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Atypical food price increases and below average harvest significantly impact household food access

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • April 2019
Atypical food price increases and below average harvest significantly impact household food access

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present across most of the country due to the delayed and poor harvest, continued declining macroeconomic situation, and effects of Tropical Cyclone Idai. Humanitarian assistance is improving outcomes in parts of the country to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). In June, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are anticipated to emerge across most of the country with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes most likely to continue in deficit-producing areas and areas facing poor harvests. An earlier than usual start to the 2019/20 lean season is expected in July.

    • Tropical Cyclone Idai caused heavy flooding and winds, resulting in the significant destruction of infrastructure and crops and loss of livestock. Market access continues to be constrained in many affected areas, although is starting to return to normal. The effects of Idai have worsened harvest prospects and destroyed livelihoods mainly in Chimanimani and Chipinge Districts.  

    • The main harvest started atypically late in April due to the delayed start of season and will continue through June. Current crop estimates indicate the harvest will be below average across all provinces due to the poor performance of the 2018/19 rainfall season and effects of Tropical Cyclone Idai in eastern areas. Typical seasonal livelihoods such as crop sales, casual labor, and self-employment activities and livestock sales will most likely remain constrained through September; negatively impacting food access.

    • The volatile macroeconomic situation continues to deteriorate, characterized by increasing; foreign exchange shortages, exchange rates, staple and non-staple food prices, and fuel shortages. In early April, The Government increased the maize producer prices by 80.0 percent and provided a 38.5 percent subsidy to commercial millers. Despite Government efforts this forced commercial millers to increase maize meal prices by up to 30.0 percent.


    Between March and April, prices of most goods and services increased significantly, in some cases up to 100 percent. In February, The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe official interbank exchange rate was initially set at $2.50 RTGS/USD, since then is has increased by 20.0 percent to about $3.00 RTGS/USD. Parallel market exchange rates continue to increase, up almost 40.0 percent from February to mid-April, from $3.50 RTGS/USD to $5.00 RTGS/USD. This is significantly contributing to food and commodity price increases. Official annual inflation in March increased to 66.8 percent from 59.4 percent in February, though some independent analysts report annual inflation is potentially as high as 200 percent.

    Cumulative rainfall across most of Zimbabwe for the 2018/19 season was significantly below average with the most significant deficits in northwest parts of the country; where this season was one of the driest on record. From mid-February to April little to no rainfall was received across parts of Zimbabwe, although heavy rainfall was recorded in the eastern areas; mostly associated with Tropical Cyclone Idai in in mid-March. This late season rainfall in many cases was too late to improve cropping conditions. Heavy rainfall and flooding associated with Tropical Cyclone Idai caused further crop destruction; current estimates indicate approximately 60.0 percent of crops in Chimanimani and nearly 25.0 percent in Chipinge were destroyed. Across the rest of the country, the bulk of surviving crops are in the late reproductive and drying stages as rainfall has ended for the season.

    The harvest has started in some areas, though production is significantly below normal. Tobacco sales on the auction and contract floors are very low as farmers protest low prices and unfavorable currency terms. As a result of the poor rainfall pasture and water resources are also below average. Livestock body conditions are fair to poor in most arid areas and atypical livestock deaths have been reported in some areas of the country. Also, groundwater and surface water flows are below normal, and conflict has been reported in some communities driven by competition for water.

    In early April, the Government of Zimbabwe announced new crop producer prices, increasing the buying price by over 80.0 percent from $390 RTGS to $726 RTGS per MT. As a result, and despite a 38.5 percent subsidy on maize prices, commercial millers announced a 30 percent increase of maize meal 10 kg bag prices in mid-April. Producer prices of wheat, soya, and cotton also increased and are expected to further increase the prices of related commodities. The retail price of bread increased by 75.0 percent in mid-April from $2.00 RTGS to $3.50 RTGS. Fuel shortages also continue to be experienced; with negative effects on prices and commodity availability especially in remote parts of the country. These price changes continue to negatively affect household purchasing power.  

    Poor macroeconomic conditions and performance of the 2018/19 rainfall season continue to negatively impact households across the country. Food consumption is mainly poor as most poor households rely on market purchases for food. Household purchasing power is being affected by below average incomes and above average prices that continue to atypically increase. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread across the country. Although humanitarian assistance is improving outcomes in areas of Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, and Mashonaland West to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook for February 2019 to September 2019 remain unchanged except for the following:  

    • As a result of Tropical Cyclone Idai, areas in eastern Zimbabwe are expected to have a smaller than previously anticipated harvest due to the destruction of crops.


    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are most likely to be widespread through the end of May due to the delayed start to the season. The poor macroeconomic environment is likely to continue to negatively affect household purchasing power and food access, particularly among poor households. Humanitarian food assistance is anticipated to continue to improve outcomes to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) in some areas of the country.

    Most areas of the country and surplus-producing areas are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as the limited harvest is anticipated to meet households’ minimal food needs for 3 to 4 months. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will most likely prevail in typical deficit-production areas from June to September as a result of a limited harvest and poor macroeconomic conditions. Typical livelihood opportunities are mostly likely to be constrained; negatively impacting crop sales, casual labor opportunities, livestock sales, and petty trading, among others. Market food purchases are expected to be further limited due to anticipated high and increasing staple and non-staple food prices.

    Figures Zimbabwe seasonal calendar  Land preparation is from September to December. Planting is from November to February. Cotton pic

    Figure 1

    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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