FEWS Mozambique Food Security Update 24 May 2004 - Crop assessment completed
Although quantitative results have not been released yet, qualitative findings from the Vulnerability Assessment Committee and Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission suggest an optimistic picture of the 2003/04 agricultural season. Compared to the previous three years, national production is expected to increase.
Cash crops are an important component of household food security, providing income to purchase essential food and non-food items. The assessment discovered a significant increase in both traditional cash crops, such as cotton, tobacco, and tea, and the newly introduced cash crops such as sesame, soybeans and paprika.
Cassava Brown Streak Disease CBSD is taking an increasing toll on household food security in the Nampula coastal area, with particularly severe effects seen in Memba District.
As the harvest progresses prices at farm gate level started decreasing in March, but the decrease was not as steep as previous years. The price drop at producer level is also reflected in other market levels. At wholesale market, the rate of decrease is low as compared to the average and last year.
Flows of Mozambican maize into Malawi are likely to increase because the price of maize in southern Malawi is, on average, two times higher than it is in Milange District, along the Mozambique/Malawi border.
Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission concluded
The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) took place between May 3rd and 15th in coordination with the Government and with the participation of observers from donor agencies, NGOs and FEWS NET. The assessment teams visited a total of 42 districts in Mozambique. Quantitative results have not been released yet, but qualitative feedback suggests an optimistic picture of the 2003/04 agricultural season. Compared to the previous three years, overall production this year is expected to be fairly good.
As background to the season, rains started late this year and were erratic at first, but from January onwards significant improvements occurred in much of the country. While rains were not sufficient for optimal rice production, especially in the north, maize production has been good overall (with localized failures) and sorghum is doing very well. Cassava is also performing well, except in zones affected by Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD). A significant increase in cash crops was noted, including the traditional cotton, tobacco, and tea crops, as well as newly introduced crops like sesame, soybeans and paprika. Cash crops are an important component of household food security, providing cash to purchase food when stocks run out, and to pay for various essential non-food needs.
The optimistic outlook notwithstanding, crop losses are still expected in some areas. In the North, coastal areas received less rain than interior areas, limiting production. In the South and Center, farmers had to plant two or three times before the rains finally set in, increasing the demand for seeds, although these were offset in part by the increasing number of seed fairs. CBSD is damaging cassava in four districts of coastal Nampula: Memba, Nacala, Mossuril and Mongicual. Memba requires special attention (see below). Elephants in the North and post harvest diseases in Chibabava were also mentioned.
Areas with the highest risk of food insecurity are as follows: Southern Tete, south and north of Manica and Sofala and coastal Nampula, although so far no hungerrelated deaths were reported. The effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic are increasingly evident, especially in the Center, where teams found that the number of elders taking care of orphaned children is increasing drastically.
The final report is expected to be released before the end of June.
CBSD causes food insecurity in Memba
While the current harvest is expected to bring about a general improvement in the food security status of most rural households (as stated above), the recent field assessments identified Memba District in coastal Nampula Province as one area where the harvest may not solve existing food security problems.
The coastal districts of Nampula Province have a history of chronic food insecurity due to irregular rains, poor soils and frequent natural hazard occurrences. In addition, a severe infestation of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) has spread throughout the district, devastating the area’s staple crop for the last three years. A recent survey carried out by Save the Children-US found that, in a sample of 800 cassava plants, 93% exhibited CBSD symptoms. To prevent disease-related losses, people have begun to harvest the cassava earlier and earlier, reducing the viability of cassava stakes for the next planting season, and in turn, reducing yields and production potential.
A recent report from the provincial SETSAN (the multi-sectoral Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition), suggests that to mitigate the effects of CBSD, some farmers have turned to other crops like sorghum and maize, but these crops are more susceptible to droughts and floods than cassava, and seeds are in short supply. The provincial SETSAN report indicates that cassava varieties tolerant to CBSD have been identified, but the task of distributing them to large populations in the affected areas is costly, laborious and time-consuming.
Agricultural authorities and NGOs have already taken some steps to mitigate the negative effects of these combined problems, and these include: the multiplication of cassava stakes, the distribution of pineapple plants and banana plants from Zambezia Province, the provision of sweet potatoes branches, horticulture seeds and pedal pumps.
While the overall food security situation has not become critical yet in Memba, poor rains, low food stocks and the continued presence of CBSD makes this district a priority for monitoring by government authorities and partners. Additional assessments of the district are planned in the coming months. More details on other districts will be provided by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee report, due by the end of May, and the final report from the Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission.
Maize prices going down more slowly than average
April maize prices at producer level were relatively higher compared to the same period of the last year (see Figure 1), due in part to the later than normal harvest this year.
The price drop at the producer level is reflected in wholesale and retail markets as well, where most poor consumers purchase their food. At wholesale markets, prices started decreasing in April while normally they start to decrease in March (see Figure 2). The rate of decrease was slower than average. Taking Beira as an example, a wholesale market in the central region, last year prices dropped 38% between January and April, while this year they’ve only dropped 1.4% during the same period. In general, SIMA weekly bulletin have been reporting continuous maize price drops since late April onwards.
Border trade likely to intensify
Maize production is good in areas of Mozambique bordering Malawi, with harvest activities progressing slowly but well. On the contrary, below normal maize production in southern Malawi is likely to result in significant food deficits for many households. This will intensify the demand of Mozambican maize as households buy grain to fill gaps left by the inadequate harvest.
Although the harvest is currently underway in Malawi, and staple prices are subsequently falling, this is likely to be short lived. Currently, maize prices in southern Malawi range from 10-20 Malawian Kwacha per kg (2151- 4,303 Mts), while prices at the Mozambican border, in Milange district, Zambézia, are closer to seven Malawian Kwacha per kilogram (1,506 Mts). As the harvest gets fully underway produce prices should continue to fall in Mozambique and the Malawi markets may become more attractive. With the increasing price differential, cross border flows into Malawi are expected to rise.