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Below-average household incomes to affect food access as prices increase

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zimbabwe
  • October 2017
Below-average household incomes to affect food access as prices increase

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  • Key Messages
  • National Level Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Most northern and high crop-producing areas are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes and these are expected for the entire outlook period. Several marginal production areas in the southern, central, and extreme northern regions are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) because of reduced or depleted own-produced food stocks, depressed livelihood activities, and reduced household incomes due to prevailing economic challenges. These outcomes are likely to continue during the October to January period.

    • From February to March, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in some areas during the peak lean season. Humanitarian assistance is expected in several areas in the south, west, and extreme north, and is likely to improve outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). The main harvest is expected to start from April to May and will result in mainly Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    • National shortages in local bond notes and foreign currency continue to adversely impact livelihoods in both rural and urban areas. The use of alternative modes of payment is contributing to the increased costs of goods and services. With reduced incomes because of depressed livelihood activities, the ongoing macroeconomic situation is expected to constrain food access for poor households this consumption year

    National Level Assumptions

    From October 2017 to May 2018, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:

    National cereal availability: National maize production from the 2016-17 cropping season was estimated at 2.16 million MT, 320 percent above the previous season, and 140 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 2). Total cereal (maize and small grains) production was estimated at 2.44 million MT. The official national total cereal requirement for the 2017-18 consumption year is 1.57 million MT (Min. of Agriculture), though some independent sources indicate requirements between 1.8 million to 2 million MT. Following the maize import ban in early in the year, no significant maize imports are expected during the outlook period, which will be atypical for the country. The private sector which relies more on maize imports will largely source maize from the GMB, following a government directive. For the humanitarian assistance for the 2017-18 consumption year, some stocks from the GMB will likely be used while some agencies will likely import some stocks during the lean season.

    Prospects for 2017-18 main season production, maize grain: FEWS NET assumes national maize production for the 2017-18 production season will be average. Typical surplus-producing areas in the north will likely realize average production. Average to below-average production is expected in the traditional deficit areas in the south, west and extreme northern parts of the country. The following factors will impact on maize production during the 2017-18 cropping season:

    • Seasonal rainfall forecast: According to a recent analysis of international forecast models by NOAA and USGS, the start of the 2017/18 rainy season is likely to be normal and total cumulative seasonal rainfall during the October/November 2017 – March 2018 period is likely to be average tending to below average in Zimbabwe. In the northern and other typically higher rainfall areas of Zimbabwe, this forecast means there is likely to be normal crop establishment and growth, especially following an above average 2016-17 rainfall season that resulted in improved soil-moisture conditions in some areas. For the southern, western, extreme northern areas that are arid and drought-prone, this forecast could mean erratic rainfall early in the cropping season, resulting in reduced cropped area. These areas normally experience mid-season dry spells, so this could affect crops during the critical vegetative and reproduction stages. The green harvest that is expected in February and the main harvest in April maybe late in these drier areas.
    • Availability of inputs: Shortages of crop inputs (mainly fertilizers and chemicals) are likely to continue during the 2017-18 cropping season due to national foreign currency shortages. However, the government has reportedly put in place measures to facilitate fertilizer imports, including removal of import duties. Maize seed companies have assured farmers of adequate seed for the coming cropping season. Though small grain seed is expected to remain in short supply on the markets, farmers are expected to mainly use retained seed, as is typical.
    • Access to crop inputs: Poor households will face challenges accessing inputs on the markets given poor incomes and high costs. The government plans to provide crop inputs (seed and fertilizers) to approximately 1.8 million small holder farming households under the Presidential Well Wishers Crop Input Scheme. Last season crop inputs were provided to only 800,000 households. The government has also reported plans to support farmers targeted during the second year of the Command Agriculture Program. About 400,000 cotton farmers are also planned to benefit from crop input assistance by the government this cropping season. Input distributions were planned to start ahead of the onset of rainfall season in October.
    • Fall Armyworm: The Fall Armyworm (FAW) which attacked crops for the first time in Zimbabwe during the 2016-17 cropping season (Figure 3) will almost certainly resurface during the 2017-18 season. According to the 2017 2nd Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report, 8 percent of the area under maize was affected by FAW across the country last season, and the damage was estimated to be 2 percent. There are recent reports that the FAW has been detected on irrigated winter maize crop in many districts. Individual farmers will likely find it difficult to procure chemicals to control the pest and with the ongoing cash shortages the government may face difficulty in procuring chemicals as well. Field reports indicate that there were plans to extend education and training activities to help farmers identify, manage, and control the pest, but such activities have reportedly not reached all parts of the country. Besides, the cost of most effective chemicals will be out of reach of most poor farmers.

    Livestock conditions: Cattle conditions are expected to be fair to good during the outlook period. This is more so in the higher rainfall areas in the north where pasture and water conditions are expected to be good. Goats will remain in good condition across the country. However, cattle sales are expected to trend below seasonal averages due to cash shortages that may affect some buyers. This will affect cattle prices more than goat and chicken prices, which are expected to remain typical.

    Macroeconomic conditions: The continued liquidity challenges in the country will adversely impact livelihood options and food access for poor households during the outlook period. Rising demand and shortages of foreign currency and local bond notes will put increasing pressure on the value of transactions in the parallel market, increasing prices of commodities and services, and mostly affecting poor households. Inflation is also expected to rise significantly during the outlook period. Macroeconomic conditions will also have an impact on the following income sources and livelihood activities:

    • Agricultural labor availability and rates: Prevailing cash shortages, above-average crop supplies, and low grain prices on the markets will affect crop sale incomes in cereal-surplus areas which happen to be a major source of income. This will constrain middle and better-off household’s incomes, directly and indirectly impacting on labor opportunities and labor rates for poor households. Labor rates are likely to be below average, with payments mostly in-kind. Terms of trade will be unfavorable for poor households due to general price increases.
    • Non-agricultural labor availability and rates: Opportunities for non-farm labor will remain below average throughout the outlook period. Most sources of income for middle and better-off households will be constrained, affecting their capacity to engage poor households. At the same time labor rates will be below average. In parts of the south and extreme north, above average labor supply from mainly among the poor households will also affect labor rates.
    • Remittances: As has been the case for close to two years now, remittance levels mainly from South Africa are expected to remain subdued, affecting mostly the southern parts of the country. Local remittances will be affected by economic challenges in the economy which will constrain livelihoods. Typical in-kind remittances from mainly South Africa and Botswana will also be below-average owing to the 2016 import restrictions on a variety of food and non-food commodities (Figure 4).
    • Livestock prices and terms of trade: Livestock terms of trade will be influenced by anticipated below-average grain prices affecting poor households disposing their livestock in exchange for cereal. Also, the seasonal increase in demand for meat during the festive season (November and December) is expected to be below average due to ongoing liquidity crisis.

    Non-cereal food prices: Based on current trends, FEWS NET assumes that prices of other non-cereal basic food commodities will continue to increase during the outlook period. These non-cereal items include cooking oil, sugar, and flour. An increase in prices is expected for these items due to continued shortages of foreign currency during the outlook period. Increased demand during the festive months of November and December is also expected to push up prices for these items.

    Integrated maize grain price projections: As is typical between October and December, maize grain prices for Mbare (Harare) and other northern markets are expected to increase during this period as demand on markets increases (Figure 5). However, this year maize grain price increases are expected be relatively marginal. Prices are expected to trend 15-25 percent below last year and 10-15 percent below the five-year average. This is mainly due to above-average supplies of maize in source markets mainly in the north and anticipated cash shortages during the outlook period. In deficit-southern areas prices will be relatively higher, but still below last year and the five-year average.  During the January to March period maize prices will behave normally. Due to increased demand on markets and reduced supplies from source areas, prices are expected to further increase, peaking between February and March. However, prices are expected to still trend below last year and the five-year average by 5-15 percent and 5-10 percent, respectively. As is typical, maize grain is likely to be unavailable in some markets in the southern and western districts during the peak lean season. Maize meal will constitute the main cereal consumed by majority of households in these areas. Between April and May, prices are expected to take an expected seasonal dip due to the contribution from green harvests and early harvested crops.

    Integrated maize meal price projections: Maize meal prices are expected to follow seasonal trends, increasing with demand from October onwards (especially in cereal-deficit areas in the south and west). Demand and prices of maize meal will peak around January and February. Prices will start to drop thereafter with the green harvests, and the main harvest in April. However, private millers are likely to pass increased costs of production onto consumers if the current inflationary trend continues. This will like push up maize meal prices, affecting poor households purchasing power.

    Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian assistance is expected to start in October/November in the worst affected districts. WFP has planned for lean season assistance to begin in November in 13 districts and reach almost 172,600 beneficiaries. Beneficiaries in some districts will receive in-kind rations, while in others there will be a combination of in-kind rations and cash payouts. The program will upscale to 32 districts at peak (by January to March) targeting about 494,000 beneficiaries. The government also plans to assist food insecure households in targeted areas across the country. Plans from other partners were not yet available. FEWS NET’s food security outcomes are based on available data and information and will be updated regularly.

    Acute Malnutrition: The most recent national level nutrition survey was by ZIMVAC in May 2017 under the 2017 rural livelihoods assessment. It used the SMART methodology. Sampled children 6-59 months old in 60 districts were assessed. The national Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence based on the May 2017 survey is 3.2 percent which is Acceptable according to WHO thresholds. FEWS NET expects that the national GAM prevalence is likely to remain within the Acceptable range (under 5 percent) during the outlook period across the country. Though poor households in the typical cereal-deficit south and extreme north will start facing food deficits and poor consumption patterns from October the situation is not expected to drastically worsen acute malnutrition levels. Green harvest across the country mainly from January to March will also improve availability and consumption patterns. Malnutrition levels are likely to be seasonally influenced by localized disease cases, but illnesses are unlikely to reach epidemic proportions.


    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    October to January: Consumption of own-produced food stocks is expected to continue in the north and other high production areas. At the same time, incomes from crop sales will enhance household incomes for other food and non-food items. On-farm and off-farm labor for poor households, mostly paid in-kind, is expected. As a result, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are expected during this outlook period. However, a few areas will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as limited livelihood opportunities (mostly due to economic challenges and cash shortages) result in livelihood protection deficits. In the south, west, and extreme northern areas, most poor households are expected to have exhausted own-produced stock. Market purchases will be limited due to poor incomes and relatively high food prices. Faced with increasing food gaps and livelihood protection deficits, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected in most of these areas. Anticipated humanitarian assistance will likely improve the situation to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in some areas in the south, west, and extreme north.

    February to May: Part of the north and other high production areas are expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes between February and March. This will be enhanced by the green harvest which is expected at normal levels during this period. However, due to reduced or depleted own-produced stocks, some poor households will face limited food gaps, and will also be unable to meet their basic needs, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes. Between April and May, the green foods from the early planted crop will improve food security outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). In the typically food-deficit south, west and extreme north, the peak period of the lean season will result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes between February and March. Markets will serve as the most common source of cereal, mainly maize meal, which is priced higher than maize per unit, affecting access for poor households. However, the main harvest from between April and May will result in mainly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, with a few significantly improved areas experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Value of retail transactions

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Value of retail transactions

    Source: Reproduced from RBZ data

    Figure 2.  Maize production trends.

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Maize production trends.

    Source: Ministry of Agriculture

    Figure 3.  Proportion of households affected by Fall Armyworm during the 2016-17 cropping season.

    Figure 4

    Figure 3. Proportion of households affected by Fall Armyworm during the 2016-17 cropping season.

    Source: ZIMVAC

    Figure 4. International remittance trends.

    Figure 5

    Figure 4. International remittance trends.

    Source: RBZ

    Figure 5.  Maize grain prices and projections, Mbare, Harare

    Figure 6

    Figure 5. Maize grain prices and projections, 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.

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