Skip to main content

Above-average national maize production will improve food security across the country

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zimbabwe
  • June 2017
Above-average national maize production will improve food security across the country

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcome
  • Key Messages
    • Above-average national maize and other crop harvests have improved food availability and access across the country. Poor households in various parts of the country are expected to realize enough crops to provide up to 3-4 months of food stocks. From June through September, Minimum (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are expected in high cereal-producing areas, as well as some areas in cereal-deficit production areas. However, some areas in the cereal-deficit southern and marginal north are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. 

    • From October through January, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are expected to continue in most areas in the surplus-producing north as households consume own-produced stock, and earn income from crop sales and labor opportunities. During these months, some areas in the cereal-deficit southern and marginal north will also continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are also expected in some areas and humanitarian assistance will be needed for poor households that have exhausted their food stocks, will be facing limited livelihood options, and will likely experience food gaps. 

    • Domestic remittance flows are expected to continue to be below average due to the current macroeconomic situation. Potential incomes from off-farm labor, self-employment, petty trading, and other activities will remain constrained from June to January due to cash shortages. The start of the 2017-18 rainy season across the southern Africa region is likely to be normal and average rainfall is expected for the next season. However, these normal rainfall conditions will only marginally improve livelihood options for rural and urban households with the national cash shortages expected to continue during the outlook period. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Macroeconomic Conditions

    Most macroeconomic indicators point to continued stress in the economy with household incomes for a significant proportion of the population remaining low and insufficient to meet basic needs. After over two years of deflation, annual inflation became positive for the first time in February 2017, averaging 0.5 percent between February and May. Because of the liquidity problem, general price increases have been experienced, along with a multiple pricing system in markets.

    Acute cash shortages continue to affect all sectors of the economy. Bank queues are long and withdrawal limits are reducing further. Some banks are issuing out coins instead of notes, and many banks are not able to offer cash at all quite often. In response, people and businesses are increasingly using Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), debit and credit cards, and mobile cash payment systems. Most banks are also failing to meet the special payment arrangements that were made for tobacco farmers. The farmers are supposed to access $1,000 in cash on their first day of crop sale, followed by $500 in cash on subsequent sales, with the rest of the proceeds to be deposited into their bank accounts.

    Along with the US Dollar, the bond notes that were introduced in late 2016 to help ease the cash crisis are disappearing from the formal markets, and are being traded locally on the black market. There are anecdotal reports that bond notes are now being traded at border points and bus terminals in neighboring countries to prospective travelers to Zimbabwe and for general transactions.

    Agricultural Seasonal Progress

    Since planting was delayed during the 2016/17 cropping season across most parts of the country, the main harvest period has extended beyond the typical months of April and May, and into June. Harvesting is expected to continue into July in some areas. Farmers are currently engaged in drying, treatment, and storage of their crops. Compared to the last two agricultural seasons that were severely affected by drought, the current harvest is significantly higher in most areas. This is partly the result of above normal rains this past season and crop input assistance to targeted farmers.

    Major dams in the country continue to hold above-normal water following a good rainfall season. Since the end of the rains in early May, however, water levels have receded in most dams. Of the 24 major dams reported by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority as from early May to mid-June, almost 80 percent of them indicated falling water levels. This is more so in the southern parts of the country, where the situation has been worsened by several dams that were destroyed by heavy rains and floods between January and April. Most streams and rivers have already dried up in the south mainly in the Matebeleland Provinces and the drier parts of Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland. The water situation is good in most Highveld areas especially in the northern region covering the Mashonaland Provinces and parts of Manicaland and Midlands Provinces. 

    With the main harvests near completion, farmers across most parts of the country are taking advantage of above-normal water supplies this season by starting or increasing vegetable production. However, potential for this activity in parts of the south are limited due to dwindling water supplies. Winter cropping, especially for wheat, is also underway mainly in the northern areas.

    Pasture is in fair to good condition in most typical high rainfall areas and parts of the south. However, conditions in some southern areas is fair to poor as the veld had not fully regenerated following two consecutive poor seasons and degraded environments.  Nevertheless, current small and large livestock conditions are mainly good across most parts of the country.

    Current Food Security

    The current harvests have improved food consumption across the country, even in traditionally cereal-deficit areas in the south and marginal north. Households are now consuming maize, small grains, groundnuts, round nuts, cow peas, sweet potatoes, water melons, as well as in-season vegetables, and fruits. In some areas where humanitarian assistance was extended into April and May, some households are still consuming distributed food rations.

    Following increased harvests this season, there are improvements in other sources of food and cash such as on-farm casual labor, especially in the traditional surplus-producing areas in the north. Other livelihood activities such as off-farm labor, self-employment, petty trading, and remittances remain constrained due to the macroeconomic situation. The 2017 ZIMVAC rural livelihoods assessment will provide the official rural food insecurity prevalence for the 2017-18 consumption year.

    Marketing Activities

    Following the delayed harvests, Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots have started receiving grain deliveries from farmers. The GMB is reportedly turning back some farmers who are delivering maize with moisture content above the maximum stipulated 12.5 percent. Anecdotal reports are that middlemen are taking advantage of such farmers by offering cash for rejected grain at lower prices, and later selling the maize at the same depots for $390/MT.

    The tobacco marketing season opened in mid-March and sales at auction and contract floors are reportedly higher than during the same time last year. By May 31st, the volume of sales (144 million kg) was 13 percent higher compared to same time last year (127 million kg), according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board. The average price was $2.88/kg, which is comparable to last year. This year’s harvest (estimated 206 million kg) is expected to be about 2 percent above last year’s harvest of 201 million kg.

    The cotton marketing season started at the end of May with significantly high delivery prospects compared to the last few years. The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco), through which the government supported more than 100,000 growers with crop inputs, has reportedly opened over 140 buying points in cotton growing areas. However, there are concerns over possible side marketing by farmers to private buyers that are offering higher prices. As a result, Cottco has raised its base price for the lowest grade from the initial $0.40/kg to $0.47/kg to match prices offered by private buyers. Over the last few years the base price was $0.30/kg. Farmers will receive the balance for respective higher cotton grades after the grading of the cotton. The government has announced that tobacco and cotton farmers will benefit from the 5 percent export incentive that was introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for tobacco farmers last year.

    The Southern Africa region is expected to realize a significant maize surplus for the 2017-18 marketing season. South Africa expects to produce 14.5 million MT of maize, which is 35 percent above average. South Africa will also have a carryover stock of over 1 million MT, resulting in a tradable surplus of 2.7 million MT of maize. Zambia has announced an estimated maize crop production of 3.6 million MT, significantly above its annual requirement of about 2 million MT. The country also had a significant carryover stock. Zambia has announced controlled exports of maize after an export ban for nearly a year. Malawi, which expects to produce an above-average amount of 3.2 million MT of maize, has also lifted a two-year export ban.

    Internal Cereal Trade and Market Functioning

    The government has maintained the producer price for the current marketing season at $390/MT for cereals (maize, sorghum, and pearl millet), which remains the highest in the Southern Africa region. Government has reportedly allocated $200 million to the parastatal for the purchase of local grain this marketing season. GMB has committed to promptly pay for delivered grain, unlike in the past.

    The GMB continues to sell both maize and maize meal across its depots. Maize has a dual price: the commercial rate of $22.25/50kg as well as a subsidized $15/50kg to community-registered vulnerable households. The GMB’s “Silo” brand of maize meal is retailing at $5.30/10kg bag, $10.35/20kg bag and $27/50kg bag in the depots.

    Recently, maize grain prices have taken a seasonal dip. The May average price of maize grain at FEWS NET sentinel sites was $0.35/kg. This was lower than last month, the same time last year, and the five-year average by 9, 22, and 12 percent, respectively. Average maize meal prices ($0.60/kg) for May were relatively stable compared to last month, the same time last year, and the five-year average.

    In April, the government announced a measure that bans private millers from buying maize directly from farmers. Private millers can only purchase maize from the GMB. Despite the directive, private buyers continue to buy maize from farmers. Some private buyers have reportedly been offering cash-desperate farmers very low prices (e.g. as little as $0.11/kg instead of the expected $0.23-0.29/kg this time of the year) for their grain, with some contractors allegedly buying crops that they did not finance. The government has responded with stern warnings against both practices. The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has promised to buy almost 800,000 MT of locally produced maize this marketing season.

    In March, the government suspended the importation of maize following the anticipated above-average production from the 2016-17 cropping season. The ban was also intended to prevent some traders’ practice of importing cheap grain and selling it to the GMB. Formal maize grain imports between April 2016 and March 2017 amounted to about 768,300 MT, which is 19 percent above the import levels (about 643,250 MT) for the previous marketing season (April 2015 to March 2016).


    Between June 2017 to January 2018, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:

    Macroeconomic conditions: Poor macroeconomic conditions are expected to continue to negatively impact livelihood activities, household incomes, as well as access to food in both rural and urban areas throughout the outlook period. Middle and better-off household demand for casual labor and for self-employment will be reduced due to low incomes and cash shortages. However, some households in high crop-producing areas are expected to earn some income from crop sales as well as pay for labor in-kind.  The increasing informal sector will continue to suffer low, irregular household incomes, high competition on the market. Reduced incomes will especially affect poor households when their own-produced food stocks are depleted around September/October. At that point, most poor households in the southern and marginal northern areas will resort to open market purchases for food. Unfortunately, the prices of some basic food commodities are expected to be higher than normal as producers affected by foreign currency shortages will need to pay more for imports. The increase in production costs will likely be passed on to consumers.

    Remittances and other livelihood options: Domestic remittance flows are expected to continue to be below average due to the current macroeconomic situation. Flows from South Africa are already lower than normal due to the weakened Rand and economic difficulties faced while working in South Africa. The government continues to enforce the Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016 which bans and restricts the importation of several commodities. The SI 64 will affect in-kind remittances, which had become more common with the cash shortages, as well as cross-border trading. Some traders will be forced to find other work because of reduced demand. Most other livelihood options are expected to be constrained during the outlook period.

    2016-17 national cereal production: The official 2017 Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report was recently released and maize production for the 2016-17 cropping season is estimated at about 2.16 million MT. This is about 320 percent above last season’s production, and about 140 percent higher than the five-year average (of around 900,000 MT). Total cereal production is estimated at over 2.44 million MT, against an official national cereal requirement of about 1.57 million MT. The report also shows significant increases in production for small grains, pulses, legumes and other crops, including cash crops like tobacco and cotton. These crop estimates align with FEWS NET’s earlier assumption that maize production would be above-average for the 2016-17 cropping season.

    National cereal carry-over stocks: Despite the absence of reliable national carry-over stock trend figures, FEWS NET estimates that national cereal carryover stocks from the 2016-17 consumption and marketing year will be minimal. This will mainly comprise stocks held by the GMB and unconfirmed stocks in the private sector. These stocks are mainly from imports, following poor national production during the 2015-16 cropping season because of the El Nino induced-drought.

    Households cereal carry-over stocks: Most farmers across all provinces will most likely have no own-produced carry-over stocks into the current consumption year.

    Household cereal production: Own-produced cereal crop is expected to last until the next consumption year for most farmers in traditional surplus-producing areas in the north and other parts of the country. However, poor and less productive farmers mainly in the marginal south and extreme north, are expected to realize between 3 or 4 months of own-produced food supplies. This means that by the end of September, such households will start to rely on markets for food purchases, as well as other sources of food.

    Labor: Expected above-normal harvests in the surplus-producing areas will improve labor availability for harvesting activities (in June) and land preparation activities (from September- November) in the surplus producing areas. Expectations are that labor rates in cash will be below average because of the cash constraints. During this outlook period, in-kind payments will be normal until September/October, and are expected to deteriorate thereafter. Other sources of income for the middle and better-off households who normally hire poor households for labor will be reduced due to economic and cash constraints. As a result, off-farm and self-employment opportunities for the poor households will be negatively affected. In marginal production areas like the south, on-farm labor availability and rates are also expected to be below average during the outlook period. In-kind payments and barter will be below-normal or minimal. The capacity for middle and better-off households to engage the poor for on-farm and off-farm labor will be reduced because they are expected to realize diminished incomes from typical livelihood options such as formal employment, livestock sales, remittances, and other sources. Like surplus producing areas, middle and better-off households in marginal production areas will have limited amounts of disposable income this year, even with a normal start of the 2017-18 rainfall season. This will be partly because of a high supply of labor from an increasing number of poor households seeking opportunities to earn income or food during this period.

    Livestock condition, prices and terms of trade:  Livestock sales by middle and better-off households are also likely to be limited by cash shortages this outlook period. In the northern areas, livestock conditions are expected to be good between June and September due to regenerated pasture and water sources. However, in the traditional arid south and other parts of the country, pasture and water availability will diminish quickly between July and October, affecting livestock (mainly cattle) conditions and prices. With the start of the rains expected in November, the situation may improve around December. Goat conditions are expected to be good countrywide, and goat and chicken prices are expected to be stable. However, because of the impact of cash shortages on livestock markets and prices, livestock bartering is expected to be common in some communities. As is typical, livestock terms of trade relative to grain will likely start off at fair levels between June and August, but deteriorate from September onwards as poor households begin to rely more on food purchases and other sources of food, especially in the south and marginal northern areas.

    Water availability – dry season: Following above-normal rains across most parts of the country during the 2016-17 rainfall season, FEWS NET assumes water availability for domestic, livestock, and other livelihood uses during the dry season will be good across most Highveld parts of the country mainly in the north from June through September. Water tables will continue to be atypically high, some streams and major rivers will continue in flow and most reservoirs are likely to still retain significant water. However, availability in the typically drier and marginal Lowveld areas in the south and extreme north will fast dwindle from June and get scarcer by September. Already, most streams and major rivers have dried up in the south. Boreholes are expected to provide much of the water needs in the south during the dry season. Floods destroyed some reservoirs, and most of those that are functional are heavily silted and will be short-lived. This will likely affect livelihood options such as gardening, brick molding, and construction, among others.

    2017-18 rainfall season forecast:  El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are currently neutral. The leading international climate agencies International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the Climate Prediction Center (IRI/CPC) ENSO forecast as of early June indicates the most-likely scenario is for ENSO-neutral conditions until early 2018, with positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific beginning to decrease through mid-to-late 2017. Therefore, the start of the 2017-18 rainy season across Southern Africa is likely to be normal. Rainfall during the October to December and January to March 2018 period is likely to be average in most of the region. This is a more frequent occurrence during ENSO-neutral conditions. It is however contingent upon a neutral subtropical Indian Ocean Dipole, for which there is little predictability at six-month lead times.

    Crop input supply: After critical fertilizer shortages during the last cropping season, the government suspended duty on imported fertilizer and ammonia (for top-dressing) in May. Expectations are that this will improve supplies of top-dressing fertilizer on the market, though poor incomes and liquidity challenges will still affect access for poor households. The main ammonium nitrate fertilizer manufacturer in the country has indicated that prices are likely to come down by 15 percent because of the duty suspension. The government has also announced the continuation of crop input support to small holder cereal farmers, cotton farmers, and selected commercial farmers under Command Agriculture for the 2017-18 cropping season. Some government partners also have ongoing safety net activities in various parts of the country which may supply inputs. Though such assistance will ensure poor farmers’ access to inputs, coverage is likely to be limited due to resource constraints.

    Migratory Transboundary Pests: The Fall Armyworm (FAW) emerged in the region for the first time during the 2016-17 cropping season and is expected to resurface during the 2017-18 cropping season. The pest was identified in all provinces in Zimbabwe in 2017. Control measures did not manage to eradicate the pest. Of the area under maize, approximately 8 percent was affected and about 2 percent of this areas was damaged by the pest, according to the official crop and livestock assessment report. It is highly likely FAW will attack crops across the country during the next 2017-18 cropping season. The FAW can potentially affect all types of crops, but mainly maize and other cereals. The expected damage this season will depend on responses by communities, the government, and partners, as well as the ability of these groups to import the necessary chemicals with the ongoing cash shortages. In addition to the FAW, other potential pests of concern include the African Armyworm and other livestock diseases.

    Integrated price projections for maize grain and maize meal:  Following FEWS NET’s assumption about above-average national maize and small grains production for the 2016-17 cropping season, maize prices are expected to drop significantly starting in June, especially in surplus-producing areas. Even the very poor and poor households in traditional deficit areas are expected to consume own-produced stocks between June and September. Maize meal availability and prices are expected at below normal levels from June through September. Stocks in most informal rural markets are expected to be low due to reduced demand, except to serve non-farming households such as in towns, rural growth points, and business centers. As own-produced stock is depleted in September amongst poor households, prices are expected to increase, but will continue to be below average. Prices will peak around January/February 2018 due to increased demand. Demand is expected to increase mainly in the south from October onwards, but prices are expected to remain stable due to availability of local grain supplies to millers. If there will be any maize imports later in the consumption year to cover any expected national deficits, these will not push up maize meal prices, which are expected to remain below average during this period, especially because of significant regional surpluses from South Africa, Zambia, and Malawi which are expected to lower maize prices. 

    Humanitarian assistance: Currently, no assistance is planned or funded by government and humanitarian partners for the outlook period. However, it is likely that targeted assistance may start in October.

    Acute malnutrition:  Typical national and provincial level of acute malnutrition in Zimbabwe is 3.2 percent, which is Acceptable according to the WHO thresholds for the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM). The 2016 national nutrition survey by ZIMVAC reported a national GAM prevalence of 4.4 percent, indicating a sustained Acceptable level, though slightly above average. The last two consecutive poor agricultural seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16) affected consumption patterns and intensified levels of acute malnutrition. However, during the post-harvest period from June, national GAM prevalence is likely to improve mainly due to expected average to above average harvests across the country. Some poor households are expected to start experiencing food deficits and poor consumption from October mainly in the traditionally deficit areas, but this will not drastically worsen malnutrition levels which will remain Acceptable (below 5 percent) during the whole scenario period from June through January.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcome

    June to September 2017: Average to above average crop production in most traditional cereal-surplus districts in the north and other high-producing areas in the country will result in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes from June through September. Even poor households will be able to meet their minimal food needs from own production. This will be supplemented by incomes from such activities as increased potential for on-farm and off-farm labor paid mainly in-kind, as well as crop sales. The availability of other foods such as pulses, vegetables and animal products (meat, milk, eggs) will also enhance consumption. In the typical cereal-deficit southern and marginal areas in the north some areas that realized high production will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes. However, most of the areas will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. This will be because whereas poor households will manage to meet their minimum food needs from own-produced stocks, they will experience significant livelihoods protection deficits when trying to meet their household needs including costs associated with education, health, and agricultural inputs.  

    October 2017 to January 2018: Minimum (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are expected to persist in most traditional cereal-surplus northern and other high-producing areas from October through January due to availability the of own produced stocks. For the southern and marginal northern areas, some poor households will begin to have limited own-produced stocks and will increase coping mechanisms to meet their minimal food needs. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected. In some areas, poor households would have completely exhausted own-produced stock during the outlook period. At the same time, they will experience constrained livelihood options (on-farm and off-farm labor, self-employment, remittances, petty trading etc.). With poor households expected to resort to market purchases and other sources of food, food gaps are expected. Even the forecasted normal start and average rains for the 2017-18 rainfall season will not significantly improve incomes due to expected economic and liquidity challenges. Some of the middle and better-off households who will still have surplus grain may be unwilling to dispose towards in-kind labor payments due to uncertainties over the next cropping season. Most households will resort to negative coping mechanisms, including distress sale of assets. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected in some areas during this period, requiring humanitarian assistance.


    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes
    NationalErratic start of season and below nromal rainfallWill further affect labor opportunities and other livelihood options
    NationalChanges to the import ban and restrictions through SI 64 of 2016An increase in in-kind remittance flows from South Africa would improve income availability for poor households and improve food security outcomes


    Figures Current food security outcomes, June 2017

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source: Fews Net

    Figure 1. The over 2-year deflation gave way to positive inflation in February 2017.

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. The over 2-year deflation gave way to positive inflation in February 2017.

    Source: FEWS NET, baseline data from ZIMSTAT

    Figure 2. Above normal, but fast receding water level, Siachilaba River, Binga District, mid-May 2017.

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Above normal, but fast receding water level, Siachilaba River, Binga District, mid-May 2017.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3.  Hammer milling of early harvested pearl millet, Jambezi in Hwange District, mid-May 2017.

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Hammer milling of early harvested pearl millet, Jambezi in Hwange District, mid-May 2017.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Price Projections June 2017 to January 2018, Mbare, Harare.

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Price Projections June 2017 to January 2018, Mbare, Harare.

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top