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Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely due to reduced production prospects

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Lesotho
  • April 2023
Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely due to reduced production prospects

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  • Key Messages
  • Current and Projected Anomalies
  • Projected Outlook through September 2023
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Key Messages
    • Across much of the country, access to green harvest, main beans, and potato harvest is improving food security outcomes as households begin to access their own produced food and earn some income from selling beans and potatoes,  thereby supporting Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Further improvements are expected in May as households begin to access the main maize and sorghum harvest while accessing income from crop sales. Despite expected below-average production due to reduced cropped area and limited access to seeds and fertilizer, own crop production is expected to last households four to five months.

    • Household access to income is improving as harvesting activities begin, providing labor opportunities to poor households.  Most farmers are harvesting field beans and potatoes in the Lowlands, while summer wheat is being harvested in the highlands. Labor wages for wheat harvesting are near normal. Overall, harvesting labor opportunities are below average due to lower-than-average planted areas, ultimately leading to below-average production. As a result, households are engaged in off-farm livelihood activities like handicrafts making and local brewing. Income-earning opportunities are generally below normal owing to reduced economic and low tourism activities. 

    • Maize market supplies are below average as the main maize and sorghum harvest is yet to start. However, demand for maize has reduced as households access green crops from their fields. Nonetheless, prices of most food commodities remain higher than average. For example, the price of maize meal increased by 16 percent yearly in Maseru while at the same time remaining above the five-year average by 34 percent. The price of wheat flour increased by 16 percent yearly and 49 percent above the five-year average, while sunflower oil prices were 30 percent above the previous year’s prices and 78 percent above the five-year average.

    Current and Projected Anomalies
    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    • Income from migration labor (remittances) has improved as more people migrate to South Africa for labor. However, overall income from remittances is below normal due to reduced opportunities in other sectors as the country is still recovering from the impact of COVID-19 and increased hostilities for foreigners by the locals.
    • Overall, the 2023 harvest is expected to be relatively below average due to reductions in cropped areas and limited access to seeds and fertilizer. As a result, income from harvesting labor from May to July will likely be lower than normal, given the expected below-average production.
    • Annual inflation increased from 6.9 percent in January to 7.4 percent in February. This increase was largely driven by the rise in food prices and transportation costs. The increasing prices are reducing households purchasing power and household disposable income.
    • Food prices will likely be significantly above average given below-average production and high cost of production. Despite lower-than-normal local production, markets will be well supplied with stocks imported from South Africa. As a result, high import and transportation costs will contribute to keeping food prices above average. 


    Projected Outlook through September 2023

    With the conclusion of the 2022/23 rainy season in March, average to above-average rainfall was recorded across the country. However, despite this favorable rainfall, the area planted for crops remained below average due to high seeds and fertilizer costs as well as the cost of the factors of production, like the cost of hiring farming equipment. Therefore, overall production is expected to be below average, given the reduction in the cropped area.

    Currently, households are consuming green maize and sorghum, and main harvest beans and potatoes. Access to these foods is improving household food security outcomes.

    Maize market supplies continue to be low following the end of the lean season in March because maize supplies from the main harvest have yet to arrive in markets. However, market demand is reduced as households access green harvest from the 2022/23 season, reducing their reliance on purchases. Nonetheless, food prices remained higher than average in March; the year-on-year price for maize meal increased by 16 percent, while compared to the five-year average maize meal prices in Maseru were 34 percent higher (Figure 1). As households begin accessing the main harvest, maize supplies are expected to improve due to local production. As a result, market supplies are expected to be close to normal through September, when most poor households run out of own produced food and begin to rely on purchases. Despite below-average production, prices are expected to follow a seasonal trend declining as harvesting peaks between May and June. Due to higher production costs, these price reductions will be lower, and prices are expected to trend above last year’s and significantly above the five-year average.

    Figure 1

    Maize meal prices, Maseru
    Maize meal price trends, Maseru.

    Source: Lesotho Bureau of Statistics

    As harvesting beans, potatoes, and summer wheat continue, households are accessing some income from harvesting labor. Further improvements in labor opportunities for harvesting are expected when households begin harvesting the main maize and sorghum crops between May and June. However, overall income from harvesting labor will likely be below average given that production is expected to be below normal due to reductions in the cropped area mainly because of the high cost of production increases in seed and fertilizer costs.

    With harvesting continuing in South Africa, some poor households are migrating to South Africa for labor. This labor migration is therefore improving overall income levels through remittances. Furthermore, households rely on self-employment activities such as making handicrafts and local brewing. However, with reduced tourism activities and reduced disposable income because of high inflation and economic challenges, income from handicrafts making and local brewing is below average.

    Following green consumption in April and the main harvest between May and June, household food consumption is expected to improve. At the same time, households are expected to start accessing income from crop sales and harvesting labor. In areas close to the main water bodies in the lowlands, households will be practicing winter cultivation taking full advantage of well-replenished water bodies following above-average rainfall. However, income from crop sales is expected to be reduced due to below-average production; poor households are expected to prioritize consumption over selling. In addition, the area cultivated under irrigation is expected to be lower than normal due to higher seed and fertilizer costs, which may negatively impact labor opportunities for winter cultivation. As a result, households are expected to start relying on purchases earlier than normal, given below-average crop production. Therefore, in the deficit-producing areas and the lowlands where significant reductions in cultivated areas were recorded, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to prevail throughout the projection period. In contrast, the rest of the country is expected to face Minimal (IPC Phase one) outcomes.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for Lesotho during typical year

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report/Update, April 2023: Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely due to reduced production prospects, 2023.

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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