Skip to main content

Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely in some areas starting around October despite above-average harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zimbabwe
  • June 2021 - January 2022
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely in some areas starting around October despite above-average harvest

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present across the country and are expected through September following the above-average 2021 harvest. In areas where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present, crop production was relatively low partly due to excessive 2020/21 rainfall and continued below-average household income. Beginning in October, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in most typical deficit areas as own-produced food crops deplete and households rely on markets with below-average purchasing power. Throughout the outlook period, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in urban areas as poor households are likely to meet their basic food needs but face difficulty meeting their non-food needs.

    • Volatile macroeconomic conditions are expected to continue through the outlook period. Despite the declining triple-digit official annual inflation rate, the cost of living continues to increase monthly, with household income increasingly constrained. Prices of some goods and services increased in June in USD and ZWL terms following the introduction of a policy aimed to ensure application of the official exchange rate for enterprises, sourcing foreign currency through the auction system. The ZWL currency further weakened against the USD on the parallel market by nearly 20 percent between May and June.

    • The government has reinstated a national lockdown following a spike in COVID-19 cases; most economic activities are allowed under reduced staffing and working hours. Intercity passenger travel has been banned. Stricter localized lockdowns have been imposed in hotspots in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Midlands, and Masvingo Provinces and Bulawayo. Land borders remain closed to non-essential travel. The COVID-19 containment measures continue to impact income-earning activities, especially for informal sector activities in urban areas.


    Current Situation

    The near-record 2021 crop production is expected to improve access to food and engagement in income-earning activities across most of the country through at least early 2022. However, some deficit-producing areas in parts of Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, Midlands, and Manicaland Provinces had relatively poor production and are expected to experience some challenges accessing food during the 2021/22 lean season. The impacts of poor macroeconomic conditions and newly instated COVID-19 restrictions in parts of the country are affecting some households’ ability to engage in income-earning opportunities, notably in the informal sector in rural and urban areas.

    The Ministry of Agriculture estimates the 2021 maize harvest at around 2.72 million MT (Figure 1). This is 200 percent above the 2020 harvest and about 130 percent above the ten-year average. Production for sorghum, pearl millet, and finger millet (small grains) is estimated at 248,000 MT, nearly 130 percent above last season. The sharp increase in production from recent years is attributed not only to a favorable 2020/21 rainy season, but also the implementation of the Presidential Input Support Scheme for farmers and the promotion of conservation agriculture.

    Given official 2021 maize and small grain harvest estimates of nearly 3.0 million MT and an annual national cereal requirement of about 2.2 million MT, Zimbabwe is expected to be cereal self-sufficient for the 2021/22 consumption year. An atypically high national cereal surplus is expected, with official reports indicating a surplus of around 800,000 MT. This marks a notable departure from annual cereal deficits in recent years, with deficits up to 1 million MT for maize.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, maize grain surpluses are expected across all the Mashonaland Provinces except for Mhondoro-Ngezi and Mudzi Districts, with Mudzi having been affected by dry spells.

    Production of tobacco, cotton, and soyabeans is estimated to be 8, 94, and 51 percent above last season, respectively. Over 95 percent of tobacco was produced under contract farming, and farmers are concerned about the high repayment obligations to contractors at contract sales floors, leading to declines in earned income. Cotton and soyabeans have also been declared controlled commodities and should be sold only to the government or licensed contractors, potentially impacting income as well. Planting for winter wheat is complete, with area planted currently estimated at 50 percent above the same time last year.

    In April, the government suspended the provision of permits for all formal maize and maize meal imports based on the near-record 2021 harvest. The government also has maintained the 2019 regulation stipulating that the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is the sole buyer of maize grain. This regulation excludes sales by farmers to commercial and private buyers. Deliveries to the GMB increased in May and June as farmers continued harvesting and drying their grain. By mid-June, almost 240,000 MT of maize had reportedly been delivered to the GMB, about 275 percent higher than the same time last year. Despite the 

    GMB increasing the number of depots to facilitate the delivery of grain, poor road conditions and transport services, as well as high transportation costs in parts of the country, are reportedly affecting deliveries to the GMB.

    Maize prices were set by the government in December 2020 at 32,000 ZWL/MT and 38,000 ZWL/MT for small grains, almost 376 USD and 447 USD respectively, at the official exchange rate, though lower at parallel market rates. The prices are competitive on the local, regional, and international markets.

    The grain supply on open markets is slowly increasing following the harvest; however, supply remains low due to low demand as many households are consuming own-produced foods. Moreover, the low supply is also driven by the continued policy of restricting the transportation of non-GMB destined grain - a maximum of only five 50 kg bags can be transported to a non-GMB location at a time. Open markets in some typical deficit areas still have no grain supplies as farmer-to-farmer sales are more common.

    National water availability is above normal following the favorable rainy season. In early June, national dam levels averaged about 90 percent capacity, which is significantly above normal for this time of year. According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), the water levels are sufficient for human and livestock consumption and agricultural activities for nearly two years. Notably, water availability and access are declining in typical semi-arid areas, impacting domestic use and gardening activities, with some households and livestock traveling long distances to access water, which is normal in many of these areas.  Some rivers and dams, especially in parts of Masvingo, Manicaland, Midlands, and the Matabeleland Provinces, are heavily silted, leading to lower water-holding capacity. Despite significant improvements in dam levels, municipal water supplies in urban centers, such as Harare and Bulawayo, remain far from adequate predominately due to poor infrastructure and insufficient resources for water treatment and distribution.

    Pasture conditions across most parts of the country are generally favorable. Conditions in most typical semi-arid areas are, however, poor due to overgrazing, increasing invasive species, bush encroachment, and poor grass regrowth. Livestock conditions are good to fair in most areas, with poor conditions reported in some areas mainly due to poor pasture conditions and poor access to veterinary drugs nationally.

    According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), over 90 percent of the country is under high to extreme fire risk due to above-average vegetation and crop residue. The Mashonaland and Manicaland Provinces are under extreme fire risk, with Matabeleland, Midlands, and Masvingo Provinces under high risk compared to the low to medium risk in the past few years. Veld fires typically destroy forests, pastures, croplands, property, infrastructure, and lives. The fire season stretches from July 1 to October 31.

    The challenging macroeconomic conditions continue in Zimbabwe. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by about four percent from May to June (Figure 2). Despite the progressive decline in the official annual inflation rate from an extremely high 838 percent in July 2020 to 107 percent in June, inflation remains in the triple digits (Figure 3). Prices of most basic goods and services continue to increase. According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), the national average total cost of living (food and non-food items) increased 3.5 percent between May and June (Figure 4). 

    Fuel prices continue to increase on a near-monthly basis, putting further pressure on production and transportation costs and the prices of most goods and services. Reports citing data from the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) in May indicate that fuel prices in Zimbabwe are 44 percent higher than the Southern Africa regional averages. The government has instructed fuel companies sourcing foreign currency on the auction system to accept fuel purchases in ZWL. Fuel was almost exclusively selling in USD on the market, disadvantaging those earning in ZWL. Pre-paid electricity rates increased by 30 percent in May, increasing production costs and directly impacting mainly poor urban households who have few other options for power.

    In late May, the government issued a policy with the intent to control the prices of goods and services in foreign currency for companies accessing foreign currency from the official auction system. All goods and services priced in USD are to be pegged at the official exchange rate and not the parallel market rates, USD receipts are to be issued for purchases in USD, and heavy penalties will be imposed for non-compliance to these policies.

    Prices of goods and services in USD in the formal market have increased up to 50 percent following the introduction of the policy instrument as most businesses that previously conducted transactions using parallel market rates are now pricing goods in USD at the official exchange rate. The demand for the ZWL has substantially increased as consumers are exchanging USD for ZWL on the parallel market to conduct transactions in ZWL using electronic or mobile money.

    The ZWL has depreciated further on the parallel market from late May to late June, where it is now trading around 140 ZWL/USD – about a 20 percent decline from late May. This has resulted in price increases for some goods and services, even in ZWL terms. According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), there was a nearly 15 percent increase in the monthly basket (in ZWL) for a family of six from April to June, with the food basket increasing by almost 10 percent.

    As of mid- to late June, the government imposed nationwide lockdown measures in response to the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths associated with a high risk that a third wave could have begun. The new measures bar all social gatherings and intercity passenger transport; however, economic activities continue with reduced staff and hours of operation. Stricter localized lockdowns, including restricted movements, have been put in place in hotspot districts in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Midlands, and Masvingo Provinces, and Bulawayo. These measures are impacting some income-earning opportunities among poor households, especially in the informal sector. Quarantines have also been enforced at some higher education institutions in the country. The government also postponed the 2021 second-term school reopening, which was due at the end of June.

    The closure of land borders continues for non-essential movement of goods and services, impacting mostly the informal sector, including small-scale industries, cross-border traders, petty trading, and remittances. Illegal border crossings of people continue mainly across the Limpopo River into and out of South Africa and also across other borders as well. Restrictions on informal transportation services not franchised to the government are affecting income-earning activities in both rural and urban areas, mainly through critical transport shortages and above normal fares.

    Current income-earning opportunities and wage rates generally remain low due to the persistent challenging macroeconomic conditions and the recent movement restrictions imposed by the government in response to COVID-19. Despite income from crops sales and agricultural labor being generally above-average, most household income remains below the national poverty line in most areas. However, in most surplus-producing areas of the country, the high level of crop sales is providing somewhat favorable income. Moreover, wages and salaries for most workers in the formal and informal sectors remain below the national poverty lines. In-kind payments of crops for labor are increasing, with some households bartering for basic food and other items due to the favorable 2021 harvest. Winter wheat and other crop production are also providing additional labor opportunities.

    Vegetable production and sales are ongoing as typical in the post-harvest period. The above-normal harvest and sale of wild products such as thatch grass and fruits are ongoing in some areas, especially in typical high rainfall areas. Petty trading is common, especially in urban areas, and has increased in recent months among poor urban households. Remittances in rural and urban areas continue to be below normal due to prevailing national economic challenges. Informal artisanal mining is widespread across parts of all provinces.

    Food consumption in most rural areas is generally acceptable even for poor households as they rely on the consumption of a wide diversity of own-produced foods. Poor households who had relatively poor harvests are relying on casual labor for food. However, there are some typical deficit areas such as parts of Masvingo, Manicaland, and Matabeleland South Provinces where production was impacted by excessive rainfall. In these areas, food purchases complement own-produced foods with accessible quantities limited by high prices and low income. Some poor households in such areas are experiencing some limitations to food consumption.

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are ongoing in all surplus-producing areas, and most deficit-producing areas; however, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist in some deficit-producing areas. This is primarily due to limited production and the inability by most households to meet their non-food needs due to low purchasing power. Most urban areas continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to poor incomes, where poor households may be meeting their most basic food needs but experiencing some challenges in meeting their basic non-food needs.


    The June 2021 to January 2022 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Despite the government banning formal maize grain and maize meal imports, Zimbabwe is expected to be maize self-sufficient for the 2021/22 marketing year due to the near-record 2021 harvest.
    • Localized cereal deficits, particularly for maize, are anticipated during the latter part of the consumption year in deficit-producing areas of Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, Manicaland, and Midlands Provinces; however, the deficits are anticipated to be lower than typical.
    • Given general poor post-harvest management practices, especially among small-scale farmers, post-harvest losses are expected to be higher than normal, resulting in some reduced household access to own foods.  
    • Staple grain supply on the open markets is expected to be above average through at least January 2022. The GMB is expected to be the main source of grain for commercial and some household use during this consumption and marketing year.
    • The national maize meal supply is expected to be significantly above average; however, demand for maize meal will primarily be in urban areas through September/October as most rural households are expected to consume own foods until then. Demand will increase from October through at least January 2022, especially in typical deficit-producing areas, as household food stocks will likely be depleted. However, demand will most likely remain below average nationally. Imported cheaper maize meal brands, mainly from South Africa and Botswana, are likely to remain available on the market, especially in southern areas.
    • Maize grain and maize meal prices are expected to be below-average in USD terms due to the above-average grain supply. Maize grain prices are expected to be about 0.17 to 0.23 USD/kg in surplus areas. Prices will be relatively higher in deficit areas. Maize and small grain prices are expected to start increasing around October and continue through January as household food stocks dwindle in deficit-producing areas and demand increases. Maize meal prices are also expected to decline in USD during the outlook period. However, other non-grain supply factors such as high equipment, labor, electricity, fuel, and transportation costs will likely sustain pressure on maize meal prices. Besides demand and supply issues, prices in ZWL on the open markets are expected to be volatile, mainly following parallel market exchange rates. 
    • Despite the likely continued improvement in some macroeconomic indicators, macroeconomic conditions are expected to remain volatile. This is expected to be driven by high inflation despite the anticipated decline, the parallel market rate likely remaining at least 50 percent above the official exchange rate, and high fuel prices.
    • In May, ZERA reportedly relicensed only about 26 percent of fuel importing companies, a development which will likely negatively impact fuel availability in rural and remote areas served by small and indigenous companies.
    • Transportation costs are expected to be significantly above average due to high fuel prices, high maintenance costs, and poor road conditions following extensive damage during the 2020/21 rainy season.
    • The cost of living is anticipated to increase though at a lower rate than what was seen in 2019 and 2020. The multiple pricing system on the market is expected to continue. Price increases for goods and services are expected in both USD and ZWL. Moreover, due to the likely continued shortage of ZWL notes, surcharges on payments of mobile money and electronic transfers will further increase prices, mostly impacting purchasing power for poor households.
    • Income from crop sales is expected to be above average for the 2021/22 marketing season. Though grain sales are expected to be directed more to the GMB, some small-scale and communal farmers will supply open markets where they can earn in USD. Despite pricing issues faced by tobacco and cotton farmers, cash crop sales are expected to significantly improve household income in the respective crop-producing areas.
    • Water availability and access are expected to remain above average across most parts of the country through September/October, including in some typical semi-arid areas. This will increase to near normal levels the availability of seasonal livelihood activities such as winter cropping, vegetable production and sales, brick making, and construction. However, due to heavy silting, potential water supply levels for some streams, rivers, and dams will be impacted, with some of these—as well as some deep wells and boreholes—drying up well before the next rainfall season. 
    • Pasture and livestock conditions are expected to be fair to good across most typical high rainfall areas through at least October. In semi-arid areas, pasture conditions are expected to decline earlier, leading to some deterioration in cattle conditions in late 2021. Atypical livestock deaths are not expected; however, continued poor access to veterinary supplies is likely to lead to some poor livestock conditions, especially among poor households. Goats are expected to remain in fair to good condition throughout the outlook period in all areas.
    • Livestock prices are expected to be above last year and near average due to better pasture and livestock conditions in most areas. However, income from livestock sales will most likely continue to be constrained due to low disposable income and market demand.
    • Veld fire risk is expected to remain high to extreme through the end of October in most areas because of high vegetation and crop residue matter following good rains.
    • Agricultural and non-agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be higher than in recent years following the favorable harvest, mainly in surplus-producing areas in the north; however, they are not expected to reach levels consistent with a record season due to ongoing poor macroeconomic conditions. In-kind labor payments and barter are expected to be above average.
    • Remittances from domestic sources are expected to remain below average, driven by the volatile macroeconomic conditions in Zimbabwe. In contrast, international remittances are expected to increase from current levels due to globally easing movement restrictions. The renewed COVID-19 lockdown measures are likely to be maintained for some time as the country battles a potential spike in infections; however, restriction measures are not expected to be as severe as in 2020. They will continue to negatively impact on income-earning activities, mainly in the informal sector and in urban areas.
    • The government is likely to maintain land border closures to non-essential goods and services; this is likely to drive continued low levels of informal trade and other activities such as cross-border trade, petty trade, casual labor, and small-scale industries. Southern parts of the country bordering South Africa are likely to be among the most impacted.
    • Illegal cross-border movements into South Africa and other neighboring countries are expected to continue, especially before the next rainy season, despite heightened surveillance by security forces.
    • While above-average sale and consumption of wild products is expected through at least September, income for this source is expected to be near-normal due to low demand.               
    • Early international forecast models indicate average rainfall is most likely for Zimbabwe from October 2021 through January 2022. This will likely drive near-normal area planted and engagement and income from agricultural labor.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most surplus-producing areas in the Mashonaland Provinces and other parts of the country are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes throughout the outlook period. This is a result of above-average crop production as well as above-average access to labor opportunities, cash, and in-kind payments. In these areas, other income sources such as livestock sales, informal mining, petty trade, vegetable production and sales, and self-employment, among others, are expected to complement the consumption of own-produced food.

    Between June and September, most typical deficit-producing areas in Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, parts of Manicaland, and Midlands Provinces are likely to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Own-produced stocks will likely be depleted between August-September in most areas, with poor households resorting to other means of accessing food. Poor households are expected to meet their basic food needs but fail to meet their basic non-food needs. Income from crop sales and casual labor will be relatively constrained in these areas compared to surplus-producing areas. Coupled with high food prices, this will likely limit market food purchases. Livestock sales are expected to be low due to poor disposable incomes on the market. Other typical income sources such as remittances, cross-border trade, and petty trade are expected at below-normal levels.

    From October through January 2022, food security outcomes in some worse-off typical deficit-producing areas in parts of Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, Manicaland, and Midlands Provinces are expected to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as poor household food stocks are likely to be limited and purchasing power is expected to be constrained. Some of these areas will; however, remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). For the entire outlook period, acute malnutrition is expected to remain at Acceptable levels (Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) <5 percent as measured by weight-for-height- z-score (WHZ)), according to WHO thresholds in most areas.

    Urban areas are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as poor households experience difficulty accessing market foods due to continued below-average income given ongoing macroeconomic challenges and COVID-19 impacts.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Spiking COVID-19 infections

    Will likely result in the government imposing very stringent movement and economic activity restrictions that will severely impact both rural and urban livelihoods, especially the informal sector.


    Government strict enforcement of foreign currency exchange control regulations and price controls

    This would result in further the weakening of the ZWL, price increases, and basic commodity shortages, thereby impacting access to food mainly by poor households.



     For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report. 


    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2021

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: Ministry of Agriculture

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: ZIMSTAT

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: ZIMSTAT

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: ZIMSTAT

    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