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High prices impede poor household access to cereal

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • September 2013
High prices impede poor household access to cereal

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Most poor households in cereal deficit areas have increased their reliance on market purchases for cereal, at the same that high prices are diminishing their purchasing power. Maize meal is available in most rural markets but the preferred maize grain remains unavailable in Matebeleland South. Maize meal prices remain unchanged from last month except in southern areas, such as Tsholotsho and Gwanda, where prices are significantly higher than in September 2012.
    • As supplies from the 2012/2013 below-average harvest are depleted, food gaps among poor households continue to deepen in the southern and western areas of the country and some districts in the north. Most households in these areas are currently stressed (IPC Phase 2) with districts such as Tsholotsho, Gwanda, Mberengwa, and Mbire already experiencing crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity outcomes (Figure 1 and 2).

    • The Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) program, planned to start in October, will be the main source of cereal for targeted poor households in food deficit areas. However, the number of people identified as in need of assistance has increased by 37 percent compared to last year, and funding remains low for 2013/14 STA programming. Current funding shortfalls will likely limit coverage, resulting in many households not meeting their food needs.
    • Based on the South Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum’s (SARCOF) August statement, northern, southern, and eastern parts of the country have high chances of normal to above normal rainfall between October and December. This forecast is confirmed by the National Climate Outlook Forum, which indicates that between January and March normal to above normal rains are likely for nothern areas and normal to below normal rains in the south and western areas (Figure 3 and 4).

    Current Situation

    Poor households in cereal deficit areas in parts of the southern, western, and some districts in the north have finished cereal from their own production and are relying mostly on market purchases as their main source of cereal. Despite the availability of cereals in markets, poor household incomes have been adversely affected by reduced casual labor opportunities as a result of poor agriculture performance during the 2012/13 cropping season. Livestock sales usually peak in October, but they have started increasing earlier this year due to drought conditions at the end of the last cropping season. These sales usually provide an alternative source of income. However, cash from these sales is also likely to be reduced as livestock conditions begin to deteriorate due to reduced pasture.

    The lean period began early for most poor households in the southern and western areas. While maize grain prices remained stable between August and September, maize meal prices increased notably in comparison to the same period last year, with increases in Tsholotsho (approx. 63 percent) and Gwanda (approx. 30 percent) districts, along with more districts in Matebeland North (approx. 40 percent).

    Overall, current maize grain and cereal prices are much higher than normal in deficit areas. This is reducing poor households purchasing power, especially in Matebeleland South, North, and Masvingo Provinces where households do not have enough income for food purchases. These higher prices are due to higher demand in the southern and western areas. In previous years, areas in Matebeleland South and North received grain imports from Zambia through informal traders; this is not the case this year so supplies are much lower than normal.


    Updated Assumptions
    • Assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the July to December 2013 Outlook period are still valid with the exception of the assumption on humanitarian assistance. A full discussion of the changes to this assumption are available in the August 2013 Food Security Outlook Update.

    Projected Outlook through December 2013
    • The majority of very poor households in 17 livelihood zones 1 across Matebeleland South, Masvingo, Matebeleland North Provinces, northern and southern parts of Manicaland, and southern parts of Midlands Province will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes in September as households finish their own production and begin to rely heavily on local markets for food that is being sold at prices that are higher than average. Parts of districts, including Bulilima, Mberengwa Chivi, Mwenezi, Chiredzi, Nkayi, Tsholotsho, Chirumanzu, Shurugwi, Bikita, Masvingo, Chimanimani, Buhera, Matobo and Zaka will likely face Crisis ( IPC Phase 3) outcomes (Figure 1).
    • During the October to December period, most poor households are expected to meet their food needs through food assistance, which is planned to start in October and will be augumented by other safety-net and livelihood protection programs. However, current funding shortfalls for the STA program will likely result in reduced coverage, which will result in significant numbers of households not meeting their food needs. Poor households in Masvingo, Matebeleland North, Matebeleland South, parts of Manicaland and Midlands Provinces will experience Stressed ( IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity with some households in selected districts of Tsholotsho, Zaka, Bikita, Shurugwi, Chiredzi , Chirumanzu, Mbarengwa, Bulilima, Gwanda, Chivi, Mbire, Mwenezi, Masvingo, Chimanimani, Buhera, Mudzi and Matobo likely facing Crisis ( IPC Phase 3) food insecurity outcomes (Figure 2).

    1 Northern Cattle and Cereal Farming (NCCF), Western Kalahari Sandveld Communal, Eastern Kalahari Sandveld Communal (EKSC), Kariba Valley Kariangwe Jambezi (KVKJ), Cereal and Low Cotton Producing Communal (CLCC), Beitbridge South Western Communal Livelihood (BSWL), Masvingo Manicaland Middleveld Smallholder (MMSC), Save River Valley Ndowoyo Communal (SRVN), Mwenezi Chivi South Midlands Communal (MCSM), Matebeleland Middleveld Communal (MMHC), Lusulu Lupane Southern Gokwe mixed Agriculture (LLSG), Greater Mudzi Communal (GMUC), Southern Cattle and Cereal Farming (SCCF), Central Northern Semi-intensive Farming (CNSI), Eastern Highlands Prime Communal (EHPC), Bikita-Zaka Highlands Communal, Northern Zambezi Valley Communal(NZVC), Agro-Fisheries Livelihood Zone (AGFC), See the 2010 Zimbabwe Livelihood Profile:

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5


    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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