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Southern Africa Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis, January 2014

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • January 2014
Southern Africa Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis, January 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 January – June 2014 are based on the following regional assumptions:

    Seasonal Performance


    • While the updated seasonal forecast by SARCOF shows an increased chance of normal to above normal rains in the bulk of the region during the December to February period, the SARCOF and ECMWF forecasts also show enhanced chances of normal to below normal rainfall in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the region
    • Several areas in the southern, eastern and central parts of the region already experienced below normal rainfall in October and November. These include parts of southern Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, eastern Zambia, northern Zimbabwe, southern Malawi and northern Tanzania. December however saw above normal rains in southern Angola, northern Namibia, and most parts or Botswana –all areas affected by dry conditions over the last 1-2 seasons. Parts of southeast Botswana and northern South Africa are still facing overall below-normal rainfall totals. Rain deficits, combined with forecasts for below normal rainfall, are likely to perpetuate dry conditions in drought-affected areas in Botswana and South Africa, reducing chances of experiencing drought relief. This might negatively impact crop production, particularly in areas where the onset continues to be delayed. Late plantings, particularly in parts of southern Malawi, northern/central Mozambique and eastern Zambia are likely to delay and reduce green harvests that are normally expected around February/March and this will extend the lean season.
    • Within the dry and marginally productive areas in the region, like the semi-arid and arid parts of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, dry spells are normally experienced in January. Given that the season has had an erratic onset in some of these areas, extended dry spells in February will likely result in reduced 2013/14 harvests because the crops may fail to reach maturity.
    • A delayed and erratic Vuli (short season) onset has been experienced in much of the bimodal areas of northern Tanzania. This poor onset, combined with updated GHACOF and SARCOF forecasts showing normal to below normal rains will negatively impact Vuli crop production.

    Farm and off-farm labor opportunities and remittances

    • For areas where normal to above normal rainfall is forecast for this season; it is expected that normal cropping season activities and labor opportunities will be at levels typical for the January-May period. From January onwards, activities such as weeding and harvesting will provide labor opportunities although these opportunities could be depressed due to the possibility of mid-season dry spells (which are a normal occurrence in parts of the region).  
    • Where seasonal forecasts are now showing enhanced chances of normal to below normal; agricultural labor opportunities are likely to be below typical levels, especially where below normal rainfall is received. The occurrence of mid-season dry spells could further exacerbate the situation, reducing weeding and harvesting labor opportunities and incomes associated with these activities. 
    • Constrained migrant labor opportunities in South Africa are expected as a result of rising labor costs and this could reduce remittances during the outlook period to countries that have significant migrant populations including Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. The rise in labor costs and continuing protracted labor disputes in the mining sector in South Africa has led to sustained job losses as farm owners and companies lay off staff in order to reduce operating costs. 

    Pest infestations and disease outbreaks

    • The International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa’s (IRLCO-CSA) November report indicates that while only Malawi had reported armyworm outbreak in November, the region (including Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) is likely to experience armyworm outbreak as the rainy season progresses. However, following the control measures that were put in place following the outbreaks experienced last season, IRLCO-CSA suggests that outbreaks are likely to be contained in the 2013/14 rainfall season as governments intensify their monitoring and trapping activities.
    • The IRLCO-CSA forecasts an increase in the Red Locust populations in all outbreak areas between December and February, with January being the month when hoppers start to appear. Large-scale hatching is expected in 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). By March 2014, hoppers will form adult swarms which will migrate and pose serious danger if they are not controlled in time. There is urgent need, therefore, for all Member States to make resources available to enable large-scale survey and control operations during the hopper season and avoid locust developing into migrating swarms which will prove more difficult and expensive to control.
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its December 2013 report indicated that the southwest parts of Madagascar continue to be infested by locusts. Gregarious hoppers and egg-laying adults were reported in many parts of the invasion/ locust outbreak areas of the country. Breeding and hopper band formations are expected to continue during the forecast period. While preventative measures will continue to be taken, to control the destructive impact of the pests on the 2014 harvests, it is still likely that locust numbers will be above average during the 2013/14 cropping season due to the large scale of the locust invasion early this year.

    Markets and Trade
    • Despite tighter staple food stocks over the 2013/14 consumption season, and lower levels of exportable surpluses (mainly from South Africa and Zambia), intra and extra regional exports have been robust and are  expected to remain high until the next harvest expected to start in April. The structurally grain deficit countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland (BLNS) will continue to access most of their maize imports requirement from South Africa although competition with overseas import demand (Asia and Mexico) is expected to remain high. By mid- December, out of the reported total maize exports of 1.64 million MT, approximately 70 percent went to overseas markets (913,276 MT to markets in Asia and 190,097 MT to Mexico). 
    • During the outlook period, the Government of Zambia will continue to restrict maize and maize bran exports; only government-to-government and World Food Program (WFP) exports are exempt. However, despite these restrictions, part of the country’s exportable surplus is expected to be traded informally with the DRC, Tanzania, and Malawi. As of mid-November, the current stocks held by Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) stand at 672,560 MT; of these, 25 percent is earmarked for government-to-government and WFP exports to neighboring countries, while the rest are for the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR). At the close of the purchase program on mid-November, the FRA had purchased 85 percent of the targeted amount of 500,000 MT. Official exports out of Zambia will be limited to the available 172,859 MT, unless the agency draws down from the SGR.
    • In Malawi, limited domestic availability for the 2013/14 consumption period, along with export restrictions, will likely result in reduced informal exports, while informal imports (mainly from Mozambique and Zambia) are likely to steadily increase throughout the outlook period. Price differentials within the region will continue to provide incentives to informal cross border trade.
    • In Tanzania, wholesale maize prices increased uncharacteristically early in most markets due to early purchases by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) in July rather than between September and October. Consequently, relatively higher prices in the East African markets will likely continue to attract supplies from Malawi and Zambia though at reduced levels given the export restrictions. A below average maize harvest from the short season (Vuli) season in January/ February is also expected to further exacerbate high maize price levels. Additional demand is also possible from Kenya as a result of expected poor short rains harvest. Prices in Tanzania are likely to stabilize following the main (Msimu) harvest in June.
    • Maize prices on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) have increased notably in the past 3 months. They increased by 15 percent between October and December following the ongoing drought in the productive North West province. SAFEX maize price levels have a bearing on regional food access and will continue to be influenced by global maize price trends, the sustained depreciation of the Rand, and the speculative behavior of grain exporters as they source for more lucrative markets further afield. The evolution of international maize prices in the coming months will depend on how markets respond to new information about the 2013/14 growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. Current harvest prospects suggest that maize prices will decline further over the coming months. While local conditions will have a more significant impact on trends, sustained decreases in international prices could temper price spikes on SAFEX especially as the lean season begins to peak between January and March.
    • International crude oil prices have remained stable since October. 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 in countries with identified food insecure populations are expected to reach their peak over the course of the outlook period, particularly during the peak lean season (January/ February).With the exception of Zimbabwe, humanitarian responses/ interventions are reported fully resourced and will likely meet the needs of the targeted populations. This includes Malawi, where the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) recently revised its earlier estimates from 1.5 million to 1.8 million. 
    • In Zimbabwe, the Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) program that normally begins in October is estimated to be only approximately 64 percent funded for the period October to December, and response planning and resource mobilization is still ongoing. In addition to STA, livelihood support targeting 24 districts and 48,500 households through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been confirmed, while the government safety-net programming through cash transfers is expected to be extended to cover 10-20 percent of population in 13 districts. However, given the additional resourcing needed for the STA programming and potential pipeline breaks, assistance levels between January and March 2014 remain uncertain. Despite these planned interventions, it is likely that, even as needs peak, under-funding of humanitarian responses will continue.
    • Local and Regional Purchases (LRP) for humanitarian food commodities will likely be reduced this 2013/14 consumption year given current national demand/ supply projections which indicate that there will be less tradable maize available this year, especially from the main source - which is Zambia. WFP LRP purchase levels  in recent years suggests that the available surpluses (after trade) will be more than sufficient to cover any local procurement requirement that WFP may have to provide for its 2013/14 food assistance programs in the countries that have strict policies on GMO maize grain.  

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET

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

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: South African Futures Exchange

    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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