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Food prices remain high as the 2023 main harvest concludes

  • Key Message Update
  • Southern Africa
  • August 2023
Food prices remain high as the 2023 main harvest concludes

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In July, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes are widespread across the southern Africa region as the harvest period comes to an end, with areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) driven by the impact of conflict and different weather shocks during the 2022/23 agricultural season. Areas particularly affected by below-normal agricultural production due to prolonged dry spells, tropical cyclones, or the impact of conflict include southern Zimbabwe, southern and central Mozambique, southern Malawi, parts of the Grand Southeast in Madagascar, areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. As household food stocks decline, more households are expected to begin facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as food prices seasonally increase, impacting household purchasing power. Additionally, the El Niño is expected to result in an erratic and delayed start to the 2023/24 rainy season, impacting planted areas and agricultural labor opportunities for poor households.
    • Harvesting of the main cereal season finalized across the region, with the regional harvest expected to be above the five-year average and slightly lower than 2022’s bumper harvest. According to estimates from the USDA’s FAS, national cereal production is largely close to the five-year average, with an above-average harvest in South Africa. However, weather and conflict shocks reduced yields in some parts of Madagascar, Mozambique, DRC, and Malawi, resulting in localized shortfalls in cereal production. Market prices are beginning to decline as the harvest reaches the market, but prices remain higher than last and the five-year average, particularly in Malawi, where maize prices are 55 to 250 percent above prices last year and 150 to 360 percent above the five-year average in some monitored markets.
    • The region continues to grapple with currency depreciation and economic challenges, particularly in Angola, DRC, Lesotho, and Malawi, which is negatively impacting household purchasing power, especially for households that primarily rely on market purchases for food. However, in Zimbabwe, the local currency (ZWL) strengthened following several government measures to stabilize the local currency. Prices of some basic commodities in Zimbabwe decreased by 20 to 40 percent as businesses observed the government’s call to adjust prices using the official exchange rate. However, the cost of living remains high, particularly for households earning in ZWL. 
    • In conflict-affected areas of the DRC, the below-average Season B harvest is expected to provide just one month of food stocks, indicating there will likely be an early start to the lean season. Additionally, ongoing violence between M23 and self-defense groups is continuing to displace households and impact household access to food and income. Most conflict-affected households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but in some health zones in Djugu and Rutshuru territories, the worst affected households are likely facing food consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) due to limited access to food and income. 
    • Climate forecasts suggest increasing confidence in a strong El Niño by late 2023. El Niño is typically correlated with below-average rainfall in southern Africa. Based on historical trends during El Niño years, the onset of the main rainy season between October and December will most likely be delayed with mixed performance. Irregular rainfall will most likely compound the impacts of reduced access to agricultural inputs on planted areas, which will, in turn, affect income-earning among poor households who rely on agricultural labor opportunities. Close monitoring of rainfall totals and distribution will be required to assess the severity of adverse impacts on cropping conditions for the 2023/24 harvest. There is particular concern for areas in the south that already experienced significant crop losses due to dry spells in 2023 and cyclones in 2022 and 2023. Government and donors should prepare now for rising food assistance needs in 2024.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Southern Africa Key Message Update August 2023: Food prices remain high as the 2023 main harvest concludes, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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