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Area cropped for the 2015/16 season is expected to be below average due to dry conditions

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • December 2015
Area cropped for the 2015/16 season is expected to be below average due to dry conditions

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Most districts in the south are currently experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes, in the presence of food assistance, due to drought during the 2014/15 agriculture season and lower than typical lean season food assistance levels. These outcomes will likely continue from January through March. Some areas in parts of surplus producing districts in the north are currently experiencing Minimum (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, with some Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to prolonged dryness last season. Outcomes will improve in these areas to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of assistance, from January through March. 

    • According to the Southern Africa Regional Supply and Market Outlook Update, though Zimbabwe still has the largest national cereal deficit in the region, this gap has been revised down to about 645,000 MT. The revised figure is based on updated assessments of harvest and carryover stock levels. Informal imports continue from Zambia, but at declining levels and amounts that are not adequate to fill deficits. 

    •  Seasonal progress has been poor throughout much of the country. Rainfall in marginal areas in the south started on time. However, rains in the highly productive areas in the north experienced delays of 10-30 days. Subsequent rainfall levels have been erratic and below average across the country, contributing to worsening pasture and livestock conditions. A delayed start of season and prolonged periods of dryness have resulted in a lower than normal area cropped under maize this season. 

    Current Situation
    • Maize grain imports from Zambia by private traders and millers continue, but at reduced levels since Zambia’s exportable surplus is reportedly declining. Grain continues to be available in some source markets in the northern provinces. However, it is possible that some farmers with surplus grain could be withholding stocks from markets in anticipation of higher prices given the poor rainfall forecast for the 2015/16 season. Markets in the Matebeleland North and South are largely without maize grain.  Maize meal supplies are readily available for purchase across most parts of the country. 
    • Between October and November, maize grain prices in Bulawayo, Gwanda, Gweru, and Harare remained stable, while prices in Masvingo and Mutare decreased slightly. The price of diesel and gasoline declined by about 10 percent between October and November. 
    • Mbare maize flour prices between October and November decreased by about 10 percent, falling to levels below last year and the five-year average. 
    • In the south, the start of season was mainly on time or about 10 days early, though this turned out to be a false start due to subsequent dryness. Districts in the north experienced start of season delays of 10 to 30 days (Figure 1). Currently, halfway into the season, most of the country has received below normal rainfall, while some pockets have received normal levels of rainfall (Figure 2). The below-normal rainfall pattern is in line with the earlier seasonal forecast of suppressed rainfall due to the ongoing El Niño.
    • Typically the majority of rainfall is received between December and March, and average seasonal totals range between 450 and 650 mm. As of late December, most areas in the western and southern parts of the country have received less than 100 mm. Some farmers in parts of Masvingo and Matebeleland South provinces are still to plant. According to the Agromet Bulletin Issue 8 (Dec. 21, 2015), farmers that planted early in Matebeleland South, Masvingo, and Mashonaland Central Provinces are experiencing crop failure. In addition to this, there are reports that as of late November the number of farmers registered to grow tobacco this season is lower than last season by up to 20 percent.
    • Due to a late start of rains and a prolonged dryness across most of the country, cropped area is still low in comparison to previous years. A seasonal update from the Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services estimates that the maize cropped area is currently less than a third of the area cropped during the same time last year. Last year’s total area cropped under maize was around 10 percent below the national five-year average of area cropped for maize.
    • Despite being at the midway point in the season, pasture conditions, water supplies, and livestock conditions remain poor in most areas in the south and there are continued reports of cattle deaths. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumption about the 2015/16 seasonal rainfall forecast used to develop the most likely scenario for the October 2015 to -March 2016 Outlook period has been updated. The seasonal forecast update for January to March 2016 now indicates a high likelihood of average to below-average rains throughout the country. This updated forecast elevates chances of mid-season dry spells and or an early cessation of rains this season, potentially affecting crop and livestock conditions.

    Projected Outlook Through March 2016

    Zimbabwe will most likely continue to experience a cereal deficit until the next harvest in 2016. Maize imports from Zambia are expected to continue to decrease as that country’s exportable surplus levels decline. Grain supplies to cereal-deficit areas from the surplus-producing Mashonaland Provinces are expected to drop further as stock levels fall. It is likely that surplus grain-holders will withhold grain from markets in anticipation of higher prices due to increased demand from January through March. This is mainly because of the poor start to the season and the updated forecasts of a poor second half of the season.  Maize flour prices may increase marginally or remain stable partly due to high competition among multiple millers during this period. Most livelihood activities, including on-farm casual labor are likely to be lower than usual. Weeding and fertilizer application, the main activities during the January to March period, will be negatively affected by dry conditions. Labor opportunities associated with tobacco weeding, harvesting, curing, and marketing will likely be adversely affected. Green consumption will likely be much reduced or not available in some areas, taking away a significant source of food during this time.  Humanitarian assistance will continue, expanding coverage into other areas during January through March period. Overall, most districts in the south are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes, in the presence of food assistance. In the north, most areas will likely experience Minimum (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, in the presence of food assistance. The timing of the harvest in 2016 is likely to be delayed by about a month due to the delayed start of season across many high producing areas. 

    Figures Figure 1:  Onset of Rains (SOS) Anomaly, December 20, 2015.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1: Onset of Rains (SOS) Anomaly, December 20, 2015.

    Source: USGS

    Figure 2:  Water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI) Anomaly, December 20, 2015.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2: Water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI) Anomaly, December 20, 2015.

    Source: USGS

    Figure 4


    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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