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The peak of the lean season is ongoing, and food stocks from own production are largely depleted among poor households, increasing their reliance on markets for food using income earned from casual agricultural and non-agricultural labor opportunities. Most households are experiencing and will likely continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes until the harvest in March/April 2022. Food security outcomes are expected to improve with green foods becoming available in March and the beginning of the main harvest in April, as households consume food from their own production. This will drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.
Although imported food supplies are available and support normal domestic market supply, food access is limited due to low incomes and high food prices. Market prices are higher than last year and above the five-year average. Maize meal prices in December 2021 were stable compared to prices in November 2021. Poor households are spending a large proportion of their income on food, driving below normal purchasing power.
Wet conditions during the 2021/22 season are driving favorable production prospects for the 2022 harvest. Heavy rainfall in January resulted in waterlogging and the destruction of crops in several areas of the country. This hampered weeding activities, a main income-earning source for poor households. Rainfall in February was normal to above average. A second consecutive favorable harvest in 2022 is still expected due to the farm inputs subsidy program and generally favorable rainfall. Good crop production and pasture availability are expected to anchor economic growth and improve household food access in 2022.
Due to the compounding effects of continued COVID-19 restrictions, the domestic economy is still operating at a suboptimal level, resulting in some loss of income among households. COVID-19 containment measures have reduced remittances, driving low-purchasing power among remittance-dependent households, and are also likely to stunt economic growth and sustain high unemployment.
|ZONE||CURRENT ANOMALIES||PROJECTED ANOMALIES|
|Mafeteng, Quthing, Maseru, and Qacha's Nek|
The cropping season is progressing well mainly due to favorable rainfall throughout the season, despite some heavy rainfall in January which led to some waterlogging and leaching of fertilizer. Average rainfall is anticipated for the remainder of the 2021/22 rainfall season. The harvest will likely start in March/April and continue through June, with a near-average harvest most likely across Lesotho. Households are expected to consume their own foods through at least September 2022.
Food supply is expected to remain stable at above-average levels throughout the projected period due to above-average harvests in South Africa. Lesotho sources 70 percent of its food needs from South Africa. December 2021 prices for maize meal, beans, bread, oil, and wheat flour were stable compared to November 2021; however, food prices are expected to remain high compared to the five-year average (Figure 1). This is negatively impacting household purchasing power, and limiting food access, especially among market-dependent households. Maize meal prices are expected to remain above average while following seasonal trends due to high food prices in South Africa.
In December 2021, annual inflation was 6.8 percent and generally stable from the 6.4 percent annual inflation reported in November. The most significant contributors to the inflation rate were energy and transport costs, driving high fuel prices.
Lesotho faces a weak economic outlook as some COVID-19 restrictions, global supply chain disruptions, and high import prices continue. Income earning opportunities lost in the last two years associated with COVID-19 have not rebounded to their pre-pandemic levels. This continues to put pressure on the economy, keeping unemployment high. In the projection period, the textile and mining industries are likely to start employing some workers, although, at a low rate. Meanwhile, agricultural labor opportunities will decline seasonally while remaining near average. Additionally, migrant populations are expected to return to South Africa in search of seasonal jobs.
Lesotho’s agricultural output in 2022 and income for most rural households are expected to be normal. However, the lack of non-agricultural job opportunities will leave some households solely dependent on subsistence farming. Additional job opportunities could emerge if further domestic investments in textile, mining, and tourism are realized in 2022. As the South African economy recovers, access to higher-wage migrant jobs will reemerge, boosting inflows of workers' remittances into Lesotho.
Starting in April with the harvest, improvements to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected, driven by a near-average harvest. Although, some poor households across the Southern districts will deplete own produced food and require humanitarian assistance to fill consumption gaps.
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