Zambia Food Security Outlook Update February 2014
Acute food insecurity remains Minimal (IPC Phase 1) at the height of the lean season, despite atypically high staple food prices. Most households are depending on the market to meet their basic foods and poor households are mostly working for food.
The price of staple food remains above the five year average and last year’s prices. The FRA sale of maize to millers and rural communities at market price has helped maintain the current price levels. Maize prices are expected to start falling in April as the new harvest becomes available and market demand falls.
With the updated forecast of normal to above normal rainfall during the February to March period, widespread rainfall is expected to continue which should boost harvest prospects for the late planted crop especially for eastern Zambia. In general crop conditions are good and the late planted crops have a chance of reaching maturity if good rains continue through the end of March in the southern parts of the country.
Acute food security outcomes remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) at the peak of the lean period. This is the period when poor households have depleted own stocks and are depending on local markets mostly through sale of agricultural and non-agricultural labor.
Maize and meal prices have remained atypically high with most markets registering price increases in January as demand increases at the height of the lean season. Increases in maize meal prices were mostly recorded in low producing and high consumption areas. High food prices coupled with average wage rates has reduced the purchasing power of poorer households.
The FRA community sale of maize has extended to several districts as households run out of maize and start depending on markets for purchases. Most rural households are either purchasing maize meal (K60 to K80/25Kg) in local markets or accessing maize from the FRA depots at market price (K80/50Kg). Most households are awaiting green foods in March in order to help reduce their dependency on market purchases. Approximately 210,000 people in 18 districts are receiving relief food to supplement the reduced food access and this will continue up to March when the early foods become available.
After a late onset of rains in Eastern, Lusaka, parts of Central and most of Southern Province, the rains have improved in terms of both quantity and distribution. The widespread rainfall has improved crop conditions. In the southern half of the country, with the exception of Western Province where the season started early (in October), the maize is mostly in the vegetative to grain filling stage while most of the legumes have not yet reached flowering stage. A combination of late planting and the late delivery of Government subsidized inputs (seed and top dressing) could contribute to reduced yield this season. In some areas attractive prices has driven an increase in the maize area planted, however in other areas there are reports of reduced planting due to the late start and erratic rainfall at the start of the season. Rice, the main cash crop in Kalabo and Lukulu (North-western Province) is reportedly performing well and a good harvest is expected. Low cotton plantings have been widely reported in Southern Province due to non-recovery from the 2011/12 price failure.
Following recent insecurity, the tightened patrols at the Kasumbalesa border with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has further reduced the informal flow of maize/meal into that country. With maize demand remaining high in the DRC, the reduced supply has increased border prices by 30-40 percent on both the Zambian and DRC sides. The attractive prices have led to increased formal flow of maize from Tanzania into the DRC via Tanzania/northern Zambia.
An outbreak of African swine fever in Lusaka has been brought under control. As a result, the Government has lifted the ban of the movement of pigs and pig products. This should result in increased marketing of pigs and products from other districts in Lusaka and consequently improve income for the better-off and middle wealth groups rearing pigs. A recent outbreak of the swine fever has also been reported in Choma (Southern Province) and measures are being put in place to contain the situation.
Updated Assumptions The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of January to June 2014. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zambia Food Security Outlook for January to June 2014.
Projected Outlook Through June 2014
Despite stable supplies of staple food on the market, prices are expected to remain atypically high up until March and will start falling in April when the green harvest increases and the main harvest begins. Market supplies will remain adequate throughout the outlook period from a combination of supplies from the private sector, FRA, and the new harvest. The distribution of relief food through March will increase food access for food insecure populations (<20 percent), mostly in the southern parts of the country.
According to the Zambian Department of Meteorology’s updated forecast, there is a high likelihood of normal to above normal rainfall and therefore, crop conditions are expected to remain good for the April/May harvest period. Despite the late start, harvest prospects still remain positive for maize, while cotton output is expected to be below average for the second consecutive season. There is also a high likelihood of a reduced legume harvest due to the delayed start of season and late planting.
ABOUT THIS UPDATE
This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook.