As the lean season peaks, FEWS NET estimates that most parts of the region will remain food secure throughout the outlook period. However pockets of acute food insecurity will persist in areas that faced reduced 2012/13 harvests. Food access in these areas has been problematic, and is likely to remain so unless households receive adequate food assistance from January to March 2014.
From January to March, Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected in localized parts of Zimbabwe and Malawi in the presence of humanitarian assistance. In Zimbabwe, this is due to insufficient resource levels, with funds currently estimated at 60 percent. In parts of Malawi, though adequate resources were mobilized; some areas remain in Phase 2!, while newly identified households in one district are projected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until they begin receiving assistance in late February.
Above average intra-regional trade is contributing in stabilizing staple food supplies. Despite tightening supplies, formal and informal cross border trade (especially exports from surplus producing parts of Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa) is expected to continue to play a key role in supplying deficit area markets across the region (Figure 1).
Prices remain high and are increasing faster in areas where supplies are atypically low. Localized production shortfalls in 2013 coupled with lower levels of carryover stocks, and strong extra-regional export demand resulted in lower levels of tradable supplies for the 2013/14 marketing season. Price levels are expected to remain high in the first quarter of the outlook period; but to stabilize and start dropping once the new harvest starts coming in (Figure 2).
While the SARCOF seasonal forecast indicates normal to above normal January to March rains in the bulk of the region, the ECMWF, and other global models have downgraded their forecast and now show enhanced chances of normal to below normal rainfall in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the region. The downgrade is confirmed by low January rainfall observed across these areas as shown by poor soil moisture conditions (Figure 3).