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An increasing proportion of households in deficit-producing areas are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as the 2022/23 lean season sets in earlier than normal due to below-average 2021/22 harvests and macroeconomic instability. Meanwhile, near-average 2021/22 harvests and above-average 2020/21 carryover stocks in some surplus-producing areas will continue to drive Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will prevail through January 2023 in those surplus-producing areas negatively impacted by the poor progression of the 2021/22 rainfall season and in urban areas due to high prices and poor access to basic commodities.
Staple grain availability at both household and market levels is lower than usual with reliance on maize meal purchases higher than normal for this time of the year. Seasonal grain deliveries to, and stocks at, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) are also low, with private sector imports reportedly now beginning to arrive. The government has indicated it will not import grain this marketing season, and will rely on domestic reserves for commercial and humanitarian needs.
The macroeconomic situation remains volatile despite some recent stabilization in parallel market foreign currency exchange rates. Official (auction and interbank) exchange rates continue to increase, recording 10 and 6 percent increases between July and August, respectively. Though fuel prices have reduced somewhat, prices of most goods and services continue to increase in both USD and ZWL terms driven by both international and domestic factors. As a result, the cost of living continues to increase and additional households are falling below the poverty lines.
Most typical livelihoods are constrained and expected to remain so throughout the outlook period. Poor households are expected to cope by employing consumption coping strategies and by either intensifying existing livelihood strategies or extending to other measures or activities such as petty trading, informal mining, and barter. One of the key activities, casual labor, is expected to be below normal until at least the beginning of the next agricultural season. Though forecasted above-average rainfall will likely have positive effects on some livelihood activities such as casual labor, cropping, and livestock conditions, there remains a risk of negative impacts as well from excess moisture and flooding.
Own-produced cereal stocks in the worst affected parts of the country have either run out already or are fast depleting for most households in these areas given below normal crop production from the 2021/22 agricultural season. Household stocks remain for some households in typical surplus-producing areas, albeit at below normal levels. In addition, some households in these areas still have access to carryover stocks from the above-normal 2020/21 harvests.
Staple grain supply at markets across the country continues to be atypically low with some markets having little to no maize at all. WFP’s Food Security and Markets Monitoring system reports that maize grain was available in July in just 4 and 16 percent of monitored rural and urban markets, respectively. Small grains, which commonly serve as substitutes for maize in some deficit-producing areas, are also not readily available. Government restrictions on open market grain sales are contributing to poor grain availability. As a result, the demand for, and reliance on, maize meal is atypically high for this time of the year. Maize meal is more readily available across most markets.
Deliveries of maize and small grains to GMB depots continue to be below average and well below last year’s levels, despite the increase in financial incentives offered to farmers by the government for the sale of their crops. In July, the government increased the maize producer price by 33.3 percent from 75,000 ZWL to 100,000 ZWL per MT, and kept the 90 USD per MT incentive in place. However, key informants indicate that, besides a few farmers choosing to withhold grain from the market for speculative reasons, there is not much grain remaining for farmers to be able to deliver to the GMB given well below average harvests last season. Meanwhile, maize grain imports secured by the private sector from Zambia have reportedly started arriving in the country. This grain is destined for commercial millers and, in smaller amounts, for stock feed production. The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe reportedly plans to import a total of 400,000 MT of maize this season; however, the government has announced that it will not import any maize.
The 2022 tobacco auction floor marketing season has ended, although contract sales are expected to continue as up to 95 percent of tobacco farmers were financed by contractors. The government has extended the cotton marketing season beyond the traditional closing dates of mid-August due to delayed planting and harvests in some areas. Despite below-normal 2022 production, tobacco and cotton incomes are expected to be key sources of income in producing areas, thanks in part to significant crop inputs provided by the government which reduced production costs. Nearly 85 percent of cotton farmers were reportedly assisted with inputs from the government. This year, 75 percent of tobacco and cotton farmers’ payments were in USD, which helped enhance income.
Tobacco farmers are currently preparing for the 2022/23 tobacco planting season, which officially starts on September 1 for the irrigated crop. Some farmers in parts of the country have also started land preparation (including the digging of conservation farming (Pfumvudza/Intwasa) holes) ahead of the 2022/23 rainfall and agricultural season, anticipated to start around November. However, in general, farmers’ access to crop inputs remains below average due to high prices and below-normal incomes with most poor households dependent on government programs. The government has reportedly started pre-positioning crop inputs in different parts of the country ahead of distribution planned to start in September. Despite this, agro-dealers are stocking up on inputs in anticipation of increased demand in the coming months.
Maize grain prices in USD and ZWL are above normal, and continuing to increase. Prices in surplus-producing areas range between 4 and 5 USD, whereas typically they should be between 3 and 4 USD per 17.5kg bucket this time of the year. In most deficit-producing areas, when and where available, current prices are up to 8 USD per bucket, which are prices typically not expected until the peak lean season between January and March. WFP reports that average July maize grain prices in ZWL were 49 and 27 percent above June in rural and urban areas, respectively, and about 400 and 500 percent above the same time last year, respectively.
Between July and August, the government reduced diesel and petrol USD prices by 7 and 13 percent respectively, as some duties were eased. However, general prices on the market have not followed fuel price trends as price increases for most goods and services continue to be recorded. There are reports of some suppliers of basic commodities continuing to refuse ZWL payments and instead prioritizing sales to the informal sector, which largely pays in USD. This has created localized shortages of some commodities in the formal sector such as maize meal, cooking oil, flour, and sugar. As foreign currency shortages and allocation backlogs from the central bank continue, some foreign suppliers are reportedly closing credit lines to local businesses and demanding cash payments upfront, contributing to supply constraints for some products.
Both formal (auction and interbank) foreign currency exchange rates have continued to increase, going up by 10 and 6 percent, respectively, between July and August. However, parallel market exchange rates have reduced by more than 20 percent between the end of July and the end of August; however, the large difference between parallel and official exchange rates is still driving most pricing trends on the market. This parallel market exchange rate stabilization has been attributed to recently introduced government measures: (i) interest rates for bank loans were hiked to 200 percent to disincentivize borrowing for speculative trading on the parallel market; (ii) gold coins were added in July as an alternative to USD to store value; (iii) additional measures to disincentivize government contractors/service providers who were paid in ZWL only to dispose of it on parallel markets; and (iv) the suspension of all payments to government contractors until the government can verify that these contractors are not invoicing in parallel market exchanges rates instead of official exchange rates, thereby driving up the ZWL pricing. The public sector reportedly accounts for over 70 percent of purchases in the economy.
As increases in prices of goods and services continue amidst largely below-normal formal and informal sector income for the majority of poorer rural and urban households, disposable income and purchasing power continue to be eroded. Most urban poor are additionally burdened with high utility costs including rentals paid in USD, despite earning in ZWL. According to ZIMSTAT, monthly ZWL rentals in Harare’s high-density residential areas went up by an average of 142 percent in July compared to June, and by over 2,200 percent compared to July 2021. Households earning in ZWL have to buy USD on the parallel market – and usually at exorbitantly high rates of up to 900 ZWL/ USD as the exchange rate to purchase USD is significantly higher than that of selling USD on the parallel market.
Water shortages are worsening in many areas, most notably in the typical low rainfall south, east, west, and far northern areas. This is negatively impacting domestic use, livestock and livelihood, and coping activities. Some local authorities have also been affected, most notably in Bulawayo, the second largest city. Pastures and livestock conditions are still fair in typical high rainfall areas in the north and other areas. However, conditions are fast deteriorating in the south, east, west, and far northern areas, with livestock (mainly cattle) conditions said to be fair to poor. Some farmers are providing supplementary livestock feeds to their stock. The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has also warned that 75 percent of the country is in the medium to high-risk category for veld fires, which could worsen pastures, especially in parts of the Mashonaland Provinces, Matebeleland North, and Manicaland Provinces.
In the face of depleted and below-normal own-produced food stocks, constrained livelihoods, and significantly above-normal market prices, most households are engaging in coping strategies earlier than normal in the lead-up to the annual lean season. This includes diversifying livelihoods and coping options and intensifying efforts of existing or typical coping measures. Negative coping strategies include distressed crop sales since most households even in typical surplus-producing areas realized poor harvests and have very little crops available for sale. Some households are engaging atypically in casual labor (on-farm and off-farm), although opportunities are below normal due to poor 2022 harvests and ongoing macroeconomic challenges. Households are also selling livestock, with small stock (goats and chickens) most likely for poor households to sell off. Remittances, both local and international, remain below normal. Petty trade is increasing in both rural and urban areas, including the sale of fruits and vegetables, and second-hand clothing. Increased vendor competition and below-normal disposable consumer income, are reducing potential earnings. Vegetable production and sales and brick molding are common in areas with reliable water but constrained in drier areas. Some household members are resorting to informal mining and labor migration across most districts. Bartering of goods is becoming more common in some rural areas in the face of poor liquidity. Unfortunately, terms of trade are almost invariably unfavorable for desperate poor households. The harvesting/gathering and sale of wild products such as thatch grass, firewood, and fruits are somewhat below normal due to poor rains last season in most areas. In both rural and urban areas, informal transport and courier services are providing both livelihood and coping options for some household members.
The government and other monitoring reports indicate a steady and increasing flow of Zimbabwean returnees mainly arriving back from South Africa due to immigration and work permit challenges in that country. This development is imposing additional coping challenges for receiving households and areas.
Currently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes prevail in limited surplus-producing areas where carry-over stocks from the 2021 and some 2022 harvests are ensuring acceptable consumption. However, in most surplus-producing areas, especially those negatively impacted by erratic rainfall and below-average 2022 harvests, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) are now prevalent. Meanwhile, households in most deficit-producing areas have exhausted, or are close to exhausting, their own-produced stocks, increasing the number of households facing acute food insecurity. While these areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for the time being, their situation is fast deteriorating, and areas where households experienced near or total crop write-offs such as Mutare, Buhera, Bikita, Mudzi, Mangwe, Umzingwane, and Hwange districts continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Humanitarian plans have yet to be received from government and partner agencies.
The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook for June 2022 to January 2023 remain largely unchanged except for the following:
- Parallel market exchange rates are likely to continue to stabilize in the coming months given the series of latest economic measures introduced by the government. Despite this, prices of most goods and services are expected to continue increasing during the projection period, although at a slower rate compared to recent months.
In typical deficit-producing areas across southern, eastern, western, and north-eastern Zimbabwe, own-produced stocks for most households will completely exhaust their reserves in the coming weeks, negatively impacting dietary diversity and consumption and marking an early start of the lean season. Household reliance on market purchases is increasing, yet household income remains below average as prices soar. Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to pick up with the onset of the rainfall season and above-average rainfall may allow for improvements in labor demand over last year, but demand will remain below average. There is also a risk of excess moisture and flooding from above-average rainfall that could affect cropping activities. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to prevail in most typical deficit-producing areas through January 2023 and the peak of the lean season. Most poor households are expected to engage in consumption coping strategies, such as reducing and skipping meals, as well as livelihood coping strategies, such as atypical labor migration, selling more livestock, or having more household members, including children, take on casual labor, petty trade, or informal mining.
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to continue in some surplus-producing areas, especially the highly productive resettlement areas which had near-normal harvests and some carry-over stocks from the above-average 2020/21 season. However, some surplus-producing areas were more negatively impacted by the poor progression of the rainfall season, especially the communal areas, and will likely experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes throughout the outlook period, with some of the worst-affected likely to gradually transition to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by the peak of the lean season. Most urban areas will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as poor households face increasing challenges in meeting their minimum food and non-food needs due to the rising cost of living and constrained income.
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.