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Below normal rains received across the bulk of the country during the first half of the season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • December 2017
Below normal rains received across the bulk of the country during the first half of the season

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through May 2018
  • Key Messages
    • Most northern and typical cereal-surplus areas continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes which are expected through March 2018 and for the remainder of the outlook period. However, typical cereal-deficit areas in the southern, western, and extreme northern regions are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to low or depleted own-produced food stocks and limited livelihood activities. Some areas are being targeted for humanitarian assistance, but only during the period of January to March 2018 will the level of assistance in a few districts improve outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). 

    • Below normal cumulative rainfall has been received across the bulk of the country since the start of the 2017-18 rainfall season in October and November. The worst affected province is Mashonaland West, one of the highest surplus-producing areas in the country. Planted area is lower than typical in most areas and agricultural activity is below-normal as well. 

    • Maize grain supplies in local markets is unusually good across most parts of the country, so the typical pattern of the movement of grain from surplus areas in the north to deficit areas in the south is not occurring. Maize grain prices continue to be atypically stable and below average, but due to poor livelihoods and cash shortages, the majority of poor households are still not able to access maize grain. 

    Current Situation

    Agricultural Seasonal Progress

    • The bulk of the country has so far received below normal rainfall since the start of the 2017-18 rainfall season in October. Mashonaland West Province (the highest maize producer) is the worst affected, having received significantly below normal rains. Because of low rainfall, planted area is atypically low in some areas, especially in the north. Crop germination and establishment in some areas has been and will continue to be affected. Moisture stress is being experienced for crops at the early vegetative stages in some areas. There is generally low agricultural activity in most areas.  Markets across parts of the country are also experiencing fertilizer shortages.

    Macroeconomic Conditions

    • The government has indicated that prevailing cash shortages will continue for some time as they require medium- and long-term measures to address them. Prices of most basic food commodities (including maize meal, cooking oil and sugar) and other goods and services continue to increase. Prices have gone up by up to 100 percent for some products in the last three months. Some independent analysts continue to argue that the official (ZIMSTAT) inflation rates (e.g. 2.97 percent annual inflation in November) are understating reality on the ground.

    Trade and Market Functioning

    • Most maize marketing this season is either farmer-to-farmer or through the local Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots. Traders that typically move grain from surplus to deficit areas are largely absent this marketing year. This is mainly due to policy measures against traders buying grain from farmers and the high supplies on local markets. Supplies of small grains in markets is also above average.
    • Maize grain prices across most markets continue to be atypically stable and below average. However, due to poor livelihoods and cash shortages, many poor households are still not able to access the grain. November prices in FEWS NET sentinel markets averaged $0.30/kg (about $5/17.5kg bucket) or 28 percent and 18 percent below same time last year and the five-year average, respectively. Another unusual feature is the almost uniform maize grain price ($0.29/kg) in typical surplus-producing areas and in deficit net-importing areas. 

    Updated Assumptions

    Several assumptions discussed in the FEWS NET Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook for October 2017 - May 2018 have been updated.

    Whereas a normal start of season was expected, it turned out that some areas especially in the south-east and north-east had an early start of season, while others in the north and western parts had a late start of season. The latest SADC Agromet Update of December 20th has revised the national rainfall forecast for January to March 2018 from “normal to above normal” to “normal”.

    An earlier assumption about the start of the crop input distribution specified that this would begin ahead of the onset of the rains in October, however field reports indicate that these distributions are still ongoing and in mid-December a significant proportion of households had not received inputs.

    Whereas maize grain prices were expected to follow seasonal trends, prices have remained stable and have not increased between October and December. Also, it is now expected that prices in surplus-producing and deficit areas will continue to be atypically uniform or show slight variations until the end of the 2017-18 marketing season in March. Relatively higher prices had been expected in deficit areas compared to surplus areas. 

    Projected Outlook Through May 2018

    Above average 2016/17 crop production in the northern and other surplus-producing areas continues to ensure household access to own-produced food stocks, including for poor households. Most households are expected to retain enough stocks for own-consumption until March, resulting in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes between December and May. However, most poor households in typical deficit southern, western and extreme northern areas have exhausted own produced stocks and are experiencing constrained livelihoods worsened by prevailing cash shortages. These areas are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Current levels of targeted humanitarian assistance will not change the food security outcomes, however increased targeting between January and March is expected to improve area outcomes from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). 


    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Percentage of normal rainfall from October 1 to December 19, 2017.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Percentage of normal rainfall from October 1 to December 19, 2017.

    Source: Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department

    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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