Skip to main content

Favorable food security conditions projected through December 2011

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • October 2011
Favorable food security conditions projected through December 2011

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Updated regional food security outlook through December 2011
  • Key Messages
    • Food security remains satisfactory over most parts of Southern Africa due to adequate availability of staple foods from this year’s harvests and modest carryover stocks. These favorable conditions are expected to continue throughout the outlook period with most local markets remaining adequately stocked with staple foods as private traders and government agencies continue to move available foods from surplus to deficit areas. 

    • Price trends continue to be largely influenced by the ready availability of foods on local markets. As the marketing season reaches its peak after the May/June harvests, prices continue to follow normal seasonal trends with most of them remaining stable over the July to September period. However, from August, a few reference markets began to reflect moderate price increases, particularly those facing increased demand especially from cross border traders buying maize for export.

    • Preparations for the 2011/12 agricultural season are underway across the region. Although farming inputs are reportedly readily available on local markets, access to inputs will remain a challenge for the very poor and under-resourced households. However, many governments throughout the region, supported by development partners continue to implement agriculture support programs (including input subsidies) to boost crop production. 


    Updated regional food security outlook through December 2011

    Food security remains satisfactory over most parts of Southern Africa due to adequate availability of staple foods from this year’s harvests and modest carryover stocks from previous years. These favorable conditions are expected to continue till the end of December 2011 with most local markets remaining adequately stocked with staple foods as traders move available supplies from surplus to deficit areas both internally and across borders. Nominal food prices continue to follow normal seasonal price trends: in markets located in surplus areas, prices have remained relatively stable, though modest increases are now being reported while in deficit areas prices are now steadily rising due to increased market demand. The satisfactory on-farm and market availability of food together with stable local market prices means that most households will remain food secure in the first half of the lean season, and that generally, food insecurity even as the lean season peaks in January/ February will be less severe (and less widespread) this year compared to both last year and the five-year average.  However, in some localized areas facing food deficits, significant proportions of vulnerable households (more than 20 percent) will experience stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2). Such conditions are more pronounced in those areas that have faced successive years of production failures and livelihoods shocks. These include Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Balaka, and Thyolo districts in southern Malawi; Binga, Zvishavane, Umzingwane, and Mudzi districts in Zimbabwe; and Massangena, and Chigubo districts in southern Mozambique. The gradual erosion of livelihoods and the weakening of coping capacities among the very poor and poor households in these areas will make it difficult for these households to access adequate food and other basic necessities, and still maintain current livelihood systems, without external assistance.  Significant numbers of food insecure households have also been identified in the flood-affected areas of northern Namibia, and parts of Lesotho where excessive rains caused widespread crop failure.

    With the lean season now firmly established in these areas, households’ dependence on purchases has significantly increased; which together with the reported increases in transportation costs has resulted in much higher than expected price increases especially since the end of August.  For example, maize prices in food deficit areas of southern Malawi have spiked sharply (jumping from MKW31/kg in August to MKW50/kg by mid-September), suggesting growing pressure on available local supplies. High prices at the onset of the lean season mean that the very poor and poor households will find it more difficult to meet their food requirements as the lean season progresses.  Such households are already reported to have begun engaging in negative or irreversible coping strategies such as eating toxic foods and disposing of livelihood assets to meet food requirements. A combination of high food prices, delayed and/or inadequate assistance to affected households, and late onset of the 2011/12 rainy season could exacerbate current conditions. National governments and partners should therefore ensure that requisite assistance/ interventions programs are in place to mitigate current and evolving food insecurity in these affected areas.

    In Zimbabwe, the reintroduction of import duty on some basic commodities could exacerbate food price increases and the general cost of living, impacting negatively on households’ purchasing power and food access. Many households previously assessed as facing minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) risk slipping into stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) at the peak of the lean season. Nonetheless, planned interventions to assist food insecure households are on track, with the government planning to move close to 50,000MT of food to affected areas. Humanitarian agencies are also planning on short-term assistance from October, whilst safety net programs supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) are also on-going and targeting close to 300,000 beneficiaries throughout the country. This support is expected to continue through December 2011.

    Although for most parts of the region most households will remain food secure in the period up to December 2011, threats such as rising food prices, undersupplied markets, and delayed onset of rains which can lead to  reduction in  casual labor demand and income earning opportunities, will increasingly compromise food security. These threats require close monitoring especially in the areas of concern where their occurrence could easily cause an increased number of vulnerable households to slip into stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2).  Areas requiring close monitoring include parts of southern Malawi (parts of Zomba, Chiradzulu, Blantyre, Neno and Mwanza districts), southern Mozambique (parts of Changara, Chemba, Mutarara, and Machaze in the central region; and Chicualacuala, Mabalane, Mabote, Funhalouro, and Panda districts in the south), southern Zimbabwe (Buhera, Bulilima, Chipinge, Insiza, Kwekwe, Mangwe, Masvingo, Mbire,  Mwenezi,  Shurugwi, Umguza, and Zaka districts), and parts of Tanzania (Lake Victoria areas - Shinyanga, Mwanza and Mara; Central areas - Dodoma, Singida and Tabora;  North and Northeastern areas - Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tanga,  and Manyara).  In most of these areas, rising food prices (as available supplies dwindle and transport costs escalate) are the major threat to food security with levels above both last year and the five-year average.

    Market and price update

    Generally, outside of these areas of concern, price trends this year continue to be largely influenced by the ready availability of foods on local markets as a result of this year’s average to above average harvests. As the marketing season reaches its peak following the harvest in May/June, prices continue to follow normal season trends.  Most food prices have been stable between July and September. However, a few reference markets have begun to reflect moderate increases in prices, especially for foods such as beans and groundnuts. Similarly, reference markets that face increased demand especially from cross border traders are also reflecting marked increases in the prices of maize. 

    This trend has been notable in some markets in the north and central regions of Malawi where the ready market in the Greater Horn of Africa and in Zimbabwe continues to provide incentive to traders to source maize for export. Another notable phenomenon is that markets in larger consumption centers (such as Maputo and Dar es Salaam) in Mozambique and Tanzania continue to reflect prices that are significantly above last year and the past 5-year average which is contrary to price trends in markets located closer to where the surpluses are produced (for example Mbeya in Tanzania, and Nampula in Mozambique).

    In South Africa the average monthly spot price for white maize on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) continues to spiral upwards, tracking international maize commodity prices (Figure 4).  The September SAFEX spot price for white maize of R2,211/MT has risen a significant 31 percent from the R1682/MT quoted at the beginning of the marketing year in May.  The sustained increase in maize prices is also partly due to increased demand for South African maize from international export markets in light of reduced global supplies, especially from the US which is the primary maize exporter. This increasing price trend does not bode well for South Africa’s maize deficit neighbours who import most of their requirements from South Africa.  Higher landed prices will erode the purchasing power of poor households particularly in Lesotho and Swaziland whose economies have been weakened by on-going financial challenges.

    2011/12 Seasonal progress

    Preparations for the 2011/12 agricultural season are underway across the region. Although seeds and fertilisers are reported as readily available on local markets, access to inputs will remain a challenge for the rural poor and under-resourced households.  In Zimbabwe, where input availability has been problematic in the recent past, the Seed Traders’ Association estimates that the current domestic maize seed supply has the potential of planting over 3 million hectares; well above the recent five-year average of 1.7 million hectares planted. To improve access to inputs and boost agricultural production, many governments (as is reported in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe), assisted by development partners, are implementing a range of agriculture support programs, including input subsidy programs. These programs, coupled with favourable agroclimatic conditions have boosted crop production in most countries (especially Malawi and Zambia) over the past four consecutive years.  However this year input distribution under the input subsidy program in Malawi could be delayed due to slow progress in the delivery of imported inputs. Tight foreign currency reserves have also impacted negatively on fuel supplies resulting in transportation bottlenecks which could potentially lead to further delays in the distribution exercise.  

    Figures Seasonal calendar and critical events timeline

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar and critical events timeline

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3.  Nominal Retail prices of white maize on selected markets, April 2006 – September 2011(USD Equivalents)

    Figure 2

    Figure 3. Nominal Retail prices of white maize on selected markets, April 2006 – September 2011(USD Equivalents)

    Source: FEWS NET Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia

    Figure 4.  Maize spot prices SAFEX Commodity Derivatives Market

    Figure 3

    Figure 4. Maize spot prices SAFEX Commodity Derivatives Market

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top