Food Security Outlook Update

Harvest prospects for maize remain good

March 2014
2014-Q1-1-1-ZM-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Minimal acute food insecurity is expected through the end of the outlook period (June) as the green and main harvest will increase household food stocks by April and reduce dependency on the market. Staple food prices are expected to start falling by April. This decrease will improve market access for urban households. However, price levels will still remain above the previous season and the recent five year average.

  • An average to above-average maize harvest is expected despite a late onset of rains in eastern parts of the country and very late delivery of subsidized inputs. This scenario is supported by reports of good crop conditions in most high-producing areas and the return of commercial farmers into active maize grain production as demand for soybean by oil processors reduces. Good rice, tobacco and groundnut output is also anticipated while cotton and soybeans are expected to notably fall.

  • In an attempt to prevent further depreciation of the kwacha, the government is once again allowing foreign currency transactions locally, and the central bank will no longer closely monitor currency inflows, outflows and foreign transactions, as it did in 2013. Further weakening could increase costs of those food and non-food commodities which Zambia imports which costs would be passed on to consumers.

Current situation

Acute food insecurity remains Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as the lean season comes to an end in March. Supply of staple foods on the market has remained good throughout the lean period, due to good 2012/13 production and limited formal exports. Despite this, maize and meal prices have been atypically high throughout the marketing season, which has reduced purchasing power for the poorer households who are mostly depending on wages from the sale of agricultural labor in order to access food. Maize and meal prices have peaked in most districts at levels above the five-year average and the previous season as anticipated. Maize prices are about 30 to 60 percent above the previous season and the five year average while maize meal price increases are in the range of 20 to 40 percent. In February, the prices remained relatively stable with respect to the month of January.

Following increased and widespread rainfall in January and February, rainfall decreased during the month of March in most parts of southern Zambia, especially the south-eastern regions. These are also areas which largely had a late start of the season. Crops were performing well in these areas as of early March, with the prospect of a good harvest provided rains continued into March to support the grain filling. Equally, crop conditions in the south were good and harvest prospects are good provided good continued rains into March. According to field reports, high producing districts of Central Province have good crop condition and harvest prospects are very good for maize while in Southern Province, areas of concern among high-producing areas are western Choma, western Monze and eastern Kalomo due to erratic rains in late February and March affecting the late planted crop. Indications are that Monze and Kalomo still expect better harvests than the previous season unlike Choma which is the more affected of the three. 

After several years of abandoning active maize grain production, commercial farmers have responded positively to the government’s significantly reduced distortions in the maize market in the current marketing season by increasing hectarage planted to maize. The farmers have moved some significant hectarage out of soybeans into maize in anticipation of another year of favorable maize prices which should help increase 2013/14 national production. Early maize (early planted and artificially dried) estimated at around 80,000MT from commercial farmers in Central Province has also been reported and expected to be available at the end of March. The 2013/14 marketing season has been characterized by high private sector participation in the maize market and the Food Reserve Agency selling maize at prices close to the prevailing market price of ZMK 90/50Kg bag. This move into maize production has also been in response to the reduced soybean demand by edible oil producers as they face stiff competition from imported cooking oil. The increased production by commercial farmers will contribute towards the country attaining adequate production to meet national demand with some surplus for regional exports.

The recent (early February to end of March) 15 percent depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar has raised a lot of concern. Zambia being a net importer of fuel, fertilizer, and finished products and therefore increased costs of imports will inevitably result in increased cost of goods and services.  These costs are eventually passed on to consumers through increased prices of food and non- food commodities, which erodes the purchasing power of consumers, particularly the poor wealth group. The high dependency on copper whose prices have in recent months fallen due to reduced demand from China has also contributed to this position. The already high priced fuel may increase further if this situation continues, which would result in increased production costs. In a bid to increase business confidence and save the currency from further depreciation, the government has revoked two statutory instruments (SI) which had been introduced in 2013 – non-use of foreign currency in domestic transactions (SI 33) and empowering the Central Bank to monitor inflows, outflows and international transactions (SI 55).

Updated assumptions

The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of January to June 2014. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zambia Food Security Outlook for January to June 2014

Projected outlook through June 2014

National harvest prospects remain good for maize and rice. This is supported by good crop conditions in many high producing areas for maize and the return of commercial farmers to maize production, which should further boost the harvest. Average to above-average output is more likely for the 2013/14 cropping season. National rice production is expected to be significantly above the previous season level. Cotton and soybean output, on the other hand, are likely to significantly drop attributed to non-recovery from the 2011/12 price failure for cotton and reduced local demand for soybeans by oil processors.

Although prices have peaked and expected to start falling as the new harvest starts reaching the market in April, they are expected to remain above the previous season’s level and the recent five-year average. Supply of the staple food maize will remain adequately available on the market during the outlook period and become more accessible as the new harvest starts reaching the market and increases household food stock in terms of quantity and variety. The local currency is expected to appreciate following government revocation of two policy instruments, averting fears of another fuel price increase which would have resulted in increased food prices and therefore further reduced purchasing power especially for the poor wealth group. Acute food insecurity outcomes will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for the March to June period. 

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
Learn more About Us.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
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