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Dry spells since February to reduce crop yields in southern and eastern Zambia

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zambia
  • March 2015
Dry spells since February to reduce crop yields in southern and eastern Zambia

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected to continue until the end of the outlook period (June). Generally, households’ food stocks will improve with the availability of the new harvest starting in April, while market supplies will increase starting in May despite expected lower harvest in parts of the country. 

    • Maize and maize meal prices are expected to remain stable and begin to decline in May with increased market supply. Maize meal prices are likely to decrease further after a 14 percent reduction in the FRA maize price to millers, providing relief to market-dependent households.

    • Due to prolonged dry spells experienced from late February for most of southern and eastern Zambia, below average crop yields are expected. Late planted crops are stressed and reaching permanent wilting point with minimal prospects for recovery. 

    Current Situation
    • March acute food security outcomes remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as most agricultural households began to access some limited green harvest. Poor households who have depleted own stocks continue to depend on the market for staple foods with income from casual labor and the sale of small livestock, while others are able to access through labor exchange for food.
    • Maize meal prices were mainly stable compared to January, though increases were recorded at Chipata and Choma after remaining atypically stable through much of the lean period (November to February). The stable maize meal prices are due to stable supply of maize to millers and fixed prices of FRA maize. Maize and maize meal prices in most markets remained within the previous year’s levels. On March 17, the government reintroduced a maize subsidy to millers that will reduce the FRA wholesale price of maize grain from ZMW 76.00 per 50KG bag to ZMW 65.00 per 50 kg bag, approximately a 14 percent decrease.
    • Food assistance is being provided to about 120,000 people in seven districts of Western Province. This is out of a population of 350,000 people in 14 districts that was initially recommended by the the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) May 2014 in-depth assessment, which was mainly based on chronic food insecurity. Although no appeals have indicated assistance needs from the other seven districts in Eastern and Northern Provinces, the Government of Zambia is providing one month of food assistance in March to approximately 40,000 people in valley areas (parts of Mpika, Luano, and Gwembe districts), chronically food-deficit areas where access to green harvests has been hampered by dry spells.
    • Rainfall across Zambia was well below average during the first half of March and is likely to negatively affect overall production, particularly in the late planted areas in the southern half and eastern parts of the country.  Field reports indicate that overall crops are stressed in most parts of Southern, Central, Lusaka and Eastern provinces due to prolonged dry spells and harvest prospects are likely to be significantly below average. In south and western Zambia (Kazungula, Sinazongwe, Gwembe, Mwandi, Sesheke, Sioma and Shangombo districts), well below average rainfall and persistent dry spells have led to permanent crop wilting (Figure 1).
    • While the FRA has above-average surpluses of maize, maize exports remained minimal due to low regional demand as well as the uncompetitive Zambian maize price compared to South African maize. The government is currently considering measures to make FRA maize prices more competitive on regional markets, with regional demand likely to increase due to below-average regional production prospects. 

    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 2015. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zambia Food Security Outlook for January to June 2015

    Projected Outlook through June 2015
    • Maize harvest prospects are likely to be significantly below average due to delayed start of season, below-average rainfall and dry spells experienced during the latter part of the 2014/15 rainy season in most parts of south western and eastern Zambia. Despite SARCOF forecasts predicting normal to above normal rainfall for the remainder of the rainy season (March/April), this rainfall will likely be too late to provide relief for late planted crops which are reaching permanent wilting point. While for the areas already affected by low rains (south and western Zambia) in addition to crop failure, continued dry conditions in these areas could negatively affect pasture availability in both for the current season and the dry season. Late season dry conditions are also likely to increase termite attack on maize, leading to further crop damage and losses.
    • Maize grain supply to markets is expected to increase with the availability of the new harvest starting May, even though overall availability will be lower compared to average. Prices are expected to be stable until April and begin to reduce in May to the relief of market dependent consumers. Farming households in the northern Zambia will continue to access a wider variety of seasonal foods than those in the south as well as own produced staple foods from April. The majority of the poor farming households in Eastern and Southern province will have limited access to green as well as new harvest due to reduced harvests. While most poor households in southwestern Zambia will continue to depend on the market (incomes from sale of small livestock and casual labour) for staple foods due to little or no harvest. Overall acute food insecurity outcomes for the period March to June are expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1). 
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Soil Water Index for maize for the 2014/15 production year, as of March 20, 2015.

    Figure 2

    Soil Water Index for maize for the 2014/15 production year, as of March 20, 2015.

    Source: Zambia Meteorology Department/USGS

    Figure 3


    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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