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Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • October 2013 - March 2014
Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis

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  • Preface
  • Seasonal Performance
  • Farm and off-farm labor opportunities, and remittances
  • Pest infestations and disease outbreaks
  • Markets and trade
  • Humanitarian assistance

  • Preface
    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET uses scenario development. Commonly used by planners and researchers to forecast likely events, this methodology takes a set of informed assumptions about the future and compares their possible effects. Scenario development cannot predict exact outcomes but it structures the analysis and helps minimize uncertainty. This report, developed by FEWS NET analysts based on current evidence, outlines assumptions at the regional level. Analysts also develop assumptions at the country level, which are specific to that country and likely to be more detailed. Together, the regional and national assumptions are the foundation for the integrated analysis reported in FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlooks and Outlook Updates. Learn more about FEWS NET and scenario development at www.fews.net.FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlook reports for October 2013 – March 2014 are based on the following regional assumptions:

    Seasonal Performance
    • The October to March rainfall totals are expected to be normal to above normal in most parts of the region, based primarily on the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) forecast. There is less confidence for above normal rainfall in the earlier half of the season, from October to December, but the likelihood of above normal rainfall is expected to increase in the second half of the season, from January to March. The enhanced likelihood of above normal rains is expected to increase chances for drought-relief in some drought-affected areas of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.
    • The increased chances for above normal rainfall in the second half of the season (January-March) may increase chances of flooding in some of the flood-prone areas, including parts of northern and central Mozambique, and western Zambia.
    • The September to December 2013 Vuli rains in much of northern Tanzania are expected to be normal to below normal, according to the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF) consensus forecasts. 
    • The October to March rains are expected to start according to climatology[1] in each SADC country. This assumes that the start of season will be similar to average conditions in each country (Figure 1).

    [1] Weather conditions averaged over the past 11 years.


    Farm and off-farm labor opportunities, and remittances
    • ​The normal to above normal rainfall that is forecast for this season will enable normal cropping activities and labor opportunities will be at levels typical for the October to December period throughout most parts of the region.  From October onwards, as the rains commence across the region, activities such as land preparation and planting will provide labor opportunities for the next agricultural season provided the moisture levels allow for land tilling activities to begin. However, the possibility of mid-season dry spells (which are a normal occurrence in the parts of the region) could reduce opportunities for agriculture labor, particularly for weeding and harvesting during the months of February and March.
    • Increasing farm and other labor wages, particularly in South Africa, is expected to lead to sustained job losses as farm owners and companies lay off staff in order to reduce rising labor costs. Also the protracted labor disputes in the mining sector continue to result in retrenchments. Reduced migrant labor opportunities could 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’s (IRLCO-CSA) September report indicates that the region is likely to be free from armyworm outbreaks until the start of the rainy season in October/ November. With the control measures that were put in place following the outbreaks experienced last season, IRLCO-CSA suggests that the region is likely to remain free from major outbreaks in the 2013/14 rainfall season.
    • Red Locust swarms and concentrations that have persisted in the Lake Chilwa/Lake Chiuta plains in Malawi and Mozambique, in the Ikuu-Katavi plains in Tanzania and in Kafue Flats in Zambia (following extensive vegetation burning) are likely to be concentrated further into dense swarms within the outbreak areas and eventually escape into neighboring areas or countries.  If the current shortage of resources faced by the IRLCO-CSA to undertake aerial surveys and control interventions persists, the outbreaks could cause damage to crops and pasture in the outlook period. 
    • Large parts of Madagascar continue to be infested by locusts.  In September, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported movement of swarms from the outbreak area (southwest of Madagascar) towards the western and north-eastern parts of the invasion area. In addition, some non‐gregarious locust populations have already matured, and egg‐laying has started in the central part of the outbreak area (Ranohira and Vavalovo).  Breeding and hatching are expected to begin appearing as the seasonal rains begin in late October or early November. Even if planned locust control measures (brush fires and chemical treatments) are fairly effective, it is likely that locust numbers will be above average during the 2013/14 cropping season due to the large scale of the locust invasion early this year.

    Markets and trade
    • Given the varied 2012/13 crop production conditions in parts of the region, overall food supplies (especially the main staple cereals) are expected to be tighter in the 2013/14 consumption season when compared to last year. Exportable surpluses at the regional level (mainly from South Africa and Zambia) are projected at lower levels when compared to last year, but both intra and extra regional exports are expected to remain robust. The structurally grain deficit countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland (BLNS) will continue to access most of their maize imports requirement from South Africa although competition with overseas import demand (Asia and Mexico) is expected to remain high. By mid-September, out of the reported total maize exports of 1.38 million MT, approximately 80 percent was destined for overseas markets (931,912 MT to Asian markets, and 190,097 MT to Mexico).
    • The Government of Zambia is expected to continue with restricted maize and maize bran exports during the outlook period; this has been extended through a new Statutory Instrument[1] dated September 9th. Only government-to-government and World Food Program (WFP) exports are exempt.  However, despite these restrictions, part of the country’s exportable surplus (which at the beginning of the marketing season was estimated at 454,000 MT – half the level it was in 2012/13) is expected to be traded informally with the DRC, Tanzania, and Malawi.  As of mid-September, the current stocks held by Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) stand at 635,327 MT; of these, 172,859 MT have been earmarked for exports to these neighboring countries, while the rest are for the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).  With the close of the purchase program at the end of September, the FRA is not likely to further build up its maize stock for exports, meaning that official exports out of Zambia will be limited to the available 172,859 MT, unless the agency draws down from the SGR.
    • With export restrictions in place in Malawi, improved production in neighboring cross border trading areas (Mozambique and Tanzania), along with limited domestic availability for the 2013/14 season will likely result in reduced informal cross border exports, while informal imports (mainly from Mozambique and Zambia) are likely to steadily increase throughout the outlook period. Price differentials within the region will continue to provide a huge incentive to informal cross border trade.
    • Tanzania’s 2012/2013 production was slightly above average. However, wholesale maize prices increased uncharacteristically early in August in most markets due to earlier purchases by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) in July rather than between September and October. Consequently, relatively higher prices in the East African market will likely continue to attract supplies from Malawi and Zambia. Last year, an estimated 27,000 MT was moved into Tanzania from Malawi alone while an additional 20,000 MT is estimated to have been moved from Zambia into Tanzania.
    • The sustained depreciation of the South African Rand, fluctuations in fuel prices (driven by global crude oil prices and the strength of the Rand), ongoing calls for higher wages in the mining and agricultural sectors, and planned increases in electricity tariffs are likely to exert more pressure on inflation resulting in high food prices in South Africa. High food prices in South Africa coupled with high fuel and transport costs are likely to be reflected in higher food prices in the import dependent countries (especially Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland).
    • Maize prices on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) are expected to follow seasonal trends, rising typically from October onwards. SAFEX maize price levels have a bearing on regional food access and will continue to be influenced by global maize price trends, the sustained depreciation of the Rand, and the speculative behavior of grain exporters as they source for more lucrative markets further afield.  The evolution of international maize prices in the coming months will depend on how markets respond to new information about the 2013/14 growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. Current production estimates suggest that maize prices will decline further over the coming months. Sustained decreases in international prices will dampen any atypical price increases on SAFEX especially as the lean season begins to peak between January and March.
    • International crude oil prices were stable between July and August. However, fuel prices continued to increase in some importing countries due to the depreciation of the local currency vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar and changing fuel price policies. Over the outlook period, fuel price trends in FEWS NET countries will vary depending not only on the international market conditions, but also on the design and implementation of local fuel import and price policies.

    [1] Law made by an executive authority.


    Humanitarian assistance
    • Humanitarian assistance needs in countries with identified food insecure populations are expected to reach their peak over the course of the outlook period, particularly during the peak lean season (January-February).  However, even as needs peak, underfunding of humanitarian responses is likely to continue.  As a result, assistance programs are likely to remain insufficient in reaching the estimated food insecure populations, or to be prematurely discontinued due to lack of resources.
    • In Zimbabwe, the Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) program (targeting 1.8 million people) that normally begins in October is estimated to be only 64 percent funded for the period October to December, and response planning and resource mobilization is still ongoing. In addition to STA, livelihood support targeting 24 districts and 48,500 households through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been confirmed, while the government safety-net programming through cash transfers is expected to be extended to cover 10-20 percent of population in 13 districts.  However, given the additional resourcing needed for the STA programming and potential pipeline breaks, assistance levels between January and March 2014 remain uncertain.
    • The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) response plans indicate that assistance should begin in October 2013 and end in March 2014; however response programming is underfunded (currently estimated at around 60 percent). Although the Government and partners are still working on finalizing response plans and mobilizing further funding, it is likely that this may not be secured on time which could result in a delayed start and/or premature discontinuation of assistance. 
    • Local and Regional Purchases (LRP) for humanitarian food commodities will likely be reduced this 2013/14 consumption year given current national demand/ supply projections which indicate that there will be less tradable maize available this year, especially from the main source - which is Zambia. WFP LRP purchase levels  in recent years suggests that the available surpluses (after trade) will be more than sufficient to cover any local procurement requirement that WFP may have to provide for its 2013/14 food assistance programs in the countries that have strict policies on GMO maize grain.  Additionally, local and regional purchases for emergency food assistance in Tanzania are likely given their recent above-average harvest. 
    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Median Start of Season Based on 2001 – 2012.

    Figure 2

    Median Start of Season Based on 2001 – 2012.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    White Maize Prices on SAFEX market (South Africa).

    Figure 3

    White Maize Prices on SAFEX market (South Africa).

    Source: South African Futures Exchange

    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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