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Minimal food insecurity expected in most parts of the country

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zambia
  • July - December 2015
Minimal food insecurity expected in most parts of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • During the July to December outlook period, acute food insecurity is expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for most parts of Zambia. Starting in August, some parts of Western, Southern, and Eastern Provinces will begin facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. 

    • Where deficit rainfall disrupted livelihoods especially in Western and Southern Provinces and parts of Eastern Province, the VAC has recommended relief food assistance. Listing of beneficiaries will commence in July and a voucher system will be used to improve targeting.

    • Given the high demand for Zambian maize, the below-average harvest and recent fuel price increases, maize prices are expected to atypically increase by August. Prices are expected to be above the previous season’s level and the recent five-year average through December 2015. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity remains in most parts of the country following the recent harvest, as the quantity and variety of household food stocks have increased.
    • National maize supply is sufficient to meet 2015/16 consumption year demand, following the May harvest of an estimated 2.62 million MT and large carryover stocks of 1.3 million MT. In most areas, household food stocks are good and therefore pressure on the market for staple foods has significantly reduced. In southern areas of the country, particularly Western Province, poor households are currently depending on their little harvest and the market to meet basic food needs, with their stocks likely to run out by the end of July.
    • The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is yet to commence their maize purchase program for strategic reserves. Government has reiterated that FRA will purchase no more than the 500,000 MT, which should encourage increased private sector participation.
    • Maize retail prices are relatively stable after experiencing declines in April and May, a reflection of the stable maize supply on the market. Maize wholesale prices are in the range of 1.00 ZMK/Kg to 1.50 ZMK/Kg depending on location, with the northern parts of the country reporting the lowest prices. Northern prices are lower due to less trader activity with respect to the southern parts of the country, where there is more competition from a combination of local and foreign traders.  The FRA has not commenced maize purchases and their buying price has not yet been announced and therefore prices are being mostly driven by the forces of market supply and demand. Generally, maize prices are above the recent five-year average.
    • There are indications that although high volumes of maize grain are reaching the market, supply is less than expected for this time of the year in the southern half. Already it has been observed that the usual  (from Central, Southern and Eastern Province) deliveries to the Lusaka public market is below average so far as farmers have a ready market within their communities. This could be partly attributed to the reduced harvest and possibly that some small-scale farmers may be hoarding in anticipation of selling to FRA at higher prices. It is also likely that the demand by traders at community level is unusually high (more buyers) and providing a very good market at the farm gate. The picture will become clearer at the peak of the marketing season in August.
    • With increased market supplies, informal maize exports to DRC rose typically while maize meal registered a typical decline, grain being more preferred and is readily available this time of the year. Additionally, the price differential is currently higher for grain than maize meal and therefore trade in grain is commanding higher profit margin.
    • Formal maize exports have continued increasing with most primarily destined for Zimbabwe. Between April and May, exports rose from 30,597 MT to 39,221 MT (28%) with 99 percent of it destined for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean traders have continued buying maize in Southern Province to help reduce their staple food deficits. Zimbabwe, Malawi, DRC, Botswana, South Africa and countries in East Africa) have requested for maize to be imported from Zambia. Malawi will be importing about 50,000 MT of maize in the current marketing year.
    • In preparation for the food relief program scheduled for August 2015 to March 2016 in 31 districts where household livelihoods were disrupted by the prolonged dry spells, listing of beneficiaries will be conducted mid-July to early August. Listing will be collaboratively undertaken by Community Welfare Assistance Committees, Satellite and District Disaster Management Committees in affected districts under the technical supervision of the VAC. 

    National Level Assumptions

    The July to December 2015 Food Security Outlook report is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Staple food availability: Although Zambia recorded a 10 percent below-average maize production; the large carryover stock of 1.3 million MT will ensure that generally, the country has adequate grain to meet national demand with an estimated surplus of 877,000 MT. Therefore, it is expected that the local market will be adequately supplied with staple food during the outlook period. 
    • Maize market and prices: Given the preliminary below-average regional maize harvest, there will be a high demand for Zambian maize as neighboring countries try to secure maize to reduce their staple food deficits, which is likely to put pressure on the local prices. The maize prices which have maintained their above-average levels from the previous season are likely to start rising much earlier (by the end of July) than usual and remain much above average (Figure 1).
    • Given the reduced harvest in parts of southern half of the country, households in affected areas especially in Western Province and parts of Southern and Eastern Provinces will run out of own-produced staple food at least two months earlier than usual. As a result of the much reduced harvest, poorer households will be depending on the market much earlier (by August) and therefore increasing market demand for maize grain which will help sustain higher prices.

    • The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is expected to enter the market to buy no more than 500,000 MT of maize market for strategic reserves no earlier than July. With the delayed start of maize purchases by the FRA, the commitment by Government not to buy beyond their target and the non-announcement of the purchase price thus far, there will be high private sector participation on the maize market.

    • Maize flows and trade: With the reduced harvests in neighboring countries, most of which are facing staple food deficits, Zambia has a good export window. This, coupled with the fact that the country is likely be to the biggest supplier of non-GMO maize in the region will make Zambia’s grain very attractive for export. Zimbabwe has an estimated 1 million MT maize deficit that is likely to be the largest formal market for Zambian maize during the July to December period. Informal maize trade is also expected to strengthen given the reduced regional maize supply. Informal exports to the DRC will increase from June reaching the peak in August, as is typical. With the expected maize deficit in Malawi, informal maize exports into Malawi will be atypically high, while exports to Tanzania may strengthen later in the year especially if Kenya has increased demand for maize imports.
    • The reported stringent patrols instituted by DRC along their borders to increase revenue collection is likely to increase the price of maize on the DRC side as most of the maize is being moved in the night increasing risk for traders.
    • Local purchases for regional humanitarian assistance: Given Zambia’s maize surplus position, there will be increased opportunities for the World Food Programme (WFP) to purchase Zambian maize and to supply countries with humanitarian needs, such as Zimbabwe and Malawi. 
    • Labour opportunities: Labor opportunities are likely to remain typical for the northern half of the country where harvests were good as farmers carry out processing and marketing activities. For parts of southern half, demand for labor will be below average given the reduced harvest attained by the better off. However, agricultural labor demand is likely to increase typically in October as land preparation gets underway.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: The recent VAC assessment has estimated that 798,900 people will require about 53,000 MT of relief maize from July 2015 to February 2016 to help towards meeting their basic food needs. Government is likely to adequately meet this grain need from available FRA stocks.
    • Agro climatology: There is a high (90%) likelihood of the on-going El Nino event to continue into the start of the 2015/16 production season, as above-average sea surface temperatures continue in the Pacific Ocean. Although the El Nino phenomenon is generally associated with below-average rainfall in Southern Africa, affected areas can vary with each occurrence. In view of this forecast and based on past experience, southern Zambia is likely to experience below normal rainfall during the first part of the season (October to December period). Meanwhile, northern Zambia (Northern, Luapula and Eastern Provinces) have a high likelihood of experiencing above-normal rainfall during the same period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Staple food will be adequately supplied on the market throughout the outlook period given the good domestic availability. Although in July retail maize/meal prices will remain relatively stable, they are expected to start rising by August (two months early) as households with poor harvest start depending on the market earlier than usual. Additionally, maize demand will start increasing in August at the height of the marketing season. The FRA will also be on the market by then purchasing maize for strategic reserves. This will have a negative impact on poorer households’ access to staple food as prices rise.

    In the second half of the outlook, (October to December), an increased number of households will run out of food stocks, increasing dependency on the market and therefore pushing up staple food prices, especially for the southern parts of the country. Even then, acute food insecurity outcomes for most areas will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as agricultural labor opportunities increase with land preparation and planting activities. However, given the likelihood of continued El Nino conditions at the start of the production season, it is likely that demand for planting labor could be below-average in the southern parts of the country, which tend to receive a below-average rainfall during such years, negatively affecting poorer household access to income to meet basic food needs. This could increase the number of households in need of assistance, and continued monitoring of the situation will be needed. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, July 2015.

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, July 2015.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Lusaka maize price trend and projection.

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Lusaka maize price trend and projection.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4


    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.

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