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Food deficits projected for poor households due to constrained food and income sources

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zimbabwe
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Food deficits projected for poor households due to constrained food and income sources

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  • Key Messages
  • National Level Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected across most typical deficit crop-producing areas in the south, west, and extreme northern regions of the country between August 2018 and January 2019. Typical surplus production areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period. Projected outcomes during the outlook period are driven by the 2017-18 below-average to average production levels, the resulting decrease in income from casual labor and other sources, as well as the ongoing liquidity challenges.

    • At the national level, 2018 production combined with carryover stocks from the 2017 season will bring maize supplies to above-average levels. However, deficits are expected later in the marketing year. Maize prices are projected to remain below average until August/September, and trend near the seasonal averages for the rest of the outlook period as demand increases.

    • Early international forecasts for Southern Africa indicate increased probabilities for El Niño-induced below-average rainfall for the 2018-19 season. Although there is some uncertainty in this forecast, poor rains will likely affect livelihood activities from October 2018 to January 2019.


    Current Situation

    2018 Agricultural Seasonal Update

    Across most parts of the country, harvesting of early-planted crops is complete or still ongoing. Over 80 percent of the 2017-18 maize crop was reportedly planted in November and December 2017. Late-planted crops that were cultivated in January and February are beginning to be harvested and this is expected to extend into July. Assessments from various agencies, key informants, as well as FEWS NET analyses indicate that for most communal farmers the 2017-18 production levels for cereals and other crops are lower when compared to both last year and the five-year average. Below average to average production is reportedly being realized in other farming sectors.

    Water tables, river, and dam levels remain high following heavy rains in February and March, especially in the north and other high rainfall areas. Most reservoirs already had above-average water levels due to above-normal rains from the previous 2016-17 season. However, some traditionally arid areas in the south and west (including most of Masvingo, Matebeleland North and South, and parts of Manicaland and Midlands Provinces) and extreme northern areas (in the Mashonaland Provinces) have already started experiencing water availability and access challenges.

     Small livestock conditions are good across most parts of the country, even in typical arid areas. Pastures are fair to good in most high rainfall areas and so are cattle conditions. However, in parts of the south, west, and extreme north, pastures are fair to poor, along with cattle conditions. Some farmers are already feeding their livestock with crop fodder, while others are stocking up on fodder as stock feed reserves for the 2018-19 lean season.

    Tobacco sales continue at the auction and contract floors. In tobacco-growing areas these sales are improving household income levels. Cotton harvests and sales have also started, though production levels are expected to be lower compared to last year. As an incentive for production, tobacco and cotton farmers are expected to earn respectively 12.5 and 10 percent export incentives on their crop.

    Economic Situation

    The macroeconomic environment remains stressed with negative impacts on poor household livelihoods, incomes, and access to food and other basic needs. Foreign currency shortages in formal markets as well as reliance on black market supplies continue to affect production, prices, and service levels in the formal and informal sectors. With the ongoing cash shortages, consumers are increasingly using electronic and mobile money transfers for purchases thereby paying more through high premiums charged as compared to paying in US Dollars. As a result, the prices of most goods and services are above normal and continue to increase. Figure 1 shows cooking oil price trends for select districts and the increases in average prices since January and February 2018.

    Internal Cereal Trade and Market Functioning

    In recent years, apart from the 2016-17 cropping season, national cereal deficits were experienced. Currently, the country has significant carryover stocks from the 2016-17 cropping season. The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is reported to be holding over 900,000 MT of maize from the 2017 harvests and imports. Some open markets have up to now continued to rely on 2017 maize harvest supplies, while others in traditionally deficit-production areas no longer have stocks. Supplies from the 2018 harvests are beginning to make it into the markets.

    Food security

    Only a small proportion of better-off households in surplus-production areas still have 2017 carryover stocks. Current harvests in these areas have improved food and incomes as well as consumption, even for poor households. Own-produced crops are the main source of food in these areas and opportunities for in-kind labor are also moderately available. However, in marginal production areas in the south, west, extreme-north, and other areas, own-produced food stocks are limited for poor households, resulting in poor consumption. Some households in deficit-production areas continue to make cereal purchases. Due to constrained livelihood opportunities, poor households continue to employ consumption and livelihood coping strategies early in the 2018-19 consumption year.

    Seasonal activities including gardening, brick molding, construction, and self-employment engagements (e.g. crafts and sale of forest products like grass) have started and are increasing across parts of the country. Unfortunately, some of these activities are being affected by cash shortages and low demand, as well as water availability and access challenges in the arid parts of the country. As of June, the Government of Zimbabwe’s extended drought relief program continues to supply selected vulnerable households in rural communities with maize grain. These maize grain distributions were originally supposed to have ended in March.

    National Level Assumptions

    From June 2018 to January 2019, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:

    2017-18 national cereal production: FEWS NET anticipates below-average to average national cereal production from the 2017-18 cropping season. This is mainly due to the impact of a slow and late onset of seasonal rains, poor rainfall distribution, and a prolonged mid-season dry spell in December and January. Significant rainfall was received in February and March across the country. These rains improved crop conditions in parts of the country, but in some areas much of the crop had already been lost. Dry conditions persisted in part of March and April in some southern districts, further stressing crops (Meteorological Services Department). Though cumulative rainfall was relatively normal for the bulk of the country and ranged from 75-125 percent of the long-term average, temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall was poor across the country.

    National cereal availability: National cereal stocks are expected to be above-average for the 2018-19 marketing and consumption year because of the above-average carryover stocks from the 2016-17 season. The GMB currently has reportedly over 900,000 MT of maize because of above-average (140 percent) maize production during the 2016-17 cropping season. Despite anticipated below-average to average 2017-18 national production, formal maize imports are expected to remain at below normal levels as carryover stocks and 2018 harvest supplies are expected to meet national demand during the early part of the current marketing and consumption year. A relatively small national cereal deficit is likely later in the marketing and consumption year. The government is likely to continue to require that private traders and millers source local maize only from the GMB.

    Household cereal availability: Own-produced cereal stocks (maize and small grains) for poor households in most southern and other typically deficit-production areas will last between 1-3 months. Some households will have no harvests. Household stocks for other crops such as groundnuts, round nuts, and cowpeas in these areas are also expected at below-average levels. By August, it is expected that own-produced food stocks would be depleted for most poor households. Purchases are expected earlier than typical, though at constrained levels due to poor incomes. Households will expand their livelihood activities (including casual labor and remittances) to obtain income for purchases. In the north and other high-producing areas, own-produced cereal stocks for poor households will last longer (up until November/December), which is still earlier than usual. However, in some areas, other food crops such as sweet potatoes, groundnuts, round nuts, beans etc. are expected to complement household cereal supplies.

    Livestock conditions: As is typical, small livestock are expected to be in good condition across most parts of the country, even in arid southern and other areas throughout the outlook period. However, cattle conditions in the south and other typically arid areas are expected to deteriorate starting around July as pasture and water conditions begin to decline. Minimal fodder supplies from the 2017-18 crop stalks are expected in these areas from July/August due to the poor cropping season. In some areas cattle will rely more on dry tree-leaf browsing than on grazing. Where available, higher-income households are expected to purchase supplementary feeds, which poor households will not be able to afford. Most feedlots in such areas are poorly managed and degraded. Draught animals are expected to be in poor condition from September to December, affecting draught power services. In most northern areas, pasture and water supplies are expected to sustain good cattle conditions until the start of the rains, which are expected around October/November.

    Macroeconomic conditions: Constrained economic activity, foreign currency shortages, high parallel market exchange rates, multiple-pricing systems, and poor livelihoods and household incomes will likely persist during the outlook period. High prices for food and other basics are likely to continue, impacting poor household purchasing power. Macroeconomic conditions will also have impacts on the following livelihood activities and income sources:

    Agricultural and non-agricultural labor availability and rates: Ongoing macroeconomic challenges, cash shortages and below-average to average crop production will affect opportunities for on-farm casual labor (e.g. land preparation, ploughing, planting and weeding) from October through January and off-farm casual labor opportunities. This will be compounded by above-average labor supply which will result in below-average labor rates, especially in southern and other typical deficit-production areas. Below-average crop production will affect in-kind payments for labor due to low stocks and incomes that middle and better-off households will receive from their crop sales. In-kind payments with non-cereal items such as sugar and washing soap will be most likely.

    Remittances: Remittance flows, both domestic and international, are expected at below-average levels during the outlook period. Constrained economic opportunities in the country as well as cash shortages will affect the frequency and levels of remittances in rural and urban areas. Remittances from mainly South Africa to households in southern districts will be impacted by weak exchange rates of the South African Rand to the USD as well as economic challenges faced by most immigrating to South Africa. Remittances are more likely to be in-kind than in cash in the southern districts.

    Livestock-to-grain terms of trade: Unfavorable livestock-to-grain terms of trade are expected from August onwards as cereal prices increase due to increased demand. These unfavorable terms of trade will be more so in grain-deficit areas compared to grain surplus-areas. Some distress sale or disposal of livestock is expected especially between September and November. Terms of trade will likely be below-average for the entire outlook period due to low effective demand for livestock and ongoing cash shortages.

    Other livelihoods: In typical arid areas gardening and informal mining activities (e.g. gold panning) will likely be affected from June through October/November due to expected water challenges. The sale of wild products (e.g. thatching grass, seasonal fruits, fish etc.) will be affected in some areas because of the poor rainfall season. Petty trading and self-employment activities such as crafts and beer brewing are likely to be impacted by low effective demand due to low household incomes. Labor migration will remain an option, especially for households located close to the national borders.

    Prospects for 2018-19 main season production: Early international forecasts indicate that the most likely El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phase for October 2018 to January 2019 is El Niño, but there is some uncertainty in this forecast. Based on the El Niño forecast and looking at relevant analogue years, below-average rainfall is most likely from October 2018 to January 2019. In addition, there is an increased probability for a late start of the rains in some areas, which are likely to be erratic in terms of spatial and temporal distribution. Due to current uncertainties, this forecast may shift in the periods closer to the start of season. In addition to the seasonal rainfall forecast, the following factors will also impact production during the cropping season.

    Migratory Transboundary Pests and other diseases: The Fall Armyworm (FAW) is expected to remain a threat to crop production in the coming season. Other pests include Quelea birds, large grain stalk borer, and wild animal attacks on crops, livestock, and humans in parts of the country. Typical livestock diseases such as foot and mouth, anthrax and others will also likely affect herds in various areas, with Newcastle a potential threat to poultry. Below-average household incomes will affect access to appropriate chemicals and could impact potential production.

    Crop input supply and access: As foreign currency shortages persist, it is likely that fertilizer shortages will continue to be experienced on the markets during the outlook period as fertilizer companies face challenges in importing raw materials. Because of prevailing economic challenges, low household incomes and high crop input prices, most poor households are expected to have poor access to crop inputs for the 2018-19 cropping season. This may result in delayed plantings and reduced cropped area.

    Integrated price projections for maize grain and maize meal: From June to September, maize grain prices are projected to range from average to below average because of carryover stocks and 2018 harvest supplies. As local demand increases between October and January, prices are expected to trend close to average because of limited supplies from traditional source areas and the below average to average 2017-18 harvest supplies. Figure 3 shows maize grain price projections for Mbare Market in Harare. Maize meal prices are expected to remain stable throughout the entire outlook period if the government continues to require that private traders and millers source local maize from the GMB. Wholesale and retail stocks are anticipated at average to below-average levels. Even with expected below-average to average maize meal prices, poor households will not be able to afford maize meal purchases, especially in typical grain-deficit areas.

    Humanitarian Assistance: Currently, no assistance is planned, funded, or likely for the outlook period. FEWS NET will be updating this assumption as new information emerges.

    Acute malnutrition: Typical national acute malnutrition prevalence in Zimbabwe is 3.3 percent which is Acceptable according to the WHO Crisis Classification. The 2018 National Nutrition Assessment reported a national Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence of 2.5 percent. This prevalence indicates a continued Acceptable level which is also lower than the average prevalence spanning more than five years. The national GAM prevalence is likely to remain at current levels from June  through September 2018, but may likely increase thereafter, yet remain at Acceptable levels. Malnutrition levels are likely to be seasonally influenced by diseases, but illnesses are unlikely to reach epidemic proportions.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    June - September: In northern and other typical surplus production areas, below-average to average crop production is expected. Poor households in these areas will mainly rely on own-produced stocks. Opportunities for casual labor will be limited by crop production levels. Some households in these areas will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes between June and July, but the area classifications will be driven by very poor and poor populations that are unable to meet their non-food needs, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are also expected to continue during the months of August and September. In the south and other perennial deficit production areas, 2018 harvests will be below average, affecting casual labor opportunities and labor rates, cash and in-kind. Most poor households will engage in earlier than normal consumption coping strategies as well as extend their typical livelihood coping options. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are projected as poor households rely on own-produced food stocks yet face livelihood protection deficits. In a few critical districts, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are projected once poor households deplete their food stocks in July/August. These area outcomes are expected through September in an increasing number of districts. Humanitarian assistance will be required to protect livelihoods.

    October 2018 - January 2019: This outlook period covers the lean season during which consumption patterns and food security outcomes are expected to deteriorate in the south and other typical deficit-production areas. With current forecast for below-normal rainfall for the 2018-19 season, seasonal on-farm labor opportunities will be constrained. Other typical livelihoods such as self-employment will also be affected by poor demand for products and services. Incomes from livestock sales will be below average, and yet livestock to cereal terms of trade will worsen as cereal prices increase with demand. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected to persist. It is possible in some areas for some pockets of households to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In the northern and other grain-surplus production areas, household food stocks are expected to last until December for poor households. Limited income and in-kind payments from on-farm casual labor will supplement the depleting food stocks among households, but most poor households will not be able to meet their livelihood protection needs, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in most areas.

    Figures Current food security outcomes, June 2018

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2018

    Source: FEWS NET


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Maize grain price percentage change from five-year average, May 2018.

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Maize grain price percentage change from five-year average, May 2018.

    Source: Data Source: Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement

    Figure 2. Average cooking oil price trends (USD/2 liters) in selected markets, January-April 2018.

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Average cooking oil price trends (USD/2 liters) in selected markets, January-April 2018.

    Source: Data Source: ZIMSTAT

    Figure 3. Maize grain price projections for Mbare Market, Harare.

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Maize grain price projections for Mbare Market, Harare.

    Source: Source: FEWS NET Estimates based on Ministry of Lands, Agriculture & Rural Rese…

    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.

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