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The 2015/16 agriculture season is delayed in most high producing regions

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zambia
  • December 2015
The 2015/16 agriculture season is delayed in most high producing regions

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Despite mostly Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes across the country, the cost of food and other basic items is higher than normal in rural and urban areas due to the depreciation of the local currency. Acute food insecurity in Southwestern Cereal Timber livelihood zone in the southwestern region will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March. 

    • Retail prices for maize and meal remain above 2014 prices and the five-year average. Prices are expected to be high until the next harvest in 2016. 

    • The combination of higher than normal input prices and a slow start to the first half of the rainy season is likely to result in later and possibly reduced planting. Additionally, with the expected prevailing El Niño conditions for the second half of the season, seasonal production is expected to fall below recent five-year average levels. 

    Current Situation
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes continue in most parts of the country, with the exception of the southwestern region, where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected.
    • It is becoming increasingly difficult for households to afford food and basic items because prices continue to rise due to the depreciation of the local currency. Also of concern is the increased number of job losses in the mining towns of the Copperbelt Province. As the international price of copper falls,  mines are beginning to cut back production.
    • Maize and meal retail prices remain higher than normal, and this is eroding consumer purchasing power. According to the Central Statistics Office, inflation increased from 14.4 percent in October to 19.5 percent in November, and food inflation is currently at 23.4 percent. In order to curb the escalating maize meal prices, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has begun to sell their stocks to millers at subsidized prices.  
    • Households in the southwest that experienced a poor 2014/15 harvest started relying on market purchases much earlier than usual and are continuing these purchases by using income earned through selling fish, selling small livestock, and earnings from land preparation. The ban on the movement of livestock due to Foot and Mouth Disease is limiting the income that households receive through livestock sales. In addition, labor that is usually offered by better-off households is also reduced because of the poor previous season.    
    • The Government food relief program began in October and is ongoing in areas negatively impacted by last year’s poor seasonal performance. Despite the Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s efforts to improve targeting, field reports indicate that in some areas in western Zambia, some eligible households are not receiving assistance.
    • Formal maize trade volumes continue to be high. The volumes only declined slightly from 105,184 MT in August to 95,182 MT and 88,339 MT in September and October, respectively. Of the total exports in October, Zimbabwe received approximately 82 percent, while Malawi imported 8 percent. The remaining 10 percent went to South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, and the DRC.
    • The season is slow to start in most high producing (Eastern, Central, and Southern Provinces) and some low producing areas (Lusaka, Western, North Eastern Provinces) with many areas experiencing a 10-30 day delayed onset of rains. Similar to most recent seasons, this rainy season is starting from the west and moving east. Planting rains have been received in parts of, North Western, Luapula, western parts of Northern, and parts of Copperbelt Provinces. In areas where the rains have not yet started, farmers are continuing land preparation activities. Since the price of fertilizer has doubled, there is concern about whether or not most small scale farmers will be able to afford to make this purchase this season.  

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of October 2015 to March 2016. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zambia Food Security Outlook for October 2015 to March 2016

    Projected Outlook through March 2016

    Although Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue for most parts of the country, the combination of high agricultural input prices, and expected poor rainfall due to El Niño conditions will make it increasingly difficult for both urban and rural poorer households to adequately manage to meet their basic food needs. Green food availability is expected to be reduced which could prolong the lean period.


    Figure 1


    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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