. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes for all households are expected through June throughout the country. 


    • The food security situation has improved over the past month and the current food insecurity outcomes are Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for the majority of the rural households since food is more readily available through harvests and targeted food assistance. Although in general maize prices are still rising seasonably; prices in some key reference markets (i.e. Gorongosa in the central zone) are dropping as traders rapidly offload last year’s stocks in anticipation of the new harvest.
    • Most rural households are expected to meet their livelihood protection and food needs from the ongoing harvest of food and cash crops for the remainder of the outlook period. The exception is flood affected Chókwe district where in the presence of humanitarian assistance, Stressed outcomes (IPC Phase 2) will persist through June.  


    • The erratic rainfall in the southern parts of Zambia has affected crop production; delaying green harvests and reducing expected yields.  While most households are still depending on market purchases for their staple food, this will soon be augmented by own production when the harvest begins in April/May. Food insecurity remains Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and the situation is expected to remain stable through June.  


    • Food insecurity outcomes across the country remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) on account of steady food imports and the continued distribution of humanitarian assistance. Minimal outcomes are expected to persist as poor households start to consume green foods and harvests between April and June. However, dry spells in southern, south-eastern, and south-western parts of the country (especially in Matebeleland South and Masvingo Provinces) have resulted in moisture deficits which have compromised crop yields, further dampening harvest expectations in affected districts.


    • Between April and June, in the presence of assistance Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected because many households are expected to start consuming food from their own harvests, while some of the poor facing food and livelihood protection gaps will continue to receive humanitarian assistance during this period.  However, harvests from the 2012/13 season have been compromised by a late start of the season, early frost in the mountains, a mid-season dry spell and severe armyworm infestations. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the regional assumptions used in the February Outlook report for the period of January – June 2013. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the February Southern Africa Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outcomes through June 2013

    From April to June, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes are projected for most parts of the region as the majority of households will start accessing food from the main season harvest expected in April. The harvest season will also provide opportunities for labor exchange enabling improved access to food for poorer households. Food prices are expected to stabilize and start declining in response to improved market provisioning from the harvests, and reduced household dependence on market purchases. These conditions are expected to prevail during the second half of the outlook period (April-June), even in parts of the region where production could be below average due to poor rainfall performance and/or flood impacts, because most households will manage to harvest some food to last them at least three months. The exception is in flood impacted parts of southern Mozambique (Chókwe district) where the impact of flooding was more extreme; resulting in the loss of lives, the displacement of thousands of people, loss of crops, and asset and infrastructure damage. In Chókwe, while receiving assistance households are projected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period and will only have access to crops planted in flood recession areas in July.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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