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Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis, April 2014

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • April 2014
Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis, April 2014

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  • Preface
  • Seasonal Performance
  • Markets and Trade
  • Humanitarian Assistance

  • Preface
    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET uses scenario development. In this methodology, an analyst uses current evidence to develop assumptions about the future and compare their possible effects. The following report outlines assumptions at the regional level. Assumptions are also developed at the country level; these are likely to be more detailed. Together, the regional and national assumptions are the foundation for the integrated analysis reported in FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlooks and Outlook Updates. Learn more about our work here. FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlook reports for April - September 2014 are based on the following regional assumptions:

    Seasonal Performance
    Agroclimatology
    • Following a late start of the season, the remainder of the Southern African monsoon season in March and April will likely be near normal in terms of total rainfall across the region, especially in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia. Crop performance is therefore expected to remain good in most of the region except parts of Angola, Tanzania, and northern Namibia where current rainfall performance indicates that below normal seasonal outcomes are likely to occur.
    • Early cessation of rains is not expected in most areas that experienced a delayed start of season (parts of eastern Zambia, southern Malawi, and northern/central Mozambique). This will allow late planted crops to reach maturity without compromising yields. This outcome is indicated by an analysis of factors, including short-term forecasts, current soil moisture conditions, recent rainfall, and likelihood of rainfall following recent 5-year trends. The same analysis however indicates a likelihood of dryness between March and the end of season in localized parts of northern Malawi, and central Mozambique (Figure 1).
    Farm and off-farm labor opportunities and remittances
    • Throughout the region, it is expected that agriculture labor opportunities will be at levels typical for the April - September period. Farmers will focus on harvesting, processing, storage, and marketing during the first part of the outlook period. As is normal, labor opportunities are expected to start declining during the second part of the outlook period. In localized areas with second season agricultural activities, labor opportunities will remain available through September. 
    • Migrant labor opportunities in South Africa are expected to remain constrained as labor costs continue to rise due to demands for increased minimum wages, and the protracted labor disputes in the farming and mining sectors. While most households typically rely less on remittances over this outlook period, it is likely that remittance levels to neighboring countries with significant migrant populations (Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) will fall below typical levels.  
    Pest infestations and disease outbreaks
    • The International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa’s (IRLCO-CSA) points to fewer outbreaks of the armyworm over the 2013/14 rainy season due to the control measures put in place following last season’s outbreaks. The February report forecasts that as the rainy season comes to an end (April-June), armyworm outbreaks will recede in the endemic areas of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and southern Tanzania. However, isolated incidents of late outbreaks could occur in Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique in the period up to May, possibly impacting crops.
    • According to the IRLCO-CSA Red Locusts are expected to have successfully bred and formed hopper groups and bands during late February in the outbreak areas of  Ikuu-Katavi plains, Malagarasi Basin and Wembere plains (Tanzania), Lake Chilwa/Lake Chiuta plains (Malawi), Buzi-Gorongosa plains (Mozambique), the Dimba plains (Mozambique), and Kafue Flats (Zambia). If uncontrolled, the hoppers will likely form adult swarms by April, into May - which will migrate from outbreak areas posing serious threat to crops and pasture in neighboring countries. Some swarms may migrate as far as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola as well as Tanzania’s East Africa neighbors.
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the January 2014 Malagasy Locust Update reported that mature and immature adults as well as hoppers were detected in various areas in the outbreak, invasion, concentration, and multiplication areas of Madagascar. Copulation and egg-laying were also observed during this period. With these conditions in place, and the favorable ecological conditions and vast dispersion of parental populations, it is expected that locust activities will increase and outbreaks will occur in several places in the coming months. These outbreaks, though above average, are however expected to be less severe due to ongoing control efforts. Impact on crop production is therefore expected to be less severe than last year.

    Markets and Trade
    • With the new harvest expected to be available by April, most households across the region are expected to reduce their dependence on markets for staple foods, reducing pressure on local markets, and subsequently leading to the typical seasonal drop in food prices. However, given the higher levels maintained throughout 2013/14 season, prices on most markets are likely to remain above those of their respective five-year averages. Delayed harvests in several parts of the region where the onset of the rains was late and erratic, will tend to keep prices in these localized markets higher for a longer period than normal.
    • With current seasonal performance indicating near normal (average) production levels in most of the region, it is expected that upcoming 2014 crop harvests will boost staple food supplies between April and September, and provide incentives for local and cross-border traders to embark on purchases for export. South Africa will remain the major source of exports to neighboring structurally grain deficit countries. Despite a significantly lower (by 65 percent) projected carryover over stock as at May 1st 2014, the exportable surplus is likely to remain at par with last season given the expected 6.1 percent increase in overall production. While exports are expected to remain robust over the 2014/15 season, it is expected that export volumes over the outlook period will be typically low - as most countries will largely rely on nationally produced food following the April – June harvest period.
    • While overall export demand from the region’s other top maize producers (Zambia and Tanzania) is expected to remain high, pressure on available stocks will be less in the April to September outlook period since it is still quite early in the marketing season. Zambia is expected to continue the policy to restrict maize and maize meal exports (allowing only government-to-government and World Food Program (WFP) exports) given that this year’s harvest is likely to remain at par with last year due to the delayed start of season in some of the productive districts in the Eastern province and the expected lower carryover stocks due to the tighter supplies last season. Malawi is also likely to maintain its export ban though it is expected that despite increased border policing, informal trade in both Zambia and Malawi will continue as traders buy up current supplies while prices are relatively low. Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency’s (FRA) maize purchase program is scheduled to take place between June and September, and, if the attractive prices offered in previous years are maintained, there will likely be significant volumes of informal cross-border maize in-flows into Zambia from neighboring Tanzania and Malawi during the period of the FRA purchase program.
    • Tanzania’s 2013 bumper crop harvest has led to prices of maize and rice remaining atypically stable across most markets between December 2013 and March 2014. However, there is increased likelihood for below average rainfall (from March to May 2014) along northern Tanzania, which will be a third consecutive season of below average rainfall in these areas. Consequently maize and rice prices will likely increase albeit moderately between March and June due to high demand in markets in northern Tanzania, southeastern and coastal Kenya. Prices are then expected to decline seasonably from July onwards with increased supplies during the masika and msimu harvests (July-September) in Tanzania. Cross border outflows of maize from Tanzania to neighboring Zambia and Malawi are likely to be limited given the expected comparatively lower selling prices in these two countries.
    • While Malawi is one of the top maize producers in the region, mixed expectations in terms of harvest prospects are likely to lead to limited domestic availability for the 2014/15 consumption period, and limited surplus stock for export. This, along with export restrictions, will likely result in informal cross border trade patterns similar to those observed in 2013/14. Informal imports (mainly from Mozambique and Zambia) are likely to be more robust as traders take advantage and buy up stock during the harvest period when prices levels are relatively lower. 
    • The recent price spikes in maize on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) are expected to abate, following the positive impacts of recent rainfall performance and increased area planted to maize. This downturn could also be supported by increased stability in international prices on the back of positive supply outlook in corn production. Nonetheless, the depreciation of the Rand and the speculative behavior of grain exporters will also impact on SAFEX price trends. The expected downturn over the outlook period could be less significant if the local currency continues to depreciate (as it has done in recent months – dropping 23 percent year-on year since February 2013) due to prevailing macro economic conditions.
    • International crude oil prices were stable between December and January. However, fuel prices continued to increase in some importing countries due to the depreciation of the local currency vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar and changing fuel price policies. Over the outlook period, fuel price trends in FEWS NET countries will vary depending not only on the international market conditions, but also on the design and implementation of local fuel import and price policies.

    Humanitarian Assistance
    • Humanitarian assistance needs are expected to be minimal throughout the region during the outlook period as most poor households will rely on own production and labor exchange. However, emergency food assistance distributions are expected to continue in flood and cyclone affected parts of the region, especially in Madagascar and several districts in Mozambique’s main river basins. This assistance will be provided by national governments and their partners. Input and seeds distribution will also be provided to enable second season planting in areas where this is practiced. 
    • In areas where the season has performed poorly, on-going vulnerability and food security assessments will determine the number of people likely to face acute food insecurity in the 2014/15 consumption period and the level of humanitarian assistance that may be required.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 4

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Extended Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) - likely outcome if the rest of rainfall season follows recent

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Extended Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) - likely outcome if the rest of rainfall season follows recent 5-year trends (100 day crop).

    Source: FEWS NET and USGS

    Figure 2. Comparison of White Maize Prices on SAFEX market.

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Comparison of White Maize Prices on SAFEX market.

    Source: SAFEX

    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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