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Food security conditions to deteriorate as the lean season begins

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • October 2012
Food security conditions to deteriorate as the lean season begins

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Projected Outlook through December 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Although food insecurity conditions in most parts of the region have remained Minimal (IPC Phase 1) since the beginning of the consumption period, conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next six months with the start of the lean season in October.

    • Food access continues to be constrained in southern Malawi, south-western Zimbabwe, and southern Mozambique. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity conditions continue to persist at the household level in all these areas.   

    • While farmers are now preparing for the upcoming agricultural season, normal to below-normal rainfall in the 2012/13 season has been forecasted in many of the southern parts of the region. If these forecasts are realized, it is likely that the same areas that experienced prolonged dry spells during the 2011/12 season may be impacted again during the upcoming 2012/13 season.

    Current Situation

    While stable food supplies and prices in high producing areas in the region have contributed to favorable food security conditions, staple food prices in areas of concern are unusually high. Acute food insecurity conditions in most parts of the region remained stable or Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in September with the exception of localized areas in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Lesotho. Poor households in southern Malawi, southern and western Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique are facing food insecurity conditions ranging between Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3).  In Mozambique, this includes most of Funhalouro, Chigubo, and parts of Chicualacuala, Panda and Machanga districts, where conditions are likely to continue until the next main harvest in March 2013. In August, the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) conducted an acute food insecurity analysis and found that food insecurity levels in Lesotho ranged between Stressed and Crisis. There are also reports that conditions in Angola have significantly deteriorated since September, particularly in Cuanza Sul, Benguela and Namibe.

    In areas experiencing Minimal food insecurity conditions, many households are still able to meet their food needs from their own production, while poorer households are supplementing winter production foods with market purchases; which is typical for this time of the season.

    Food access throughout southern Malawi is being compromised by increasing maize prices, further depreciation of the local currency exchange rate, transportation costs, and limited casual labor. All of these factors are contributing to eroding household purchasing power in mostly rural and some urban areas. Implementation of humanitarian assistance in some parts of southern Malawi has been slower than expected and households’ access to subsidized maize grain in some Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) markets is variable. Subsequently Crisis levels of food insecurity persist in southern Malawi and could further deteriorate in the coming six months if current humanitarian assistance plans are discontinued or delayed. In Zimbabwe, average maize grain prices in deficit areas are at USD 0.44/kg compared to the national average of USD 0.30/kg. However, maize grain supplies in deficit areas are limited and households have begun purchasing the more expensive maize flour at USD 0.57/kg. In southern Malawi, the average maize price is at MKW 70.00/kg compared to the national average of about MKW 56.00/kg, further limiting household access to food.

    Regional maize supply/demand improved slightly following an increase in the estimated cereal production (Table 1). Currently, the region is projected to have a surplus of 572,000 MT of maize, inclusive of national strategic grain reserves (SGR).  South Africa continues to be the main source of maize imports for structurally cereal deficit neighboring States.  Additionally, demand from outside the region has remained high , with over 70 percent of total maize exports going to Mexico since the beginning of the marketing year. In line with current global maize price trends, which are currently stable and declining, prices of white maize on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) declined by 10 percent between August and September. 

    Projected Outlook through December 2012
    • Food insecurity conditions are expected to deteriorate (as is typical) with the advent of the lean season in October. A rapid decline in conditions could occur in the localized areas already experiencing Stressed and Crisis levels of acute food insecurity, if poor households are not sufficiently meeting their basic food needs under current levels of humanitarian assistance and if this assistance is discontinued or delayed during the Outlook period.
    • There is increased pressure on dwindling market supplies as the lean season begins and this is expected to further exacerbate current upward price movements in the region, resulting in constrained food access for many rural and urban poor households that rely on market purchases during the lean season. Food prices are likely to spike more in the food insecure areas where the availability of staple grains is already limited and marketing (especially transportation) costs are higher than normal. In Zimbabwe’s maize deficit areas grain supply in markets is scarce, so poor households are purchasing the more costly maize grain. Similarly increasing transportation costs in Malawi are contributing to maize price levels in the south that are 16 percent higher than the national average.  
    • Regional supplies of maize grain, especially exportable surpluses are expected to tighten over the next six months. South Africa, which has the largest surplus in the region, has already exported 53 percent of its available surplus; and Zambia, which projected a surplus of just over one million, has increased its strategic grain reserve requirement (SGR) by 50 percent.  This SGR increase will essentially cut in half available exportable supplies to the deficit parts of the region. SAFEX prices of maize in South Africa will continue to mirror global trends which have recently stabilised in response to latest global demand/supply projections while also responding to variations in the value of the local currency.
    • As farmers prepare for the upcoming 2012/13 agricultural season, national, regional and international forecasting institutions are predicting high chances of normal to below-normal rainfall for the 2012/13 rainfall season in some parts of the region. This is in line with the recent El Nĩno conditions downgrade by the International Research Institute (IRI) and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) of the chances of an El Nĩno event over the September - November period. The IRI/CPC forecast suggests greater chances for continuing weak El Nĩno conditions with the possibility of strengthening over the next few months.
    • Alternatively, the European Centre for Medium-Range weather forecasts and the IRI predict an increased chance of below-normal rains during the November 2012 to January 2013 period in some parts of the region, including parts of South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho. If below-normal rains occur as forecasted, some of the same areas affected by prolonged dry spells during the 2011/12 growing season may be affected during the 2012/13 season. 
    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Projected Maize Supply/Demand Balance as at 17 October 2012 (‘000 MT)

    Figure 2

    Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Projected Maize Supply/Demand Balance as at 17 October 2012 (‘000 MT)

    Source: SADC RVAC, and National Early Warning Units

    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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