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Early depletion of 2018 staple production by households likely to trigger staple price increases

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • July 2018
Early depletion of 2018 staple production by households likely to trigger staple price increases

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  • Key Messages
  • Countries Monitored Remotely
  • Key Messages
    • Cereal production for most countries is  below-average for the 2018 cropping season due to erratic rains and long dry spells experienced during the 2017/18 rainfall season. Several areas in the region are currently experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes, including parts of southern and western Zimbabwe, eastern and central DRC, southern Mozambique, and southern Madagascar. Current drivers of food insecurity within these countries include below-average household production, low incomes, and continuing conflict.

    • With ongoing harvest activities, much of the remainder of the region is experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, from September onwards conditions are expected to deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis ( IPC Phase 3).

    • Market food supplies are stable across the region and carryover stocks from the bumper harvest last season are also helping to stabilize supplies. Currently there are no major trade restrictions across borders, thus maize grain can flow from surplus to deficit areas and countries. Nonetheless, due to below-average production in parts of the region, cereal supplies are expected to decline earlier than usual, resulting in increased market demand earlier than usual, and food prices increases above what most poor households can afford.

    • Early international forecasts for Southern Africa have indicated that there are increased chances of El Niño-induced below-average rainfall for the 2018-19 rainfall season. This possibility is likely to affect agriculture activities in the coming season including access to labor and wage rates. Compounded by below-average 2018 harvests, the upcoming lean season is likely to be severe.


    Democratic Republic of the Congo 

    • The activity of armed groups, ongoing military operations and intercommunity violence in North Kivu, Tanganyika, Kasaï Central and Ituri are resulting in continued population displacement and, in turn, populations struggling to make a living. At present, there are 772,052 Congolese refugees in neighboring countries – of these, 104,351 arrived in the first five months of 2018. This is in addition to the 4.49 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country.
    • June marks the beginning of the season B harvest of the main food products in the northeast and central east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Given the irregular rainfall recorded during the season and the latest population displacements from crisis zones, current harvests are thought to be below average, and stocks are low.
    • On account of the relatively low level of stocks following the conflicts and flooding in production areas, less food products will be available on the market and prices could rise during the lean season, which will arrive early (at the beginning of August). The volume of imports from neighboring countries during this period will be decisive.

    To learn more, read the complete June 2018 Democratic Republic of Congo Food Security Outlook.


    • As the postharvest period continues, very poor and poor households in districts in the southern and central region will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes from June to September. Most of these districts will transition to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season from October to January, when food prices are at their highest and local cereal supplies are at their lowest. Drivers of the projected area outcomes include below-average access to income from casual labor opportunities and crop sales because of dryness and erratic rains during the 2017/18 cropping season, and above-average maize prices from November to January.
    • The 2nd round production estimates showed that overall cereal production for the 2017/18 season was below average. Production of maize is 15 percent below the five-year average and other crops that registered a decrease include groundnuts, pulses, and cotton. Despite these reductions maize grain is readily available in markets and carryover stocks from the previous season will fill some of the national requirement gap.
    • Maize prices are currently trending lower than the same time last year and slightly below average. Normal season trends for prices are expected during the outlook period. Maize prices are expected to increase from July to October, pushing prices closer to average during this period. From November onwards, maize prices will increase and trend above average. The increasing price and longer than normal length of time households will be required to make purchases will constrain purchasing power and result in livelihood protection and food deficits.

    To learn more, read the complete June 2018 Malawi Food Security Outlook.


    • Following crop failure and significantly below-average main season production, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are already present in semiarid areas of Gaza and Inhambane, requiring urgent food assistance. Food security is projected to deteriorate and extend to other southern and central areas, primarily Tete, through January 2019. However, in the north and some central areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to prevail through the scenario period due to favorable food availability and access.
    • From June to September 2018, the majority of poor households are likely to consume food from their own production and market purchases. However, in areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, poor households are expected to employ coping strategies to try to cover their food gaps. From October 2018 to January 2019, during the typical lean season period, households are likely to employ even more unsustainable coping measures, including excessively consuming wild foods. The number of food insecure people is also likely to increase.
    • In southern and central areas, incomes are expected to remain below average, particularly given the most likely El Niño and impacts on the new agricultural season. However, through November, food access will be slightly facilitated by generally below-average maize prices in urban markets. Thereafter, prices are likely to continue rising, constraining purchasing power. In semiarid areas, below-average maize supplies, combined with increased demand, could push prices to above-average levels, particularly in remote markets.

    To learn more, read the complete June 2018 Mozambique Food Security Outlook.


    • National rice production will likely be 3.6 Million MT which is 17 percent higher than last year and near the 5-year average. Overall national maize production will likely be 264,000 MT which is 6 percent lower than last year and 21 percent below the 5-year average. National cassava production will likely be 2.6 Million MT which is 3 percent higher than last year but 7 percent below the 5-year average.
    • There was unexpected rainfall in Southwestern Madagascar during the first week of June although the rainy season usually ends in May. Between 10 and 30 mm fell in Tulear II, Betioky and Ampanihy which allowed farmers to prepare lands and plant off-season crops of sweet potatoes and pulses in localized communes.
    • Prices for most staple food prices stabilized in April/May. Imported rice prices remain the same as last year at the same period but are 23 percent above the 5-year average. Local rice prices are 11 percent higher than last year and 31 percent above the 5-year average. Maize prices are 15 percent lower than last year but remain 17 percent higher than 5-year average.
    • Most humanitarian assistance ended in May 2018 despite continued needs in the south. Planned humanitarian assistance is minimal for the outlook period of July 2018 to January 2019 and is expected to cover less than 20 percent of the population living in areas of concern.

    To learn more, read the June 2018 Madagascar Food Security Outlook.


    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected across most typical deficit crop-producing areas in the south, west, and extreme northern regions of the country between August 2018 and January 2019. Typical surplus production areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period. Projected outcomes during the outlook period are driven by the 2017-18 below-average to average production levels, the resulting decrease in income from casual labor and other sources, as well as the ongoing liquidity challenges.
    • At the national level, 2018 production combined with carryover stocks from the 2017 season will bring maize supplies to above-average levels. However, deficits are expected later in the marketing year. Maize prices are projected to remain below average until August/September, and trend near the seasonal averages for the rest of the outlook period as demand increases.
    • Early international forecasts for Southern Africa indicate increased probabilities for El Niño-induced below-average rainfall for the 2018-19 season. Although there is some uncertainty in this forecast, poor rains will likely affect livelihood activities from October 2018 to January 2019.

    To learn more, read the June 2018 Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.

    Countries Monitored Remotely


    • Below-average cereal production, reduced income from casual labor, below-average remittances, and projected above-average maize meal prices will drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes from June to September among poor farming households. As food security conditions deteriorate, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are projected from October to January.
    • Based on the El Niño forecast, below-average rainfall is the most likely outcome during the early portion of the Southern Africa rainy season between October 2018 to January 2019. Based on this forecast for the upcoming season, the availability of labor is expected to be lower than normal during the outlook period, and increased competition for work is expected to push down wage rates.

    To learn more, read the June 2018 Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report.


    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    Entire regionSignificant increases in fuel prices following global trendsHigher fuel costs would directly increase transportation cost for the movement of grain from source markets to consumers and will likely result in staple price increases beyond the projected levels, making it difficult for poor households to access the product on the market. 
    Entire regionConfirmation of the El Niño conditions Households with surplus grain will likely hold on to their stocks if the currently observed El Niño conditions are confirmed.  This will likely result in reduced stocks of maize grain stocks on the market during the lean season. Household demand will continue to increase during the outlook period, and prices will likely rise to levels that poor and very poor households cannot afford.


    Figures Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source: Fews Net

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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