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Delays in the start of season in most parts of northern Zambia

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zambia
  • November 2013
Delays in the start of season in most parts of northern Zambia

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through March 2014
  • Key Messages
    • As the lean season commences acute food insecurity remains Minimal (IPC Phase 1) across most of the country as households begin to finish their food stocks, a typical occurrence for this time of the year. Poor households have completely run out of their own stock and are mostly working for food and income in order to meet their basic food needs. Increased agricultural labor demand with start of the 2013/14 season has increased labor opportunities for poorer households.

    • Staple food prices remain atypically high and as demand continues to increase the l prices of both maize and maize grain are expected to continue to rise between January and March. The increasing prices will reduce purchasing power for the poor who are depending on the market to meet their basic food needs.

    • Even though some widespread rainfall was received in late October and early November, the onset is late in most of the northern region. In the south and western parts of the country the onset of rainfall was atypically early. Planting in most part of the country is just beginning as of late November. The main concern has been the delayed distribution of subsidized seed and fertilizer.

    Current Situation
    • Better-off households are still accessing their own staple food for consumption and using some surplus for labor payment as land preparation progresses. On the other hand, poor households have long depleted their reduced 2012/13 production and are currently working for food and income. As is typical during this period, agricultural labor demand has increased as land preparation continues and planting for the 2013/14 is soon underway.
    • The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) maize purchase program extension (from late October to mid-November) has ended. Although the total purchase volumes are still being compiled, it is estimated that FRA has met at least 90 percent of their target of 500,000 MT. FRA has been conducting community maize sales on demand in a few districts in Muchinga (formerly part of Northern Province) and in the Western Province. While maize availability in markets has been low in many marginal producing districts of the Western and Southern Province (forcing households to travel long distances to district centers to purchase maize meal), few districts have requested FRA community sales. This suggests that either the district authorities are not aware of the situation or the households prefer buying maize meal to maize grain as it may be cheaper from large milling outlets.
    • Atypically high informal maize exports to Malawi continue, however trade has significantly decreased at both the Tanzanian and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) borders. Seasonal rains usually make road access to farmers extremely difficult during this period, resulting in a slight reduction in informal exports. This year the reduction is exacerbated by the police patrols and stricter customs regulations near the DRC border. This significant reduction in informal exports does not reflect a reduction in demand from the DRC. Demand for maize from the DRC is still high and is being purchased for approximately ZMK 115 per 50 kg. For Tanzania on the other hand, demand from the Tanzanian traders has significantly dropped and this is reflected in the 20 percent drop in prices. As a result of reduced informal maize exports, more maize is expected to be retained in country guaranteeing stable supply.
    • The recent outbreak of the African swine fever virus (ASFV) in Lusaka could potentially spread to other areas which could negatively affect both pig farmers and pork processors. The government has instituted a ban on pig and pork product movement in order to contain the outbreak which will result in the loss of income for the better-off and middle wealth groups rearing pigs, with Lusaka being one of the biggest markets for the product in the country.
    • Relief food distribution has begun in most of the eighteen districts recommended by the Zambia Vulnerability Committee (ZamVAC) assessment. The distribution will be on a monthly basis and will mostly be in districts in the Western and Southern Province that were negatively impacted by the extended dryness during the last growing season.   
    • Although widespread rainfall was received in late October and early November, recent satellite imagery shows that the onset has been delayed in most of northern Zambia. Land preparation is advanced in areas in the southern and western parts that received earlier than normal rainfall; however farmers in parts of the northern region are waiting for rains to establish in order to start planting. Similar to previous years, subsidized inputs are late to be distributed in most areas. Fortunately, the optimum grain planting period runs up to mid-December, so there is still time for farmers to plant. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of November 2013 to March 2014. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zambia October 2013 Food Security Outlook

    Projected Outlook Through March 2014
    • During the lean period between November and February, maize and maize meal prices are expected to rise as demand increases and as most households begin to deplete their own stocks. Food prices will remain above the previous season and atypically above the five-year average, which means that poor households will face reduced purchasing power when trying to meet their basic food needs. Relief staple food distributions in eighteen districts (and to approximately 210,000 people) will continue and is expected to help supplement poorer household food access. While relatively high food prices is limiting poor household access to staple foods, agricultural labor demand will be at its peak during the November to January period and this should provide poorer households with much needed food and income. Additionally, the FRA is likely to increase community sales of maize as more requests are made in rural areas. The food security situation is expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during the outlook 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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