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Food security improves in the southwest as the availability of green foods increases

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zambia
  • April 2016
Food security improves in the southwest as the availability of green foods increases

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Despite mostly Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity across most of the country, the cost of food and other basic items continues to be considerably high in both rural and urban areas, despite the recent appreciation of the local currency. Acute food insecurity outcomes in southwestern districts of the country have improved from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for April through September. This is attributed to increased rainfall in recent months which enabled late planted crops to mature. As a result, households across most of the country are now accessing green foods for consumption. In the southeast, food insecurity has worsened to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Luangwa district due to constraints in food access.   

    • Retail prices for maize grain and meal will remain above last years and the five-year average from April to September. In the northern region, prices are expected to decrease slightly in the coming months as farming households start accessing their own produced food stocks.   In the southern half of the country, prices are expected to remain relatively stable as most poor household harvests will be reduced, so they are likely to continue to rely on market purchases in order to meet their food needs. 

    • The national Crop Forecast Survey will be presented in early May. The outcome of this survey will determine the national maize export outlook for the 2016-17 marketing year. Currently, formal maize exports to the region continue but at reduced levels. Informal maize and meal exports to the DRC also continue. Between June and September, exports to other neighboring countries are expected to increase due to anticipated high demand given the poor harvests across the region.

    Current Situation
    • Most parts of the country continue to have Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity as the lean season comes to an end. The improved February to March rainfall has generally enhanced the production outlook for the southern half of the country with the late planted crop progressing to maturity. Additionally, green harvest (pumpkin, squash, groundnuts etc.) though reduced is currently available after a month’s delay. This has moderately increased food availability at the household level in rural areas, reducing household dependency on markets for staple purchases.
    • In the northern parts of the country, crop conditions remain good and crops are in the late maturing stage and drying.  In the southern half, there has been a general improvement in crop condition as well as improved water availability for livestock following widespread and increased rainfall in February and March. Most of the late planted crop has matured. Consequently, the production outlook for 2015/16 season has significantly improved compared to earlier in the season and Zambia is expected to produce a larger maize harvest than had originally been anticipated. However, the cereal harvest is still likely to be below the 2.9 million MT five-year average. Rainfall is moving north, which could mark the end of the rainy season in the southern half of the country.
    • The acute food security situation has shown some improvement in southwestern Zambia. Livelihood zone ZM 02 is an area of concern that has experienced increased rainfall from February through early April, resulting in pasture recovery, increased water supply, and improved crop conditions. Consequently, livestock conditions in Shangombo, Senanga, and Sesheke district are currently relatively good. The late planted crop is reaching maturity. Although yields could have been even better had rains continued into mid-April, there is a general indication that grain production will be better than the previous season in this zone but will still be below-average. With some green harvest now available and many households sun drying maize grain (being harvested too early) for milling, there is reduced pressure on households to sale livestock, which has stabilized or increased prices. Between February and April, cattle prices have generally increased by 20 to 35 percent. Household members who had temporarily migrated to Namibia in search of casual labor at the height of the lean season in January/February have started returning. This is an indication of reduced pressure on household food insecurity. Maize meal prices in Shangombo which were very high have reduced by 15 percent, while prices have remained stable in Senanga and Sesheke as demand for the staple food reduces.
    • In the southeastern area ((Livelihood ZM 10), the increased rainfall in February and March has improved livestock conditions as well. The very late planted maize has reached maturity, while the late planted cotton which is still in reproductive stage is in very good condition and a fairly good harvest is anticipated. However, due to the very late start of season, maize and sorghum production could fall by as much as 40 percent below the five-year average since the crop planted in the November to mid-January period mostly wilted. Poor households are minimally meeting their food needs by accessing some green foods and supplementing this with market purchases through income from increased sale of wild foods and small livestock. Poor households in Luangwa district are Stressed (IPC Phase 2)  due to a crop loss of more than 50 percent. As a result, most poor households are relying on increased charcoal sales for income.
    • Despite reports of localized maize meal shortages, both maize and meal prices have remained mostly stable in the February/March period, having reached the seasonal peak in Jan/Feb. Maize prices have remained above the previous season’s level and at least 50 percent above the five-year average due to high cost of production as well as high regional demand. Although the Food Reserve Agency remains the major supplier of maize to millers at subsidized price of US$178/MT compared to the export parity price of US$300/MT, meal prices in local currency have remained high as demand from neighboring countries continues to increase.
    • Formal maize export volumes are gradually reducing, but still remain significant. Volumes only dropped by 10 percent in February to 59,533 MT, with respect to the month of January. The maize meal exports which had risen to 902 MT in January from 0.22 MT in December, dropped by 84 percent in February. However, informal maize meal exports have remained atypically high driven by the increased price differential with neighboring countries, given the subsidized FRA maize. The government instituted a one week export ban on 5th April of maize and maize products in order to verify available maize stocks in view of the atypically high flow of maize and meal to neighboring countries. These high flows lead to localized meal shortages in some districts (especially border towns). The results from the export ban indicated that stocks are adequate to meet local needs up to August.  

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of February to September 2016. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zambia Food Security Outlook for February to September 2016

    Projected Outlook through September 2016

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue for most parts of the country. The recent verification of maize stocks indicates that there are enough to meet local needs up to August. The production outlook for the 2015/16 season has significantly improved since earlier in the season and Zambia is expected to produce a larger maize harvest than had originally been anticipated. However, the cereal harvest is still likely to be below the 2.9 million MT five-year average. High food prices will make it increasingly difficult for market dependent consumers, both urban and rural poorer households, to adequately manage to meet their basic food needs.

    Districts in southwestern (Livelihood ZM 02) and southeastern (Livelihood ZM 10) Zambia will be in (IPC phase 2) from April through September due to localized well below-average harvests as a result of the very late start of season and poor rains in Dec/Jan. This will enable most households to minimally meet their basic food needs, but they will have difficulties meeting essential non-food expenditures unless they engage in atypical coping strategies such as increased migration in search of labor opportunities. For districts in the southwest these projected outcomes are an improvement from the beginning of the current outlook period in February. 


    Figure 2


    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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