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Significant production deficits in semiarid areas likely to lead to Crisis outcomes from June

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mozambique
  • February 2018
Significant production deficits in semiarid areas likely to lead to Crisis outcomes from June

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Following below-average seasonal rainfall in the south and parts of the central region, outside of northwestern Sofala Province, an atypical, gradual deterioration in food security is expected in mostly semiarid areas through September. As a result of expected growing food gaps for poor households, emergency food assistance will be required beginning around late June. However, currently, most areas of Mozambique, except some localized central areas, are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes due to favorable food access.

    • From February to May, due to significantly below-average crop yields or, in some instances, total crop failure in parts of southern and central zones, particularly in the semiarid areas, there will be an absence or limited green foods. Combined with limited income-earning opportunities and the continued recovery from the El Niño drought in 2015/16, poor households are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In northwestern Sofala Province, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist until the April harvest.

    • From June to September, outcomes in some areas, particularly semiarid zones affected by dryness during the main season, where second season production is limited, are expected to worsen to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Poor households in these areas are expected to intensify their consumption of wild foods, reduce their quantity of food from market purchases, and increase their self-employment activity to cover their food gaps. Food gaps are expected to widen further after September, ahead of the typical lean season in October.

    • Maize prices are currently mixed, with general stability in producer areas, but marked increases in drought-affected areas. This trend is likely to continue through September, with below-average prices in surplus areas, while the south and parts of central semiarid areas are likely to experience further price increases atypically early in May. Above-average maize grain prices in these areas are likely to persist until the next harvest in April 2019.


    Current Situation

    Current Food Security

    • The 2017/2018 rainfall and agricultural season has been characterized by shocks that include below-average rainfall, with extended dry spells that have caused moderate to severe dryness in the south and parts of the central region; above-average rainfall in the north, including a tropical depression, in mid-January; and different types of pests, primarily rodents in the southern region. The combination of these shocks resulted in reduced crop yields, and sometimes total crop failure in the affected areas. However, in areas where agroclimatic conditions are favorable across the major producer areas, including the northern plateau of Tete, much of Zambézia Province, the northern region, central Manica and Sofala provinces, coastal Inhambane, and lowlands in Gaza and Maputo provinces, crops are growing well.
    • Due to above-average carryover stocks from the previous season, below-average staple food prices, particularly for maize grain; and self-employment income for needed market purchases, the majority of poor households, including in the areas affected by this year’s shocks, are able to meet their minimum food and non-food needs and are facing None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, as this is the peak of the lean season, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Chemba District in northwestern Sofala Province and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in other parts of Sofala, Tete, and Manica provinces persist from below-production during 2016/17. Currently, most households are accessing green foods while waiting to harvest either in March, April, or May. In the areas affected by dryness and floods, there have been areas where households have no or reduced green food availability. In these areas, despite Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, it is likely that some of the most vulnerable poor households could be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    2017/18 Agricultural Season Progress

    • Initial rainfall for the 2017/18 season was delayed and extremely poor across much of the south and parts of the central region, but rainfall deficits expanded even more significantly between December 2017 to January 2018, threatening production prospects. In some of these areas, rainfall was less than 30 percent of normal (see Figure 1). Due to prolonged dryness during the season, there were and continue to be multiple, failed planting attempts, which has exhausted seed stocks, and some harvesting is not expected until May. Late January through mid-February enhanced rainfall in some southern and central areas, including Maputo Province, northern Manica, southern Tete, much of Sofala and Zambézia provinces, has renewed the possibility that there might be enough residual moisture for second season production in these areas. However, households need seeds for horticulture crops and short-cycle maize varieties.
    • According to a February 12 bulletin from the Crop and Early Warning Unit (DCAP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA), crops are generally in good conditions, though there were typical countrywide reports of African armyworm, elegant grasshopper, stalk borer, Fall Armyworm (FAW), and aphids in Sofala and Zambézia provinces. To date, the impacts from these pests are insignificant. According to MASA/DCAP, widespread rains, beginning in late January, also helped to reduce the level of pests.

    Tropical Depression Impacts

    • In mid-January, a tropical depression hit the northern coast and its heavy winds and rainfall caused displacement and crop and infrastructure damage. Estimates from late January assessments indicate that more than 80,000 people were affected, and the storm and ensuing floods inundated more than 12,000 hectares of crops, of which about 14 percent were totally destroyed. The Government of Mozambique, through the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC), with support from partners, has been providing emergency humanitarian assistance, as needed. The number of people in need of additional food assistance has been continually adjusted, according to the level of recovery of households. At a countrywide level, according to INGC, torrential rains and winds during the 2018/18 season, including the tropical depression in the north, has already affected a total of 130,000 people and caused 50 deaths.


    ·         In areas where there were crop losses due to drought, including in parts of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Tete, Sofala, and Manica provinces, many poor households are needing to switch from typical agricultural income-earning opportunities to self-employment activities for their market food purchases. More and more people are engaging in self-employment, including collecting and selling natural products, such as grass, building poles, cane/reeds, firewood; brewing and selling traditional drinks, and increasing the production and sale of charcoal. As a result, there is increased competition, leading to lower sales prices of items, suppressing income from these activities. The production of traditional drinks has also been affected by a lack of availability of required small grains. In addition, when they need extra cash and have available livestock to sell, particularly poultry, livestock sales are occurring. Some members of poor households, particularly young men from the southern region, are migrating in larger numbers to South Africa in search of job opportunities, often illegally. However, due to difficulties in finding stable work, most of these migrants are unable to send remittances to their relatives.

    Market Supplies and Prices

    ·         As typical for this time of year, with food stocks already or nearly exhausted at the household level, many households are currently relying on market purchases for basic foods. The national average price of maize grain, the primary staple food, remains below the five-year average by 32 percent and significantly below those from last year by 62 percent. Since the beginning of the current consumption year in April 2017, maize grain prices have been atypically stable, even during the time when prices would be peaking from October to February. In some markets in the central and northern regions, maize grain prices have even decreased during the time when prices were expected to rise. This atypical behavior of maize grain prices was caused by the significantly above-average maize grain production during the 2016/17 agricultural season, which supplied markets with maize grain at higher levels and also allowed most households to hold their food reserves longer than usual. Other staple foods, such as maize meal (a preferred substitute for poor households) and rice, have also been stable throughout much of the consumption period. On average, maize meal prices in January were four percent below last year’s prices but 53 percent above the five-year average, while rice prices were the same as last year’s prices and 61 percent above the five-year average.

    Humanitarian assistance

    • Apart from the humanitarian assistance provided by the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) and partners in response to the tropical depression in the north and heavy rains elsewhere in the country, the World Food Programme (WFP) has assisted 170,000 people in parts of Gaza, Sofala, Tete, and Zambézia provinces through food for assets programming, following the publication of the November 2017 Technical Secretariat of Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) report. The modality is in-kind food distributions, vouchers or cash depending on the area and context. WFP’s targeting is based on populations identified to be either facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes based on SETSAN’s November 2017 qualitative assessment. 


    The Food Security Outlook for February to September 2018 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Food availability

    • Above-average maize grain availability. With MASA estimates of nearly 800,000 MT in maize surpluses, maize grain availability until March 2018, and after the harvest through September, is expected to be above average. However, large deficits are expected in the south and central semiarid areas and surpluses in central and northern producer areas.

    Household Food Availability and Access

    • February to March. Food availability is expected to remain adequate for the majority of poor households through the lean season, except green food availability is likely to be below average in semiarid southern and central areas, particularly in southern Tete. Relatively low staple food prices will favor market food access, but poor household purchasing power will be constrained by low incomes.
    • April to September 2017. Food availability is expected to improve significantly to average levels for the majority of poor households. However, food availability is expected to remain below average in semiarid southern and central areas.

    Markets and Trade

    • Informal cross-border trade with Malawi. During the scenario period, informal maize grain trade with Malawi will continue to be below average due to above-average maize grain availability on both sides of the border and below-average prices.
    • Domestic informal maize trade. From February to April, maize grain from typical surplus to deficit areas are expected to continue but at reduced volumes. From May onwards, flows are expected to increase to typical or above-average levels.
    • Macroeconomic context. The Metical (MZN) is expected to remain consistently stable against the USD and the South African Rand (ZAR) through September, which may encourage traders to increase their level of imports, particularly for processed foods from South Africa. The inflation rate continues to steadily decrease and was 5.65 percent in January 2018. According to official forecasts, it is expected to decline further during February to April.
    • Maize prices. Based on an analysis of current prices and drivers, FEWS NET’s integrated price projections show that maize grain prices will remain stable through the end of February in Gorongosa in Sofala Province, a reference market of national trends (see Figure 2). Beginning in March/April, maize grain prices are expected to slowly and steadily decrease, reaching the lowest level in May/June and then rising through September. On average, prices are expected to remain below last year’s prices by 25 percent and below the five-year average by 20 percent.
    • Maize meal/rice prices. Based on FEWS NET price projections for Gorongosa market, maize meal and rice prices are anticipated to remain largely stable through September and remain on average 57 and 76 percent above the five-year average, respectively.

    Seasonal Forecast and Cyclonic Activity

    • Rainfall season. According to NOAA and USGS, total cumulative seasonal rainfall through March is likely to be average tending to above average across northern Mozambique and average tending to below average in southern areas.
    • Cyclonic activity. There are increased chances of cyclonic activity for Mozambique through March, with expected La Niña conditions and the forecast sea surface temperature anomaly configuration of the Indian Ocean.

    Hydrology/Flooding Risk

    • High risk of severe flooding in the north. While moderate localized flooding has already occurred in the north, there is still the possibility of more flooding through March.
    • River and dam levels. Rivers and dams in the north are currently at average to above average levels, and further heavy rainfall through March may cause higher water levels. However, in the south, where dams and rivers are at below-normal levels, the prospects of below-average rainfall may worsen the situation. As of February 28, the Pequenos Libombos dam reservoir was only at approximately 25 percent capacity. As it is the main water supply for three major, southern cities, Maputo, Matola, and Boane, and provides water for irrigation systems along the Umbeluzi River, water restrictions have been increased. In late February, all other southern and central dams were at more than 50 or 60 percent capacity, respectively.


    • For the 2017/18 season, FEWS NET assumes that, as usual, the majority of farmers used retained maize seed for planting, which is typically of poor quality and less resistant to pests and diseases. Some certified seed distributions have taken place this season, but there have been supplier issues and delays. FEWS NET expects seed distributions will continue until at least June, particularly for vegetables for second season planting, but amounts are unknown.


    • Fall Armyworm (FAW). The presence of FAW, Spodoptera frugiperda, was confirmed in all provinces of Mozambique during the ongoing agricultural season, but according to MASA, the level of infestations are still insignificant, representing less than one percent of total area planted. However, depending on the extent of pest management strategies to control FAW, there is a possibility that it could have a more severe impact during subsequent crop stages or during the second season.
    • Rodent, elegant grasshopper, and tuta absoluta infestations. A severe rodent infestation affected 2017/18 main season crops in semiarid southern areas and parts of the central region, and there is a possibility that second season crops are also likely to be impacted. Another pest, elegant grasshopper, has already been confirmed in some southern areas. If there are further dry spells, particularly in the semiarid areas, the proliferation of these insects is likely to continue posing serious threats to late planted crops, particularly maize grain. The production of tomato has been affected by tuta absoluta, with high incidences in the southern region, and since this is also a second season crop, this pest is likely to cause damage unless effective control measures are taken.  

    2017/18 Agricultural Prospects

    • Overall, total 2017/18 crop production is likely to be close to average. Estimates by the satellite-derived Water Requirements Satisfaction Index (WRSI) suggest a favorable season for northern areas and much of the central region. Exceptions include most of the typically deficit areas of the southern region and southern Tete, Manica, and Sofala provinces where prospects range from below average to no production. Much of the main season crop failure is estimated to occur in Gaza, interior western Inhambane, and northern parts of Maputo Province.

    Agricultural labor availability and wage rates

    • Overall, agricultural labor opportunities and wages are expected to be close to normal across the country for the entire scenario period. However, in the areas that have been affected by dryness, wages are likely to be below average.

    Alternate Labor Opportunities

    • Self-employment. Self-employment is expected at typical levels through September. However, in areas affected by dryness, from May/June onwards, an intensification of self-employment is likely to rise to above-average levels to earn needed cash.
    • Migration. During the entire scenario period, it is anticipated there will be above-average migration to urban centers in Mozambique and South Africa, particularly by young people from the south, to earn income from petty trade.

    Emergency humanitarian assistance

    • WFP has confirmed plans to increase the total number of beneficiaries to 320,000 people, likely to start in March, through its food for assets programming. In addition, WFP plans in March or April, for an indeterminate amount of time, to begin providing food assistance to about 40,000 people in Nampula and Cabo Delgado recovering from flooding. However, it is important to note there is currently no planned, funded, and likely assistance from June onwards in any semiarid areas of the country that FEWS NET projects will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes nor in Chemba District where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes already exist.  


    ·  Based on the last nutrition assessment conducted by SETSAN in March/April 2017, the overall national prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) was Acceptable (GAM by MUAC <5 percent), and this is projected to continue through September 2018. However, geographical disparities exist, with a projected higher prevalence of GAM at Critical (GAM by MUAC 11-16.9 percent), in Namuno and Chiure districts in Cabo Delgado Province. The level of acute malnutrition in Morrumbala, Mopeia, Cahora Bassa, and Ancuabe districts was also expected to deteriorate from Acceptable to Alert/Serious (GAM by MUAC 6-10.9 percent) through the end of February 2018 due to decreased food access during the lean season. In addition, there is the likelihood that chronic contributory factors of wasting could also impact GAM prevalence in the country, including flooding, seasonal diseases, and poor access to water and sanitation.

    Instability due to sporadic attacks by unidentified armed group

    • Since October 2017, an unidentified armed group has caused unrest in Mocimboa da Praia District in northeastern Cabo Delgado Province, which temporarily forced households from their homes, and the attacks have now extended to other districts. The continuation and spread of this instability may potentially affect the food security of the affected districts and surrounding areas. It is possible that the instability may restrict movements of people and goods, preventing households from focusing on their farming activities. FEWS NET will continue to monitor the situation.


    From February to May 2018, most poor households are expected to be accessing food by initially consuming green food (February/March), followed by newly harvested crops from the main season, gradually reducing their dependence on food market purchases. However, in southern and central semiarid zones, due to the absence or limited green foods from the significantly below-average crop yields or total crop failure, combined with the slow recovery from the severe El Niño drought in 2015/16, poor and very poor households will need to atypically rely on market food purchases, with limited incomes. Following replanting efforts, some additional food in May is likely to become available, but households will also consume wild foods to meet their minimum food needs. Poor households are expected to require assistance to protect their livelihoods from mid-March onwards. In Chemba District in Sofala Province, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes have persisted, the availability of green foods in March will help stabilize the level of food insecurity but until the harvest in mid-April, food gaps will persist,  requiring urgent food assistance. These households will intensify self-employment activities to be able to buy food from markets, but some of the most vulnerable households are unlikely to earn the needed income and will resort to unsustainable coping mechanisms, including excessive consumption of wild foods and the depletion of livelihood assets. In semiarid areas of the country, based on the severity of the dryness, as shown by the remote sensing products, which was confirmed by FEWS NET field assessments, and reports from local agricultural authorities, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are projected across all of Gaza Province, northern Maputo Province, the majority of Inhambane Province, southern Tete, southern and northern Manica, and southern and north-central Sofala. In other areas of the country, outside of Chemba District, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to prevail.

    From June to September, the majority of poor households will continue consuming their own food from the 2017/18 harvest, combined with food from the second season, when available, and food purchased from markets. In June and July, in non-drought affected areas, food prices are expected to seasonally reach their lowest levels, which will facilitate greater market access. In order to obtain some money to pay for key non-food expenditures, households will be engaged in typical self-employment activities. However, in most of the semiarid southern and central areas, with below-average harvests or total crop losses and limited or no available livestock for sale, poor households are expected to not have enough income to meet their minimum food needs. In addition, staple food prices are expected to rise to above five-year averages in these markets as early as April, right after the harvest, further constraining household purchasing power. In August and September, the harvest from second season production typically becomes available in non-semiarid areas, replenishing household food stocks, but this is likely to be minimal or nonexistent for the households that have experienced below average or no harvesting. (Some poor households with no food stocks from their own production might not receive any until the next main season.) Competition for labor opportunities, including self-employment is expected to increase during this period, limiting needed income-earning opportunities. Beginning in late July through September, some of the districts that had been in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) are expected to worsen to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), particularly those located in the semiarid areas where second season production is limited (majority of districts in Gaza Province, northern Maputo Province, western and northern Inhambane Province, and southern portions of Tete, Manica, and Sofala provinces). Other nearby districts, with less semiarid characteristics and better access to markets, income- generating activities, and second season production possibilities due to improved rainfall in late January/February, are expected to experience Stressed IPC (Phase 2) outcomes (southern areas of Gaza and Inhambane provinces, northern Maputo and Manica province, central-north Tete Province, and Chemba and Caia districts in Sofala Province).

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. October 1, 2017-January 30, 2018 CHIRPS Rainfall (Percent of the 1981-2010 average)

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. October 1, 2017-January 30, 2018 CHIRPS Rainfall (Percent of the 1981-2010 average)

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Gorongosa maize grain prices and projections (MZN/kg)

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Gorongosa maize grain prices and projections (MZN/kg)

    Source: FEWS NET Estimates based on MASA/SIMA data

    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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