Skip to main content

Delayed start of season unlikely to result in acute food insecurity between January-June 2015

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zambia
  • January - June 2015
Delayed start of season unlikely to result in acute food insecurity between January-June 2015

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that May Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Acute food insecurity has remained Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and stable at the height of the lean season. This situation is expected to hold through the end of the outlook period in June

    • As millers start accessing the high priced maize from the Food Reserve Agency, maize meal prices are expected to edge upwards. However, the recent reduction in fuel prices are expected to reduce both the cost of milling and transport, which result in a stabilization of maize meal prices.

    • After much delay, the season has finally started in eastern Zambia. The late planting in eastern, central and parts of southern Zambia will delay the green harvest by about a month. 

    National Overview
    Current Situation
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity remains despite the peak of the lean season. This is supported by the good harvest of the 2013/14 season which has resulted in a milder-than-normal lean season. Staple food demand from the market has started increasing (slightly later than usual) as low-producing households deplete their stocks.
    • Better-off households still have own stocks, while the poorer households are mostly working for food and looking to the markets to meet their food needs. Staple food supply on the market is adequately meeting demand. Labor demand for weeding is typical at this time of the year.
    • Despite the establishment by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee that 351,000 MT chronically food insecure people would require food assistance in the August 2014 to March 2015 period, so far few reports have been received to prompt this assistance. This supports the conclusion that the lean season has been relatively mild.
    • Following atypical stability of maize grain prices in November, prices started rising in December in response to increased market demand and reduced household stocks. The prices remain close to the previous season’s level, but still about 25 percent above the five-year average.
    • Most maize stocks are in the hands of the FRA, which purchased about 1 million MT and is targeting to sell 650,000 MT on the market at K1,500/MT. With the cheaper maize source (small farmers and small traders) running low, millers have started buying the higher priced FRA maize. The FRA had from July to early October purchased maize at an above market price of K1,400/MT and are selling it at K1,500/MT. With the increased price, maize meal prices have started rising after three months of relative stability.
    • Following a much delayed start of season in central, eastern, and parts of southern Zambia, the season effectively started in all parts of the country by late December (Figure 1). Delays in some areas such as Eastern Province extended up to 40 to 50 days. In affected areas, most planting took place in mid-to-late December as opposed to mid-November to mid-December. Some farmers continued planting into mid-January, which is considered very late. As farmers tend to plant maize first, it follows that other crops were also planted late.
    • Rainfall has been sufficient to allow maize crops to be in generally good condition (Figure 2). The stage of development for maize crops currently ranges from early vegetative (Eastern, parts of Central and Southern) to late vegetative stage (for other areas).
    • With easing of the restricted maize imports by Zimbabwe, formal maize exports into that country from Zambia have increased since December and this has been confirmed by cross-border trade monitoring at Chirundu. However, given the good harvest in neighboring countries, exported volumes have been much below expectations. Informal maize exports into the DRC have remained stable, while exports into Tanzania has declined substantially in line with declines in demand from Kenya.
    • Fuel prices have decreased in mid-January by an estimated 28 percent with respect to the month of November, following the large drop in international crude oil prices. However, this drop in crude oil prices has not yet translated into reduced price of maize meal.
    National Level Assumptions

    The January to June 2015 Food Security Outlook report is based on the following national-level assumptions.

    Seasonal Progress

    • The start-of-season was delayed in parts of the country, especially Eastern, Central, and Southern Provinces, with some areas recording a significant delay of over a month and this will result in delayed green harvest. In addition to this the crop growing window will be shortened and therefore may result in some yield reduction for the main harvest. Although lower yields than last year (a record year) are expected, an average output is still attainable.
    • The recent SARCOF forecast indicates that Zambia is likely to experience normal to above normal rainfall for the remainder major part of the season (January to March). This is expected to have a positive impact on the crops especially where the season delayed. It is expected that crop conditions will generally remain good during the remaining half of the season and that rains are likely to extend into April (normal end of season for most areas) and an average output may still be attainable.

    Markets and Trade

    • Staple food availability: Supply of staple foods will remain above average given the record harvest (28 percent above average) and limited regional exports. Most of the stock is in the hands of the FRA who bought an estimated 1 million MT. With estimated safe storage of under 800,000 MT, There is a likelihood of substantial amounts going to waste due to an estimated safe storage of less than 800,000 MT. Rural households in high producing areas still have some stocks, enabling them depend on own staple food slightly longer than usual.
    • Maize market and prices: The price of maize meal has started rising and is expected to continue rising up to March, in line with seasonal trends. However, there is likelihood that Government will reduce the FRA sale price of maize grain in order to stabilize prices.
    • Supply of maize grain at the urban public market in Lusaka (source of maize for poorer market dependent households to take to hammer mills) has substantially reduced, pushing prices up. This is due to reduced supply from farmers having sold most of their excess maize already. Maize grain prices at these urban public markets are expected to continue rising until reaching the peak in March. Therefore urban households are expected to increase demand for industrially processed maize meal in the January to June period.
    • Zambia’s maize export opportunities will remain at below-average levels given the above-average availability of maize within the region and high price of Zambian maize compared to regional maize prices. However, formal exports to Zimbabwe are expected to increase given the easing of the import restriction in Zimbabwe. Informal maize exports to the major market of DRC will be typical, falling in the January to March period then slowly increasing in June following the harvest.
    • With international crude oil prices having fallen to a ten-year low and likely to remain low, fuel prices in Zambia were recently reduced by about 28 percent. A much larger reduction was not possible due to the depreciated local currency as copper (main stay of the economy) prices significantly reduced (18 percent between January and December 2014). These lower fuel price levels are expected to remain throughout the outlook period (January-June).
    • Labour opportunities: Labour opportunities are expected to remain typical as demand for weeding will be good with the good rains being received countrywide.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    With a milder lean season during which households are able to rely on own harvests slightly longer than usual, acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for the duration of the outlook period (January to June). Market dependency by rural households started increasing atypically late in December, as opposed to October. Labor opportunities for the poorer households will be normal with demand being good in January (weeding) and May/June (harvesting and threshing). Sale of labor will be the primary source of food and income for poorer households during the January to March period. Other income sources, though less significant, will be brewing, the sale of small livestock, and fishing in selected areas. The impact of the late start of season that resulted in delayed and possible reduced planting will mostly be felt after the outlook period as the next marketing season gets underway. 

    Events that May Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Western Zambia

    Excessive rains which result into extensive flooding in the flood prone areas of western Zambia.

    This could result in widespread flooding in both western and northwestern Province which could displace some households. Additionally, it would entail need for relief food assistance and non-food assistance for these affected households. Even then there is adequate maize with Government to meet the staple food needs.

    Central, Eastern, and/or Southern Province

    Early or poor end to seasonal rainfall.

     This would result in substantially reduced production in these regions and overall for the country. The FRA stocks are adequate to fill up the gap for any arising food need assistance. No external food assistance will be required during the duration of the outlook period.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015.

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2015.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Start of Season Anomaly, Dekad 3, December 2014

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Water Resources Satisfaction Index, Dekad 2, January 2015.

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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