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Start of season delayed in most parts of the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zambia
  • November 2012
Start of season delayed in most parts of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through March 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The food insecurity situation has remained Minimal (IPC Phase 1), following a surplus production season and limited formal exports. In keeping with the seasonal trend, maize prices are steadily rising but remain within the five-year average. Favorable conditions are expected to persist and the acute food insecurity is expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during the remainder of the outlook period.

    • The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has purchased an estimated 1 million MT of maize and is expected to start selling to millers and rural communities at fixed prices in the coming months in order to keep the markets adequately supplied with staple food.  

    • The start of the season is delayed in most parts of the country (northern and central regions), preventing farmers from planting between October and early November (early planting).  Despite this delay there are indications that most crops will still be planted within the optimum planting period.

    Current Situation

    The food insecurity situation remains favorable even as the lean season commences. Although the maize supply in most markets has decreased (typical for this time of the year) farmers have continued ferrying maize to the public market for sale in high producing areas of central province (Mumbwa and Kabwe district). This suggests that farmers in these areas are still holding surplus maize that they are trying to sell before the start of the rainy because of limited storage at the household level.  

    Reports of maize deficits were received from the Chipepo and Sikonga areas in Siavonga/Chirundu district. Typically, these areas depend on supplies from Lusaka at this time of the year. The FRA will be releasing maize from old stocks in order to meet this demand. Currently market supplies in most districts are meeting effective demand. Maize and meal prices even in low producing areas have been average and steadily rising, which is typical for this time of the year. The exception is in the Copperbelt urban towns of Chingola and Chililabombwe (near the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border) where maize meal shortages have been reported. The shortage has been attributed to abnormally high volumes of maize meal flowing informally into the DRC, triggered by the Zambian Government’s maize grain export restrictions instituted in September. With the large maize stocks in country, the situation should quickly normalize provided the government removes the restrictions on maize exports since the FRA has already purchased adequate stocks to meet the country’s requirement for the current consumption season and beyond.

    The FRA maize purchase program ended on October 31st and was able to meet its target of 1 million MT. Maize spoilage and safety concerns remain as the rainy season starts because of the FRA’s limited storage capacity. Since the end of the purchase program, informal maize imports dropped sharply (19 percent) in response to the reduced market demand (Figure 3). However, steady increases in maize exports to Tanzania for onward supply to the Horn of Africa continued and increased by 35 percent between September and October. Although recorded maize exports to the major markets of the DRC decreased, there are indications that most traders are using undesignated routes for this trade because of stringent measures in place to curb informal maize exports. Nonetheless, when compared to October 2011 export levels, informal maize meal exports increased by 140 percent.   

    In several districts, farmers are experiencing delays in accessing the government subsidized fertilizer due to the delayed payment of the suppliers by government. Although fertilizer is available in most district markets for purchase, because several farmers that supplied maize to the FRA have not received payment, it is difficult for them to access fertilizer at planting time. This delay in payment to farmers by the FRA could result in the late application of fertilizer; consequently reducing crop yields.  

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of October 2012 to March 2013. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the October Outlook

    Projected Outlook through March 2013
    • The acute food insecurity situation will generally remain favorable during the outlook period. While most households are expected to increasingly depend on the market for food purchases as household stocks become depleted,  staple food prices are likely to remain within the five-year average.
    • Poorer rural households are likely to engage in the normal seasonal activities of land preparation, planting and weeding for better-off households in order to meet basic food needs. Poor households will also tend to their own small fields.  Acute food insecurity for the country is expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) throughout the outlook period.
    • The lean period (November 2012-February 2013) is expected to be mild to average, provided no extensive flooding is experienced during the outlook period.  By March the green harvest foods will be accessible to households; improving the food security situation. The anticipated flooding in flood prone areas of western Zambia and the extreme south will likely be localized and the full impact could be felt after March.
    • The start of season has been delayed in the northern and parts of central Zambia. However, based on the updated national forecast for normal rainfall, planting for most crops is still expected to take place within the optimum planting period of November to mid-December.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Monitored informal maize imports and exports (MT)

    Figure 2

    Monitored informal maize imports and exports (MT)

    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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