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Food availability and access improve significantly as harvest starts

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mozambique
  • April 2017
Food availability and access improve significantly as harvest starts

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • April marks the beginning of a new consumption year with the arrival of the green or main harvest across the majority of the country, significantly improving food availability and further lowering staple food prices. Following a favorable cropping season, FEWS NET projects that southern and central areas that were previously in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) up until March have improved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and will further improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) beginning in June. However, it is still likely that localized poor households, especially in areas impacted by flooding and the cyclone, are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    • According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA), prospects for the 2016/17 agricultural season are good. Preliminary crop production estimates indicate an overall production of 2.8 million MT of cereals, which is above the five-year average. Food availability at the market level is expected to be adequate and typical for poor households during the 2017/18 consumption season, particularly given the contribution from the second season, which is also expected to be above average. Food assistance largely ended in March.

    • Food supplies are increasing in local markets, and as seasonally expected, all staple food prices are falling. From February to March 2017, maize grain prices from the FEWS NET monitored markets decreased by an average of 13 percent, improving household access. The largest decrease was recorded in the southern market of Chókwe, by 63 percent, following a spike during the previous three months because of a sequence of localized floods.


    April is a transitioning period between a severe lack of food availability and high staple food prices pre-harvest, to widespread, favorable improvements in food access and declining staple food prices. Since March, parts of the southern region, particularly Maputo Province, started harvesting. In April, harvesting is ongoing in the rest of the southern region as well as in much of central Mozambique. In the majority of northern areas, poor households, even the most food insecure, are now consuming green foods, and the main harvest has begun in Niassa Province. The last place to harvest is in Cabo Delgado, where the harvest is expected to begin in late May.

    Food supplies are increasing in local markets with the ongoing harvests. As a result, all staple food prices are declining according to seasonal trends and are expected to fall even further through September. From February to March 2017, maize grain prices from the FEWS NET monitored markets decreased by an average of 13 percent, but are still above last year’s prices on average by about 34 percent and above the five-year average by approximately 83 percent. The largest decrease was recorded in Chókwe, by 63 percent following a spike from flooding in January and February, which temporarily disrupted market functioning and local livelihoods. In contrast, during the same period last year, maize grain prices were increasing in all monitored markets ahead of the harvest.

    According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA), the 2016/17 agricultural season prospects are good, which is also confirmed by FEWS NET/USGS remote sensing products. Preliminary crop production estimates by MASA indicate an overall production of 2.8 million MT of cereals (maize, sorghum, millet, rice and wheat), 707,000 MT of pulses (beans and groundnuts), 10.9 million MT of cassava, 2.2 million MT of horticulture crops, 127,000 MT of oleaginous (soybean, sunflower and sesame), and 295,000 MT of Irish potatoes. The production of cereals is 45 percent higher than the five-year average (2012-2016), according to official estimates. MASA has reported a few cases of pests, including red locust in Sofala and Zambézia, which affected 1,385 hectares, and armyworm in Sofala, Zambézia, Manica, and Tete provinces, affecting 1,069 hectares, but this is quite minimal as it represents less than one percent of the total planted area in each province.

    In Inhambane, the initial planned crop production figure will be about 23 percent lower due to Cyclone Dineo, though the provincial authorities are maximizing second season production to offset any food deficits from the main season losses. The majority of poor households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but a few of the worst affected households are likely still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until they can access their second season production. According to Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC), the largest needs in the Province are currently for infrastructure rebuilding, and food availability does not appear to be a main concern. Second season planting has already begun in this area, as well as other flood affected areas in other parts of Mozambique. The second season relies primarily on residual moisture from the main rainfall season and given the above average and late season rains this year, conditions for the second season are favorable. Crops from the second season are in various stages, ranging from just planted to emergence to vegetative stages. Seed distribution continues to take place, particularly in the flood and cyclone affected areas. In Gaza, 172 MT of seeds were donated by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), through the NGO consortium, COSACA, and FAO, exceeding needs. In Inhambane, seed assistance is ongoing through various organizations (German Agrarian Action (AAA) and OXFAM through AJOAGO), and the demand for seeds, particularly for horticulture crops, remains high.

    Food assistance by many humanitarian organizations, including COSACA, through in-kind and cash vouchers in the seven drought-affected provinces, largely concluded at the end of March. While the World Food Programme (WFP) has drastically reduced the amount of its assistance due to the ongoing harvest, it will continue to provide some assistance to localized pockets of poor households still facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), which will then be phased out gradually. In May/June, the Technical Secretariat of Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) will carry out a national comprehensive quantitative food security assessment to update the number of food insecure people during the post-harvest period.

    Rapid food security assessment in Cabo Delgado Province (Namuno, Chiúre, Ancuabe, Meluco, Metuge, Mecufi districts)

    In a mid-April rapid food security assessment to some districts that were affected by erratic and below-average rainfall in Cabo Delgado Province, FEWS NET observed a significant improvement in cropping conditions, following regular rainfall  since January and average to above average cumulative amounts from February onwards. In these areas and surrounding parts of Cabo Delgado and coastal areas of Nampula Province, the 2016/17 season had a delayed start with deficits of more than 50 percent of normal from November to December 2016. As a result, the first and second plantings by households during that period were lost, and the majority needed to plant for a third time in January/early February. More regular and well-distributed rainfall has allowed for good crop development in these areas. The majority of crops range from reproductive to maturation stages. FEWS NET did not observe any major issues related to pests and/or diseases, except for a few cases, which were easily controlled by local authorities. Poor households are currently consuming green foods, and the harvest is expected to start in late May. According to provincial agricultural authorities, Cabo Delgado Province is expected to meet the planned production volumes. FEWS NET projects the areas will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through the 2017/18 consumption season.

    In Pemba, the major market in Cabo Delgado, FEWS NET found that food availability is good, including for maize, which was mostly from carryover stocks from last year, and maize prices were falling. According to traders, dry cassava was  available through the entire previous consumption season, particularly during the peak of the lean season from January to March 2017. Cassava played an important role as the major source of food for poor households, especially when the maize grain supply was low and prices were well above average. 


    The assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the February to September 2017 Food Security Outlook remain valid except the fact that production prospects in the northeast of the country (including northeast Zambézia, coastal Nampula, and parts of Cabo Delgado) have improved significantly, more than previously expected.


    From April to May, the majority of poor households will have access to food from their own production, complemented by market purchases. As anticipated in the February Outlook, poor households are providing agricultural labor for better-off households and are expected to be paid mostly in-kind, though cash payment may be possible post-harvest. Also, households are now increasing their income through the sale of recently harvested foods, while most of the cash crops, such as sesame and cotton, are still growing in the fields. Self-employment activities will continue to be minimal, as typical, for this time of the year. The majority of drought-affected households are now either in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, particularly those who are now accessing green food while waiting for the harvest, or face None (IPC Phase 1), especially those who have already harvested or are now harvesting. However, some poor and vulnerable households who were affected by localized flooding, particularly by Cyclone Dineo, may still require extra time to recover during April and May. These households may temporarily face acute food insecurity outcomes ranging between Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    From June to September, poor and very poor households are expected to be accessing food from their own production, and FEWS NET no longer projects an early start of the lean season in portions of Cabo Delgado since crop production prospects have improved. During this period, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to persist throughout the country. However, some of the worst affected households during the drought could still be rebuilding their livelihoods and could face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes and still require food assistance. The SETSAN May/June food security assessment may specifically reveal where these households may exist and what type of future assistance may be required.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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