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Maize production estimated at 10 percent below average, but exportable surplus still likely

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zambia
  • May 2015
Maize production estimated at 10 percent below average, but exportable surplus still likely

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock has released its national 2014/2015 maize production estimate of about 2.6 million metric tonnes, a 10 percent decrease compared to the recent five-year average. However, Zambia has more than adequate stocks to meet total national requirements due to a large carryover stock, and will have an exportable surplus of approximately 877,000 MT.

    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to continue from April through June, Poor households in extreme southern and western Zambia may deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between July and September due to significant crop production losses due to dryness. Later in the consumption year, government food assistance will likely be required to help these households meet their basic food needs, though no external food assistance will be required.

    • Maize and maize meal prices are expected to decline up to June as market supply increases with the new harvest. However, prices are likely to start increasing atypically early as a result of expected early increases in local market demand, high demand for Zambian maize from the region, and increased transport costs due to the recent fuel price increase.

    Current Situation
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes have continued in May, as households begin to access the new harvest despite reduced output in the southern half of the country. This harvest has reduced households’ dependency on the market for staple food purchases. Where production was particularly poor in the south, poorer households are currently depending on their little harvests and the sale of harvest labor to the better off. However, these poor households will begin depending on staple food purchases earlier than normal this year.
    • Despite the late start of season in parts of the country (especially Eastern Province), mid-season dry spells and an early cessation of rains in the southern half of the country, Zambia is estimated to produce 2.62 million MT of maize, only a 10 percent reduction from the recent five-year average of 2.91 million MT. The increase in maize plantings and relatively good rainfall performance in the northern half of the country helped mitigate significant yield losses in parts of the the southern half of the country. As expected, the most impacted regions by the erratic rainfall were Western and Southern provinces, which had the highest percentage (83% and 81% respectively) of farmers reporting some maize crop loss. Western and Southern Provinces also reported the lowest (32% and 39% respectively) proportion of maize area to be harvested with respect to plantings. Compared to the recent five-year average, maize production is estimated to have dropped by 38 percent and 34 percent for Western and Southern Provinces respectively. Overall, all field crops except Virginia tobacco, registered yield reductions ranging from 3 percent (mixed beans) to 51 percent (rice).
    • With a large estimated carryover maize stock of 1.34 million MT, the total maize available at the start of the 2015/16 marketing season in May is 3.96 million MT which exceeds annual national demand (3.09 million MT), resulting in an exportable surplus of 876,768 MT.
    • Similar to previous years, Government has announced its intention to purchase only 500,000 MT of maize as strategic reserves through the FRA. In the previous season, Government bought double that volume and at above- market prices, partially crowding out the private sector from the market.
    • Given the stable supply of maize on the market by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), maize and meal prices mostly remained stable, while reductions have been recorded in some districts which are typical for this time of the year. However, prices remain above the recent five-year average and are mostly near last year’s levels.
    • Formal maize exports continue on an upward trend after starting to increase steeply since January. Most of the commodity is destined for Zimbabwe as demand from that country has substantially increased. Export volumes have risen substantially in March compared to December 2014. Although no formal maize meal exports are being recorded, informal exports of maize to the DRC has also increased.
    • Limited food relief assistance is being provided to households who lost crops due to wilting, primarily in Western Province. In early June, the VAC will make recommendations about assistance assistance needs.

    Updated Assumptions

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

    Projected Outlook through September 2015
    • Despite the reduced harvest in parts of southern Zambia (especially western and southern provinces), acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during the first part of the outlook period (April to June) as poor households consume the little harvest supplemented by the sale of labor and small livestock. By July, poorer households in severely affected districts such as Shangombo, Sesheke, Senanga (Western Province), Kazungula and valley areas of Southern Province and Mambwe will be unable to meet their livelihood needs without resorting to unsustainable/destructive coping strategies, such as increased charcoal burning, increased sales of small livestock, and withdrawing children from school. Off-season labor (a major source of food and income for the poor) demand by the better-off is likely to be below average given the significantly reduced harvest in these areas. Poor households in these areas will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the July to September period. With reduced rainfall, water levels in rivers have gone down which is likely to reduce fish catches. Pasture and water points for livestock will also reduce towards the end of the outlook period, resulting in poorer livestock body conditions and therefore reducing income for the better-off.
    • Grain supply to markets is expected to remain adequate given the large estimated total maize supply. Relief staple food will also be adequately available and the actual volumes to be distributed as well as the population to target will be fully established from the results of the VAC assessment available in early June.
    • Although maize prices are expected to typically fall in May-June period, they are likely to start rising earlier than usual (by early August). This is supported by the expected early dependence on the market for a number of districts in southern Zambia as their harvest prematurely runs out. Additionally, the recent (effected May 13) 8 percent fuel increase will support higher transport costs. Furthermore, high demand for Zambian maize from the region may also put pressure on the local prices. 

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    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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