Skip to main content

Stable food security conditions expected to continue

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zambia
  • January - July 2013
Stable food security conditions expected to continue

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • At the peak of the lean season, food insecurity outcomes across the country have mostly remained Minimal (IPC Phase 1). With the significantly reduced supply of maize grain in public markets and at household level, most households are depending on industrially processed maize meal. Maize sales to millers by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is keeping the markets adequately supplied, while needy rural communities are also accessing the commodity from the Agency.

    • Maize meal prices, which had risen to abnormal levels in November and December, have started falling following the Government’s directive to millers to reduce the wholesale price. The resulting price drop should increase access to the staple food for poorer market dependent households.

    • Despite a slow seasonal start and an African armyworm outbreak in December, crops are generally in good condition and production prospects are good. Increased rainfall intensity has increased the risk of flooding in flood prone areas of southern, central and western Zambia; however the impact on crops is likely to be moderate.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    In general, the food security situation across the country has remained favorable during the peak of the lean period. The Copperbelt Province experienced a temporary maize meal shortage in November/December that was triggered by abnormal volumes of informal maize meal exports to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Local maize meal supplies in these areas returned to normal once the Government of Zambia (GoZ) called for the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to start selling maize from their stocks to millers and needy rural communities in order to meet local demand.

    Following the large volume of maize purchases (1 million MT) by the FRA, maize market supplies were drastically reduced across many parts of the country. Consequently, local maize prices rose above last season’s prices and well above the five-year average in most districts across the country. Atypical maize grain price increases were observed in Kasama, Kitwe, and Lusaka, where prices rose well above last season and the five-year average. The exception to these maize price increases were source markets in the Eastern and Southern Province where good market supply has kept prices stable and low. The increased informal export of maize grain to Tanzania also played a major role in the price increases during the October to November period for districts in northern Zambia. The shortage of maize in the Greater Horn spurred Tanzanian traders to substantially increase informal maize purchases from Zambia, pushing prices up.  

    While reduced maize supply during the peak of the lean season has increased demand and prices for maize meal, the prices experienced between November and December were abnormally high as a result of a large outflow into the DRC. This increase in outflow was driven primarily by the large maize meal price differential. Maize meal prices rose by as much as 40 to 50 percent in parts of Northern and North-Western Province while Copperbelt towns registered an average of 30 percent increases between October and December (Figure 4). This has prompted the Government of Zambia (GoZ) to intervene by directing the FRA to sell maize on the market on a monthly basis and at the fixed price of ZMW60 in order to meet miller demand. The GoZ has further requested that millers reduce their maize meal prices following an outcry from consumers in surplus areas.

    Following a late start of the season in December, the rains picked up across the country in January and this has been good for crop development. Generally, most crops are doing well. They are mostly at the vegetative stage due to delayed planting. Even crops in the Southern Province are in good condition after experiencing a delayed start and then replanting due to African armyworm infestations.

    The African armyworm outbreak in December destroyed maize crops in several districts, including Southern, Eastern, Lusaka, and Central Provinces but the overall impact on the harvest is likely to be minimal.The armyworm typically thrives in the type of wet and warm weather conditions Zambia experienced in December. In response to this outbreak the GoZ supplied pesticides in order to bring the situation under control, followed by the distribution of 2,338 MT of early maturing maize seed for replanting in late December. Based on last season’s total maize area planted, initial estimates indicate that only about eight percent of the total maize cropping area was affected by the armyworm. the impact of this outbreak on the upcoming 2012/13 maize harvest is likely to be minimal.

    While the increased rains in December and January have enhanced crop growth, heavy rainfall has increased concerns among farmers over the disruption of important agricultural activities such as weeding. Areas that are prone to flooding in western, southern (downstream flooding) and parts of the central region are also at risk of potential flooding as the Zambezi and Kafue River fill up (Figure 5).


    The January to June 2013 outlook is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Staple food supply and prices: Due to reduced maize grain supplies in some markets, poorer households will depend more on industrially processed maize meal as the grain prices at local markets continue to increase through March. The FRA will continue to supply maize to millers at fixed prices in both rural and urban areas until the arrival of the harvest in April. Additionally, the FRA will be able to respond to shortages by supplying maize for sale to rural communities should the supply situation warrant it. The GoZ has also issued a directive to millers to reduce maize meal prices in an effort to bring the retail prices down to no more than ZMW50 per 25kg bag. This is expected to help stabilize retail maize meal prices in most parts of the country until the end of the marketing season in April. Between April and June, staple food prices will decrease in line with the seasonal trends. With the new harvest available by April, poorer households will likely reduce their dependency on markets for staple foods. In addition to this they will have access to a variety of foods, increasing household dietary diversity.

    Agro-climatology and seasonal progress: The green harvest normally arrives in early February, but is likely to be delayed until late February due to the late start of rains and planting, especially in the southern half of the country. Since mid-December, rainfall conditions have been conducive to crop development.  The updated rainfall forecast released by the Zambia Department of Meteorology indicates a high likelihood of normal to above normal rainfall during the January to March period. Overall, despite the delayed start of season and armyworm outbreak, crop conditions remain good and prospects for a good harvest is likely.

    Informal cross-border trade: Informal maize meal exports to the DRC will continue during the outlook albeit at a much slower rate and volume, as routes into the DRC will become less accessible with increased rainfall. Maize exports levels to Tanzania will be reduced as local maize supply remains low because of large FRA purchases and as the country continues to restrict exports.  

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected throughout the outlook period. As the FRA continues selling maize from their stocks to millers and poorer rural communities, this will likely stabilize staple food supplies. The GoZ directive calling for millers to reduce prices of maize meal could stabilize and reduce prices, especially in the Northern and Copperbelt Provinces. Between January and May, poor rural households will mostly depend on the sale of labor to better-off households and commercial farms in order to access staple food. In May/ June, poor households will have access to their small harvest, reducing their dependency on the market for purchases. Due to the expected delay in the green harvest, households will depend on the market a little longer than usual (until late February). However, since the harvest is expected to be generally good, part of their payment for labor during the harvest period (April/May) will likely be in-kind. In June, poorer households will also start to engage in non-agricultural activities including petty trade and beer brewing. Fishing households, especially in western Zambia, will benefit from increased fish catches as the flood waters recede.

    Restricted maize exports are expected to continue. High domestic maize supply levels are being sustained by stricter export permit regulations, further limiting maize exports. This high domestic supply level will help to stabilize maize and meal prices up until the end of marketing year in April. However, due to limited safe storage space, there is concern over maize spoilage with the rains.

    The possibility of localized flooding in flood prone areas of southern, central and western parts of the country due to heavy rainfall is unlikely to deteriorate food security conditions. Although extended flooding is likely in the low lying areas of western, central and flood prone areas of southern Zambia, it is likely to be moderate and localized. Crop loss is expected to be minimal while the affected households will benefit from recession farming when the waters recede. Household displacement due to floods will most likely be low and the GoZ will be able to adequately respond and assist affected households should the situation warrant it. No external food assistance is expected to be needed throughout the outlook period. 



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Zambezi West Bank Livelihood Zone

    Water logging /extensive flooding

    Loss of stored food, displacement of households, loss of income from reduced labor demand by better-off households, resulting in reduced access to food. Loss of significant amount of crops reducing own food stocks at harvest.

    Kazungula Mwandi Plains and Gwembe Valley Livelihood Zones

    Water logging/extensive downstream flooding from Zambezi River

    Loss of stored food, displacement of households, loss of income from reduced labor demand by better-off households, resulting in reduced access to food. Loss of significant amount of crops reducing own food stocks at harvest.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    Roller meal prices in selected districts (ZMK/25Kg).

    Figure 3

    Roller meal prices in selected districts (ZMK/25Kg).

    Source: CSO/FEWS NET

    Total water surplus, October 2012 - January 2013.

    Figure 4

    Total water surplus, October 2012 - January 2013.

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top