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Minimal acute food insecurity outcomes to prevail across the region

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • May - October 2013
Minimal acute food insecurity outcomes to prevail across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Regional Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Most rural households across the region will maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes between April and June, relying mainly on own produced food stocks from the main season harvest. However, a few localized areas in  southern Mozambique will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1)  and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the presence of assistance, while parts of Lesotho will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in the presence of humanitarian assistance between April and June.

    • From July to September, food insecurity for the majority of poor households across the region will continue to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with many continuing to access most of their food from the main season harvest and less from market purchases. However in localized parts of the region, including parts of Mozambique, Malawi, and parts of southern and western Zambia, where poor households are facing poor main harvest prospects, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected.

    • The projected near-average maize harvests across the region are expected to be sufficient to meet regional requirements for the next six months and beyond. According to current production forecasts, regional cereal availability is projected to be at almost the same levels as the previous year and marginally above the past  five-year average. These expected maize levels are mainly due to mixed crop growth and development conditions across the region, along with rain performance that can be characterized as generally poor. Compared to last season, only a few countries experienced more favorable conditions this season. 


    Regional Overview

    Key Regional Issues

    Overall, the food security situation is currently favorable with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes. Across the region, with the start of the harvest households are accessing adequate staple food supplies and an increased variety of seasonal foods. As the new harvest enters local markets prices are stabilizing and declining.

    Markets and Trade

    Markets across the region continue to play a pivotal role in providing urban and rural households access to staple foods even as households begin to increasingly rely on their own production at the start of the new harvest.  Maize prices are now dropping as harvests enter local markets and as demand falls due to increased reliance on consumption from own production. Despite these general trends, maize prices have remained above those recorded during the same period in 2012 in some areas.  This trend in surplus countries has been due in part to persistent strong regional demand for maize  outside of the region, which has resulted in a tightening in regional availability.  Export demand from the Horn of Africa, and international markets (Mexico in particular), has been particularly strong. 

    Reports from South Africa, which contributes close to 50 percent of the region’s maize supplies, indicates that from the 2012/13 exportable surplus of just over 2 million MT, approximately 1.78 million MT was exported as of the end of April. Of this exported amount, 46 percent went to Mexico, while 34 percent was shipped to neighboring maize deficit countries, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland. Maize spot prices on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) have been declining; reflecting current harvest expectations and the global price trends as prices on this market closely track trends on international markets.  The latest estimates that were released on May 23rd and indicate that a commercial maize crop of 11.44 million MT is expected.  This latest crop projection is marginally lower than the 2011/12 commercial crop of 11.83 million MT.

    In Zambia, the onset of the harvest season has resulted in reduced pressure on maize prices due to a decline in household dependency on markets to access food. Maize prices are dropping seasonably as local market supplies increase. By the end of May the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will discontinue maize market sales to millers as the new harvest enters the market. The FRA is estimated to have 240,000 MT in carryover stocks for the next 2013/14 marketing season, in addition to miller, farmer, and trader stocks, bringing the total national maize carryover to approximately 455,000 MT at the start of the marketing season in May. The FRA also plans to purchase 500,000 MT from small scale farmers between June and October for strategic grain reserves.

    Despite a national maize export ban in Malawi that was imposed to safeguard national supplies, total informal cross-border maize exports between April 2012 and March 2013 were 18 percent higher than the five-year average. Most of the informal maize exports (85 percent) during this period were recorded at the two monitored Malawi-Tanzania border points in northern Malawi. This grain was reportedly destined for the Greater Horn of Africa. During the same period, the volume of informal imports into Malawi were only 31 percent of the five-year average. This reduction reflects the absence of maize in-flows through Muloza (where most informal maize trade normally occurs in southern Malawi) since July 2012 due to reduced availability in neighboring areas of Mozambique. Throughout the 2012/13 marketing season, maize retail prices across the country have been well above both last year and the past five-year average.

    The March average national retail price for maize was 253 percent higher than last year’s due to the continued depreciation of the Malawian Kwacha (MWK), tighter supplies and high demand, high fuel costs, and the reported loss of over 32,000 MT of maize stocks held by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) due to rain and spoilage. This loss is reported to have reduced carryover stocks into the 2013/14 marketing season, and has led to a reported purchase of 30,000 MT of maize from Zambia.  Maize availability in Malawi during the 2013/14 marketing season is estimated to be tight amidst a predicted near average harvest and no significant on-farm stocks stocks due to the tight supplies last season.

    In Mozambique, staple food prices have generally followed seasonal trends in most markets throughout 2012/13, although they have remained above the five-year average.  The exception to these price trends was in those areas affected by floods in January 2013 where significantly sharp increases were reported between January and March. Other markets reporting sharp increases include Tete, where maize prices rose 45 percent between February and March in response to growing market demand in the face of a delayed main season harvest. However, prices dropped by 17 percent in April in monitored markets in the flood affected areas as the new harvests arrives in markets.

    In Tanzania, food prices remain well above last year and the five-year average despite the price decrease observed in many markets following the availability of green harvest in the unimodal areas. Maize retail prices are 90 to 108 percent above the five-year average while those for rice remained between 28-45 percent above the five-year average.  

    In Zimbabwe, market supplies and staple food prices have remained stable during the lean season, due to the steady in-flow of affordable imports .  Price stability has been most evident in the larger markets near urban centers that are serving larger consumption areas. Some price fluctuations in both grain and maize meal prices has been reported in smaller centers, though stabilization and some drops have been observed since March due to the start of the harvests, which has reduced household demand on markets. Despite relatively stable maize prices and the start of the harvests, staple food availability is projected to be even tighter this season when compared to the last, following poor 2012/13 crop production in large parts of the country.

    Agriculture Seasonal Progress

    The 2012/2013 rainfall season was generally characterized by below average rainfall in much of the southern and western areas, while average to above average rainfall was experienced in much of the northern and eastern areas. The temporal distribution was sub-optimal, with delays in the start of the season, long dry spells, and torrential rainfall in different parts of the region. During the first half of the season, several areas in parts of Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe  experienced a delayed and erratic start of season and below normal rainfall performance, which resulted in some famers not planting (Figure 5). An early dry spell in November also caused early season crop failure in parts of southern Mozambique and southern Zimbabwe, which was followed by wide-scale replanting during rains in December. A region wide armyworm outbreak  also began in the first half of the season, and subsequently affected crops in several countries, including Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The infestation was successfully contained in most areas.

    Prolonged dry spells and widespread torrential rains were some of the major events that affected crops during the second half of the season. Persistent drought conditions occurred in many parts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. A USGS analysis of vegetation using Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Actual Evaportranspiration Anomaly (ETa) estimates in major crop growing areas indicates that these three countries experienced among the most widespread severe drought conditions that they have experienced in over the past 11 years.

    Prolonged dry spells also affected northern Tanzania, southern Zambia, southern Zimbabwe, and potentially parts of central and northern Malawi. In the first half of January, widespread torrential rainfall was received in many areas, resulting in flooding and water-logging in several countries including Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Cyclones, heavy rains and flooding also caused damage in Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles during the season.

    Harvest Prospects

    While most Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Member States are still carrying out crop production estimation surveys, compared to last year’s levels, early qualitative estimates point to a slight reduction in cereal production in some countries. An analysis of the Water Requirements Satisfaction Index (WRSI) suggests that crop performance in many countries may have been adversely impacted by below-average rainfall levels, and this has been further supported by available official crop estimates and field reports (Figure 6). 

    Some countries, including Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, have issued some preliminary harvest estimates that indicate production levels that are below last year. Malawi has also issued harvest estimates, however these estimates are calling for production levels similar to last year.

    Conversely, in a few countries qualitative analysis indicates harvest increases ranging between 5-20 percent above production during the 2011/12 season. These countries include Tanzania (the second highest maize producer in the region), Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. If these increases are confirmed, they will boost the regional production total to just over the level that was recorded last year (Table 1).

    As usual, the region’s largest cereal harvest is expected from South Africa, where current estimates indicate a commercial maize crop for the 2013/14 marketing year of 11.44 million MT, which however is three percent lower than the 2011/12 commercial crop of 11.83 million MT. This estimate shows a marked reduction (7 percent) from initial forecast released in February on account of yield reduction due to the prolonged dry spell in some of the high maize producing regions of the Free State and North West. An additional 675,000 MT is projected to come from the subsistence sector, bringing bringing South Africa’s maize total supply to 12.16 million MT.

     Apart from the 50 percent of regional maize supplies provided by South Africa, the rest of the region’s maize typically comes from Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi.  In the past five years these four countries have produced enough surplus maize to provide most of the remaining maize required to fulfill the regional requirement. This season, favorable crop prospects in all four countries were diminished by the localized weather shocks described earlier. In March, Malawi issued the second round estimates suggesting a total maize crop of 3.68 million MT. This figure, which is two percent above last year’s harvest of 3.62 million MT is likely to be reduced by up to 20 percent because of the effects of dry spells experienced in the central and northern parts of the country. On May 14th, Zambia issued its crop estimates which indicate that maize production was 11 percent below last year, but is still 6 percent above the five-year average. Qualitative estimates from Tanzania suggest that maize production levels could be well above the past five-year average, while in Mozambique, estimates are at five-year average levels.   In Zimbabwe where official estimates are yet to be released, qualitative analysis suggests national cereal harvests could drop by as much as 3 percent below last year’s levels on account of reduced crop yields (and in some instances crop failure) due to the mid-season dry spell in the southern and south western parts of the country.    

    Preliminary Regional Supply/Demand

    Preliminary regional maize supply/demand projections for the 2013/14 marketing year suggest that maize availability will meet the region’s needs (filling import requirements of structurally grain defict countries) and will leave a surplus that could be exported outside of the region (Table 2). Although formal maize imports will not be critical to meet requirements in the next six months, the traditional importers of South African maize (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland) will benefit from the declining maize price levels on SAFEX. This will enhance access for many of the poorer farming and non-farming households who normally depend on markets to access food shortly after the May/June harvest period ends.

    Assumptions

    The April to September outlook is based on the following regional-level assumptions:

    Markets and Trade

    • The projected near-average 2012/13 crop harvests in parts of the region are expected to 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 deficit countries, though a significant proportion will also be exported to South America and Asia. Nonetheless, the exportable white maize surplus is likely to be lower than initially anticipated due to the negative impact of poor rainfall performance on total production. The white maize surplus is also likely to be projected lower than last year given the modest carryover stock.
    • Export demand from the region’s other top maize producers is expected to remain high, although pressure on available stocks will be less this  outlook period since it is still quite early in the marketing season. Zambia is expected to maintain restrictions on exports given that this year’s harvest is lower than the previous year, opening stocks are at low levels, and the general tighter availability of maize in neighboring countries. Similarly, Malawi is expected 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. The FRA maize purchase program is scheduled to take place between June and September and its attractive prices are expected to contribute to increased informal cross-border maize in-flows into Zambia.
    • 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 lower prices, whichwill still remain above those of the same time last year and the five-year average. Delayed harvests are expected in several  parts of the region where the onset of the rains was late and erratic, and this will tend to keep prices higher for a longer period than normal.  
    • Maize prices on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) are expected to continue to decline and stabilize as the new harvest comes in. Apart from harvest expectations, SAFEX maize prices which have a bearing on regional food access, and will also continue to be influenced by global maize price trends, including the depreciation of the Rand and the speculative behavior of grain exporters.

    Agroclimatology

    • The SADC Climate Services Center rainfall forecast for April-June indicates a higher likelihood of normal to above-normal rainfall in most of Tanzania, Angola, the northern half of Zambia, northern Malawi, coastal portions and northern Mozambique, and extreme southeastern areas of  South Africa. Normal to below-normal rainfall is forecast in the southern half of Malawi, western parts of Mozambique, southern half of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, southern Angola, Swaziland, Lesotho, and the bulk of South Africa. The occurrence of rains during this period will supplement available residual moisture and boost second season production in areas where this is practiced.

    Agricultural and other labor

    • Throughout the region, agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be at near normal levels as farmers focus on harvesting, processing, storage, and marketing.  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.
    • In South Africa, increases in farm and other labor wages is likely to lead to job losses as companies attempt to break even.  Reduced migrant labor opportunities will reduce remittances during the outlook period to countries that have significant migrant populations in South Africa including Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

    Pest Infestations and Disease Outbreaks

    • The International Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA) forecasts that as the rainy season comes to an end during the outlook period (April-June), armyworm outbreaks will recede in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and southern Tanzania. During this period, maturing small grain will be at risk due to the presence of Quelea birds in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
    • Red Locust swarms in the Ikuu-Katavi plains of Tanzania, are likely to emigrate further and invade cereal crops in Rukwa, Kigoma, Kagera regions of Tanzania if not controlled. With the change of direction of the prevailing winds, Red Locusts are likely to invade other countries to the south of Tanzania, including Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.  In Madagascar, locusts will likely emigrate from the south to north until July; after which they may fly in any direction depending on climatic conditions and wind direction. Locusts will continue laying eggs where agroclimatic conditions are suitable, increasing the population that will likely impact the dry season crops (maize and rice) and the next main crop season starting in November.

    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 Limpopo basin. 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 (or already facing) acute food insecurity in the 2013/14 consumption period and the level of humanitarian assistance that may be required.
    Most Likely Regional Food Security Outcomes

    The most likely food security scenario for the region between April and September includes a continuation of improved food security conditions in most areas, with many households experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes.  Exceptions to this are projected in localized parts of the region where shocks such as floods and dry spells have compromised food availability and access. A few localized areas in southern Mozambique will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1)  and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the presence of assistance, while parts of Lesotho will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in the presence of humanitarian assistance between April and June. From July to September in localized parts of Mozambique and Malawi, where households are facing poor main harvest prospects, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected. 

    Most Likely National Food Security Outcomes

    Malawi

    • With the current increased food availability from the main season harvest, prices have stabilized, though at higher levels compared to the five-year average.   FEWS NET projects that between April and June maize prices will decrease according to seasonal trends, but will remain higher than average historical maize prices throughout the outlook period.
    • From April to June, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected for most rural households throughout the country. However, between July and September, rural households in parts of Southern Lake Shore (SLA), Kasungu-Lilongwe Plains (KAS), Mzimba Self-sufficient (MZS), and Western Rumphi-Mzimba (WRM) livelihood zones will likely become Stressed (IPC Phase 2) once their food stocks become depleted and households must buy high priced food in local markets. This is due to the reduced maize crop yields in these areas as a result of the prolonged dry spells.

    Mozambique

    • Throughout the country, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected for most rural households and will continue for the duration of the outlook period. In some localized areas in the Upper Limpopo Basin (Chicualacuala district) poor households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, in the presence of assistance, due to disruption of livelihoods and crop damage as a result of excessive rains and flooding in January.
    • From April to June, the majority of poor households in Chókwe district and surrounding areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the presence of the ongoing assistance. From July to September, poor households in these areas are expected to continue to be face Stressed outcomes even as they extend their livelihood strategies, and begin to benefit from second season harvests in areas where residual moisture is available.

    Zambia

    • Overall the food security situation is favorable with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes. Across the country, with the start of the harvest households are accessing adequate staple food supplies and an increased variety of seasonal foods. As the new harvest becomes increasingly available on markets, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) continues to ensure food supplies through maize sales to millers and needy communities at fixed prices.
    • From April to June, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected among poor rural households as they continue to meet their basic food needs through their own production and purchases in local markets. As households begin to deplete their food stocks earlier than normal in areas in the extreme south, poor households will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July to September.

    Zimbabwe

    • While the IPC Phase classification and analysis has not been completed for Zimbabwe, FEWS NET expects that during the April to June period, food insecurity outcomes will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) across most parts of the country due to an improvement in food access on account of the new harvests and the steady flow of affordable food imports. However, very poor households in Chivi and Masvingo districts (Masvingo Province); and Bulilima and Gwanda districts (Matebeleland South) are likely to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as a result of poor rainfall distribution (i.e. erratic onset, excessive rains, flooding and dry spells) that has led to significant harvest shortfalls for the 2013/14 consumption period. FEWS NET expects these food insecurity outcomes to persist in these districts, with the possibility of extending to more districts in the southern parts of Midlands, Manicaland, and Matebeleland North Provinces.

    Lesotho

    • The end of the lean season ushered in some relief as many poor rural households are now accessing food from their own harvest. Food insecurity outcomes through June are projected to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) throughout the country as food needs for poor rural households continue to be supplemented with humanitarian assistance.
    • Projected below average harvests suggest that poor rural households are likely to deplete their food stocks within three months of harvest. However, planned humanitarian assistance is projected to improve food access by enabling households to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes from July through September.

    Tanzania

    • Food prices across the country have started decreasing but have yet to bring relief to market-dependent households. Persistent high food prices and below normal Vuli harvests in some of the bimodal and central marginal areas will likely lead to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes until Msimu harvests from unimodal areas start reaching markets in May.
    • Rainfall in the central areas has started receding. Early cessation of rains in central parts of the country, combined with moisture stress to maize crops due to the effects of the February dry spell will likely result in reduced Msimu harvests.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    Cereal deficit parts of the region

    Local and cross border traders do not respond as anticipated and limited food stocks flow to the deficit areas.

    Markets in food deficit areas will be undersupplied, causing food prices to rise sharply above typical seasonal trends.  Food consumption gaps will increase, especially for poor households.

    Prices of maize and other main staples remain high and begin to rise earlier than normal.

    Higher food prices limit access for market dependant households especially the poor and very poor

    Across the region

    Above normal rains are received and extend beyond May.

    Dampened yields as a result of cob rot and spoilage from excessive moisture leading to poor harvests 

    Significantly reduced regional cereal availability compared to last year.

    Reduced food supplies leading to food shortages, rising staple food prices, and limited food access for households in low producing areas

    Mozambique and Lesotho

    Humanitarian interventions/ assistance programs are discontinued between April and September. 

    Poor and very poor households will be unable to meet their livelihood and survival needs, resulting in IPC Phase 2 or 3 food insecurity outcomes in these areas.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, May 2013.

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, May 2013.

    Source: FEWS NET

    White Maize Prices on SAFEX, South Africa.

    Figure 3

    White Maize Prices on SAFEX, South Africa.

    Source: South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX)

    Maize Prices in Surplus Producing Countries Compared to International Prices (USD/MT).

    Figure 4

    Maize Prices in Surplus Producing Countries Compared to International Prices (USD/MT).

    Source: South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) and FEWS NET

    Recent national price trends.

    Figure 5

    Recent national price trends.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Monthly rainfall from October 2012 to March 2013 as a percentage of average (significant dry spell events highlighted in red

    Figure 6

    Monthly rainfall from October 2012 to March 2013 as a percentage of average (significant dry spell events highlighted in red and rainfall events highlighted in blue).

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) Anomaly, April 2013.

    Figure 7

    Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) Anomaly, April 2013.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    SADC regional preliminary production forecasts: 2012/13 compared to 2011/12 (‘000 MT).

    Figure 8

    SADC regional preliminary production forecasts: 2012/13 compared to 2011/12 (‘000 MT).

    Source: SADC National Early Warning Units and Central Statistics Office

    SADC preliminary maize balance sheets: 2012/13 (‘000 MT)

    Figure 9

    SADC preliminary maize balance sheets: 2012/13 (‘000 MT)

    Source: SADC National Early Warning Units and Central Statistics Office

    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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