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Good regional harvest prospects to significantly improve food security outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • May - September 2014
Good regional harvest prospects to significantly improve food security outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • 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 September, relying mainly on own produced food stocks from the main season harvest, supplemented by market purchases. However in localized parts of Angola, poor households are projected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes from April through September, while those in parts of Madagascar are projected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes in the April to June period, and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July to September.
    • Despite an erratic and delayed start of season, the good rains received in many parts of the region have led to above average harvest prospects in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. Malawi and Mozambique are expecting good production despite late onset of rains and localized mid-season dryness. Angola and Namibia were more negatively affected by adverse weather conditions during the season. The eMODIS Normalized Vegetation Image (NDVI) (Figure 2) shows that many areas have experienced normal to above normal vegetation conditions, indicating good crop and/or pasture conditions in the primary agricultural areas.
    • Regional cereal availability is likely to be above last year and close to the past five-year average, and will be sufficient to meet regional requirements for the next six months and beyond – covering the import needs of structurally grain deficit countries and leaving a surplus that could be exported outside of the region. Major exportable maize surpluses are expected from Zambia (approximately 1.1 million MT), and South Africa (approximately 1.8 million MT). In Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe (where estimates are yet to be released), cereal availability is also expected to meet national level domestic consumption needs, though poor households in localized areas in Malawi are likely to face constrained access in the period beyond September.
    • Regional informal cross border trade is expected to increase following the harvest, and flows out of Zambia could be more robust in the outlook period following the recent lifting of national export restrictions. Given the average harvest expectations in neighboring Malawi, it is expected that traders in that country will increase activity in order to take advantage and buy up stock in Zambia and Mozambique during the harvest period when prices levels are relatively lower (Figure 3).
    • The commencement of harvests has led to maize price stabilization, and significant price drops have been observed on most reference markets across the region (Figure 4). As the 2013/14 marketing year drew to a close; prices that peaked in February/ March, began declining in April, and are expected to fall further, until the end of the harvest in June/July wherein they will likely start to increase seasonably. In surplus areas, it is likely that price levels will fall below their respective 2013 levels, while remaining close to the five-year average which remains relatively high due to consecutive years of tight regional supplies, as well as strong export and institutional demand.

    Outlook by Country

    FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlook for April to September 2014 is based on regional assumptions as well as the following national level assumptions:


    • Reports from the Karonga district Agriculture Office (DAO) confirm that prolonged dry spells during the critical stage of crop development resulted in extensive crop wilting in parts of Karonga district in Central Karonga (CKA) livelihood zone, and this is expected to result in lower agriculture output this harvest season. As a result, poor households are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the April to September period.
    • Acute food insecurity across the rest of the country will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from April to September with increased household food availability from the harvests.
    • Second round crop estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture have been completed, but the official figures have not been released yet. Unofficial agricultural and meteorological data using Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) models, suggests that the 2013/14 harvest will be adequate enough to meet national maize consumption needs.
    • Consistent with seasonal trends during harvest time, maize prices across the country have dropped significantly. Typical informal cross border trading flows are expected with Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania during the outlook period. It is unlikely that the Government of Malawi (GoM) will lift the formal maize export ban that is currently in place.

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


    • Currently, the majority of rural households throughout the country are able to meet their basic food requirements through own production and are experiencing Minimal acute food insecurity outcomes (IPC Phase 1). Exceptions include households in localized areas that are now receiving assistance because they were adversely affected by this year’s heavy rainfall and flooding.
    • Access to food through markets has improved as staple food prices decline according to the seasonal trend. Generally staple maize prices are close to the five-year average, except in Nampula where prices are 48 percent above average, but have been declining since early 2014.
    • Acute food insecurity will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from April to June. Households will be able to meet their food needs owing to increased food availability from the 2013/14 main harvest and lower food prices.
    • In the second half of the scenario period (July to September), Minimal outcomes will continue as households have access to food stocks from the main season, begin to access second season harvests, and make local market purchases.

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


    • Acute food insecurity will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as farming households across the country access own-produced staple foods and other seasonal foods from the current harvest.
    • Maize production prospects from the ongoing harvest are likely to be near the five-year average, and adequate to cover national food requirements for the 2014/15 consumption year. However, reduced yield is estimated at about 30 percent below average in a few areas in Southern Province (Choma, Gwembe and Siavonga districts) and Eastern Province (Lundazi district) due to the late start-of-season and early cessation of rains.
    • Maize and maize meal prices are likely to follow a seasonal trend and decrease as market supplies increase. These lower prices will improve staple food access for poor, market-dependent households. Even if prices are above the five-year average due to increased fuel and transport costs (+8.3 percent), poor households will still be able to access staple foods through market purchases.

    To learn more, read the complete Zambia Food Security Outlook.


    • Households are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. Most households have started consuming their current harvest in both the northern and southern areas of the country. These acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue through September in all areas, including districts in the southwest.
    • As the new consumption year starts, staple food prices have already started decreasing. Since March, the national average for maize grain has decreased by 11 percent. Maize meal prices remained stable and only registered a 2 percent reduction from last month. The recent drop in maize grain prices is attributed to the beginning of household consumption of cereals from own production.
    • Ongoing tobacco curing and sales are boosting household income, particularly in the northern areas, where production levels are projected to have significantly increased. Based on the first round Ministry of Agriculture’s crop and livestock assessment, this year’s production levels are expected to surpass the 2012-13 season.  The second round assessment is expected to be released within the next month.

    To learn more, read the complete Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.


    • After a late start of the seasonal rains in Benguela and Kwanza-Sul Provinces, irregular rainfall and dryness has been experienced in these areas throughout much of the season. According to the local cabinet for food security (GSA), this will be the fourth consecutive year of abnormal rainfall patterns in these areas. This dryness has resulted in lower river levels and the drying up of small rivers, which might negatively impact Nacas or flood recession cultivation in these provinces.
    • Even though government food assistance is being provided to households in Cunene and Namibe Provinces, the assistance has not improved household food security outcomes in the targeted areas due to the inefficiency of the distribution system. In parts of Benguela and Kwanza-Sul cropping is no longer viable due to dryness and poor households continue to abandon their small plots and migrate into the cities. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to persist in all four areas through September.

    To learn more, read the complete Angola Remote Monitoring Report.


    • The start of the main harvest and stable food prices, supplemented by ongoing safety-net programs, will maintain stable access to food. Minimal food insecurity outcomes (IPC Phase 1) are projected for April through September as the available sources of food cover the needs of rural households.
    • Most crops are at maturity stage with early harvest from early crops starting, and expected to intensify in May. However, in some areas in the Northern lowlands and Mountains livelihood zones, the late planted crop is at risk of frost during maturity. Given both factors, harvest prospects will likely be near- average for the 2013/14 main harvest.
    • The increase in own harvest and high production in South Africa, as well as regional importing countries, will likely result in reduced demand and stabilization of staple food prices for local and imported maize, improving the purchasing power for poor households particularly in July and August, when food access will be supplemented by market purchases as in normal years.

    To learn more, read the complete Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report.


    • The main rice harvest began in April, marking the end of the lean season in northern and central Madagascar. Due to average to above-average rainfall in most areas of the country, the absence of major cyclones in atypical areas, and on-going locust control efforts, staple crop production is expected to be near normal and higher than the 2012/2013 season.
    • In southwestern areas of the country, households currently experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes are expected to return to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity in June, as rice, maize and cowpea harvests come on the market.
    • Although households currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will return to Minimal acute food insecurity in June, households will repay debts incurred during the abnormal lean season. Repayment of debts will constrain household income and cash, forcing them back into Stressed outcomes (IPC Phase 2) in September. The lean season normally starts in October in this area, but will likely start three months earlier.

    To learn more, read the complete Madagascar Remote Monitoring Report.


    • Green harvests have started in the southern unimodal areas. With less demand on markets from these areas and the availability of market stocks from the previous season, food prices will continue to be stable until the 2014 Msimu harvest (May-July). During this harvest period, prices will likely start to decline.
    • Food prices are stable in the northern bimodal areas due to supplies on markets from the southern unimodal areas. With stable prices, poor households are able to purchase food from markets. As a result these areas have moved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes.
    • Heavier than expected rains in the coastal bimodal areas in Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Pwani, and northern Morogoro in March and April mean that cumulative rainfall during the Masika season (March to May) in these areas will likely be near normal.

    To learn more, read the complete Tanzania Remote Monitoring Report.

    Events that might change the outlook

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

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    Structurally cereal deficit parts of the regionLocal 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 pushing them into the Stressed acute food insecurity phase (IPC Phase 2) in the July to September period.
    Structurally cereal deficit parts of the regionPrices of maize and other main staples remain high and begin to rise atypically.Higher food prices limit access for market dependent households especially the poor and very poor leading to higher IPC Phase (Phase 2) in some areas
    Households in Mozambique and LesothoHumanitarian interventions and safety net programs are discontinued between April and September.Affected households will be unable to meet their livelihood and survival needs, resulting in Stressed IPC Phase 2 acute food insecurity outcomes in these areas.



    This report presents FEWS NET’s most forward-looking analysis for acute food security in this region for the outlook period stated above. It is based on the work of regional and national analysts who consider current conditions and local livelihoods in order to develop regional and national level assumptions about the future. The analysts compare these assumptions, their possible effects, and the likely responses of relevant actors to arrive at a most likely scenario for each country. Learn more about FEWS NET’s use of scenario development methodology at

    Figures Figure 1. Regional eMODIS NDVI (vegetation) image, March 21-31.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Regional eMODIS NDVI (vegetation) image, March 21-31.

    Source: FEWS NET and USGS

    Figure 2. Captured volumes of informal trade flows: maize, rice and beans.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Captured volumes of informal trade flows: maize, rice and beans.

    Source: FEWS NET and ACTESA

    Figure 3.Maize prices in selected southern Africa countries in comparison to international prices (USD/kg)

    Figure 3

    Figure 3.Maize prices in selected southern Africa countries in comparison to international prices (USD/kg)

    Source: SAFEX, SAGIS, and FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 4

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5


    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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