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Cereal prices remain high in food deficit districts

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • September 2012
Cereal prices remain high in food deficit districts

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through December 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Food availability and access remain stable throughout the country, but maize prices in the areas of concern (Matabeleland North, Masvingo, Matabeleland South and the southern parts of Manicaland provinces) remain higher than the national average. Maize grain and meal is readily available in these areas through supplies from surplus districts and imports from South Africa and Zambia.

    • Cereal shortfalls for the Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) are likely to affect program coverage through December 2012. 

    • The rainfall outlook by the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department forecasts normal to below rains in Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland South provinces during the first and second half of the 2012-13 rainfall seasons. 

    Updated food security outlook through December 2012

    Throughout the country, food is expected to be readily available in local markets through December. Despite the availability of basic food stuffs in markets, a proportion of poor households are beginning to face challenges accessing markets due to reduced income opportunities and increasing staple prices. Although demand is high, local casual labor opportunities that typically provide income for households are limited. During the start of the 2012/13 agricultural season an improvement in labor availability is expected, although household purchasing power could continue to decline as food prices rise.

    As households continue to make market purchases in order to meet their basic food needs, they are also starting to purchase agricultural inputs for the upcoming season. Many poor households will not have the capacity to purchase both food and agricultural inputs. Households may likely prioritize food purchases needed to meet their immediate basic needs, leaving them with little income for agricultural input purchases.

    Current food insecurity conditions in parts of Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Factors contributing to food insecurity in districts in southern and western parts of the country are attributed to poor production during the main season, limited labor opportunities, and low selling prices for cash crops.

    Food supplies from the cereal surplus areas in the districts of Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Mashonaland West provinces continues to be transported to areas in Matebeleland North, Masvingo and Matebeleland South by private traders and the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). Cereal imports from both South Africa and Zambia continue to supply traders with a steady stream of maize meal.   However the recent maize export license restrictions set by Zambia are likely to reduce formal maize imports from Zambia, potentially reducing the supply and availability of maize, and possibly resulting in an increase in maize grain prices.

    The national average maize grain price has remained stable at USD $0.30/kg although in the areas of concern prices are 12-47 percent higher when compared to prices in maize surplus areas. In the south and western districts current prices are higher than August 2011 prices; an indication of the limited supplies of grain amidst relatively high demand.  Maize flour prices are higher than the previous year, ranging between USD $0.52-0.64/kg with an increasing trend in districts with cereal deficits. Similar trends were also observed for fuel prices that have increased from USD $1.25 to $1.37 (diesel) and $1.39 to $1.49 (petrol) between July and August.  

    In Masvingo and Matebeleland South and North provinces, livestock conditions continue to deteriorate due to poor pasture and limited access to water. Most districts in these areas have reported veld fires, further contributing to the reduction of pastures. Cattle is being moved to neighboring farms where pastures are better, while some farmers are having to buy local grass mostly sold by traders from new resettlement areas.

    According to the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZIMSTAT) the annual rate of inflation is expected to remain below five percent through December. The decline in the annual rate of inflation indicates a slower rate of increase in prices. The cost of basic food and non-food commodities is expected to marginally increase over time, although petrol and diesel prices have gone up by seven and nine percent, respectively, between July and August. These changes are attributed to increases in global fuel prices and import duties. This increase in transportation costs could impact food prices in deficit areas, limiting the access of poor households to staple food items.

    Continued humanitarian assistance cereal shortfalls

    As the World Food Program cereal shortfalls continue, this is expected to affect the Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) programs originally planned for October through December. Due to this delay some food insecure populations will not be covered under the STA program and food insecurity conditions are likely to worsen through December 2012. Assuming that assistance will continue to be delayed, districts in western parts of Mashonaland West province, northeastern parts of Mashonaland East province and most southwestern districts of Zimbabwe will likely experience Stressed levels of food insecurity conditions between October and December.

    Seasonal forecast and preparation

    The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department (ZMSD) recently produced a rainfall outlook for three regions during the 2012-13 rainfall season. According to this rainfall outlook, region one and two (Matebeleland North, northern parts of Midlands, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland central, Mashonaland East and central and northern parts of Manicaland provinces) have an increased probability of normal to above-normal rains in both the first period (October-December) and second period (January-March) of the season. Region three (Matebeleland South, southern part of Midlands, Masvingo and the southern part of Manicaland provinces) is expected to have increased probability of normal to below-normal rains during the first and second periods of the season. Similar forecasts have been confirmed by the Southern Africa Development Committee (SADC) Climate Services Center.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Source: FEWS NET

    The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department seasonal rainfall outlook, October-December 2012

    Figure 2

    The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department seasonal rainfall outlook, October-December 2012

    Source: Met Department

    The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department seasonal rainfall outlook, January-March 2013

    Figure 3

    The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department seasonal rainfall outlook, January-March 2013

    Source: Met 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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