Reduced yields expected in the southern half of Zambia due to drought conditions
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
- Following a much delayed start of season across most of the country, the Southern, Western, Central, Lusaka, and Eastern Provinces continued receiving erratic and poorly distributed rainfall in December and January. These conditions resulted in late planting, poor seed germination, and reduced planted area. Since farmers typically plant maize before planting cash crops each season, the overall poor cropping conditions this season suggests that planted area for cash crops will be reduced as well.
- Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes continue in the northern half of the country. Rainfall in the northern areas is average, crop conditions are reported to be good, and crops are in the late development stage.
- However, in areas in the southwestern region where cumulative rainfall has been well below average this season, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes persist. Southern parts of Eastern Province have also been experiencing adverse rainfall.
- Since late January, rainfall has increased and distribution has improved slightly, enhancing soil moisture in some parts. However, because it is late in the season and some maize crops in the south are still in the vegetative stage, there is no guarantee that the crops will reach full maturity before the end of the rainy season.
- During field verification in early January, FEWS NET confirmed that crops in Kalomo, Choma, and Sesheke were severely stressed. In Gwembe district, (Southern Province) there was no start of season and in some cases total crop failure.
- Despite the improved rainfall in late January, the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) as of February 20th suggests that much of the maize crop conditions in Southern, parts of Western, Lusaka, Eastern (Nyimba and Mambwe district), and Central Province are mediocre, implying that soil moisture is insufficient to satisfy crop needs (Figure 1).
- The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) monitors the severity of drought events. The SPI for rainfall from October 2015 to February 2016 ranges from moderately to extremely dry in the southern half of the country to near normal and moderately dry in the north (Figure 2).
- Market demand for staple food is atypically high for January/February. Poor households are currently working for food, however because rainfall has been below average in most of the country, many are finding it difficult to find work due to the decrease in labor opportunities this season. In the extreme south, some household members are migrating to Namibia in search for casual labor. A few better-off households are still consuming their own staple production.
- Despite high effective demand, maize availability is adequate in Zambia. Local prices of maize and maize meal have remained above average. Maize meal prices are 30-50 percent above average, while maize grain prices are 40-120 percent above average. Drivers of these prices are higher regional demand and depreciation of the local currency. However, compared to the month of December, the rate of price increases in most districts in January decreased slightly.
- Although the exchange rate between the local currency and the U.S. dollar depreciated by about 70 percent from ZMK 6.4: US$ 1 in January 2015 to ZMK 13: US$ in October 2015, by February 2016, it stabilized at around ZMK 11: US$ 1. With Zambia’s high dependency on food and non-food imports, local prices of food and non-food commodities have significantly increased, resulting in eroding purchasing power for many households in both urban and rural areas.
- Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is holding most of the current maize supply. As of mid-January the FRA has an estimated 930,000 MT of maize. Of this total amount, about 735,000 MT has been committed by the FRA for local sales to mostly millers.
- As part of its market interventions, the FRA continues to sell maize grain to millers at a subsidized price of ZMK 85/50 kg bag, an estimated 40 percent below the export parity price. This was a move by Government to help curb escalating local meal prices.
- Formal maize exports, mostly to Zimbabwe, have been declining sharply since October 2015 (Figure 3). As of December, an estimated 70 percent of the 877,000 MT exportable maize surplus for the 2015/16 marketing season had been formally exported regionally.
- Due to Malawi’s large cereal deficit, informal maize exports have been atypically high, surpassing Zambian export volumes to the DRC by about 500 percent. Maize grain exports to Malawi rose steeply from June to August, but have been declining since then due to reduced maize grain supplies on the market (Figure 4). In contrast, maize meal exports to Malawi were insignificant up to October 2015 and have recently increased to an estimated 1,550 MT in January alone. This may imply that part of the subsidized maize grain (735,000 MT) that is committed for sale to local millers may be finding its way into neighboring Malawi in the form of maize meal in large volumes driven by the price differential.
- While maize exports to the DRC show a downward trend as expected at this time of the year when the surplus is low, maize meal exports had been on an increasing trend from September to December, primarily driven by the price differential (Zambia K90/25kg vs. K110/25kg DRC). In January, meal exports slowed down and this has been attributed to increased prices on the DRC side (K120/25kg), which impacted demand (Figure 5).
- Assistance to food insecure populations in mostly western and southern regions has continued, however, targeting has remained a challenge and this has been confirmed through field visits. With escalating staple food prices, more households than initially estimated are in need of this assistance, which is putting pressure on the limited relief food supplies available. The Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZVAC) has not updated their figures for households eligible for relief food since June. As a result, a 50 kg bag of maize that is meant to cover household needs for one month is being shared among 2-3 households.
- While maize exports to the DRC shows a downward trend as expected at this time of the year when the surplus is low, maize meal exports had been on an increasing trend from September to December primarily driven by the price differential (Zambia K90/25Kg vs. K110/25Kg DRC). In January, meal exports slowed down and this has been attributed to increased prices on the DRC side (K120/25Kg), which impacted demand (Figure 5).
- Assistance to food insecure population in mostly western and southern regions has continued, however, targeting has remained a challenge and this has been confirmed through field visits. With escalating staple food prices, more households are becoming needy of relief assistance putting pressure on the limited relief food being provided as the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZVAC) has not updated the figures for eligible households since June. As a result, a 50 Kg bag of maize meant for one household per month is being shared among two to three households.
National Level Assumptions
The February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook report is based on the following national-level assumptions.
- Seasonal forecast: To date, the northern half of the country has received mostly normal rainfall amounts, while areas in the southern half of the country have received rainfall that is 30-55 percent of normal. According to the seasonal forecast issued by the Department of Meteorology, much of Southern, Lusaka, Eastern, southern parts of Western Province, as well as western districts of Central Province are expected to receive normal to below-normal rainfall during the February to March period. Therefore areas experiencing below-normal rains are likely to continue this trend for the remainder of the season.
- Staple food availability: As of February 1st, the country’s maize stocks are estimated at about 1 million MT. These maize stocks will likely be adequate to meet the country’s demand for the remaining part of the 2015/16 marketing season (February to April) and slightly beyond (up to August 2016). However, there will be supplies from a reduced green harvest that will be available at least one month later (end March) than usual. Although crop conditions in northern Zambia have remained good, the delayed start of the season by 10-40 days in many southern areas, high temperatures, and subsequent erratic rainfall in December to early January point towards a high likelihood of significantly reduced crop yield. Other contributing factors include late planting, reduced area planted, lower plant population, and crop wilting due to prolonged dry spells. Significantly below-average maize and cash crop production is expected. However, the 2015/16 expected harvest, combined with the low carryover stocks, should still be adequate to meet national needs for the 2016/17 marketing season.
- Maize markets and price: In December, the Food Reserve Agency started selling maize to millers at K85/50kg (approx. 22 percent and approx. 40 percent below export parity price), this will continue until the end of the marketing season in April. The FRA is currently the primary source of maize for millers. Despite this, maize meal prices are unlikely to notably fall as processing costs have increased due to the increased cost of power in December. This increase was due to the high prices associated with the importation of extra power by the government due to the low water levels for hydropower generation. Using the technical and fundamental analysis, Lusaka retail prices of maize and meal are expected to remain at more than 50 percent above the recent five-year average up to the end of the 2015/16 marketing season in April. Prices are expected to steadily increase from February to March and then stabilize thereafter up to June. Given the tight maize supply and already very high levels, prices are not expected to fall immediately after the harvest in May. From June to September, maize and meal prices are expected to remain above the previous year’s level and significantly above the recent five-year average (Figure 6).
- Depreciated local currency and Increasing Inflation rate: With the depreciation of the local currency by an estimated 70 percent between January 2015 and January 2016 due to low copper prices, the rate of inflation since September has increased from 7.7 percent to 22.9 percent in February. This is driven by increased costs of goods and services. Given this situation, household purchasing power will remain eroded making it increasingly difficult for poorer households to access adequate food from the market. With continued lower foreign exchange earnings due to low international copper prices, the currency could depreciate further between February and September. Local commodity prices will therefore remain very high.
- Labor opportunities: Labor opportunities for both agricultural (weeding and harvesting from February to May) and non-agricultural (thatching from July to October) activities are expected to remain low for the southern parts of the country, where seasonal progression has so far been much below normal. For the northern half, labor opportunities are likely to remain normal.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
The available in-country maize stocks will be adequate to meet national needs up to August. FEWS NET expects national maize production to possibly decrease to 25-40 percent below the national average due to the delayed planting, reduced area planted, reduced germination, and given the seasonal forecast for the remaining part of the production season. The extent of the decrease will highly depend on the rainfall performance in February and March. Despite the below-average seasonal progression and anticipated significant reduction in yields in the southern parts of the country, it is likely that the harvest will meet needs for the 2016/17 marketing season which ends in April 2017. This is supported by the good rainfall performance so far in the north (Figure 1) and the expectation for a relatively good harvest from the northern half of the country. In the previous season, maize production in the north contributed 40 percent to the national production.
The national maize supply is expected to be generally tight (below average), which will keep prices at the prevailing high levels and more than 50 percent above the recent five-year average. Generally, the acute food insecurity outcomes will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most areas but southern and western areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and some areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). With the households in the south facing low harvest, they will need to depend on the market for purchases much earlier than usual. At the same time the price of food is expected to remain high due to increased market demand, high inflation, and high marketing costs, which is expected to result in eroding purchasing power especially for poorer households.This will likely increase the size of the population requesting Government for food assistance. During the 2016/17 marketing year, surplus maize for export is likely to be limited given the expected lower supply situation.
Events That Might Change the Outlook
|Area||Event||Impact on Food Security Outcomes|
|Central, Eastern, and Southern Province||Early cessation of rainfall.||This would result in poor harvest in the maize belt resulting in a substantial drop in production and therefore deficit maize supply situation. Most areas will experience maize shortage and excessively higher prices of staple food. There would be need to import moderate maize for sale and for relief purposes.|
About Scenario Development
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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