GIEWS Country Brief: Zimbabwe 26-April-2012
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Drop in cereal production for 2011/12 cropping season following protracted dry spell in 2012
Seasonable increase in maize prices during first quarter of 2012
Concern over deteriorating food security conditions in southern provinces grows following production short-falls
Sharp drop in maize production in the 2011/12 cropping season
Harvesting of main 2011/12 maize crop commenced in March, and is expected to continue until June. Recently released production estimates, from a Government assessment in April, indicates a sharp drop in production compared with the previous season, on account of prolonged dry spell. At 968 000 tonnes, the estimated maize output in 2012 is about 33 percent below last year’s level and marks a reversal of the increasing trend since 2009. A persistent period of below average rains since the start of 2012 caused widespread wilting of the maize crop, particularly impacting the southern provinces that are more prone to dry weather conditions. An estimated 722 557 hectares of maize were written off as result of moisture deficits, while delayed and erratic at the start of the 2011/12 rainy season (October-March) had already resulted in the contraction of maize plantings by about 20 percent compared with the previous season’s 2.1 million hectares.
Similarly, millet and sorghum production are estimated to be below the levels of 2011, on account of reduced plantings and lower yields. Other major crops – groundnuts, soy beans, sunflower and sugar beans – also registered a decrease in production in the 2011/12 cropping season.
Overall, cereal production in 2012 is put at 1.17 million tonnes, nearly one third less than last year’s good output. This estimate also includes a forecast increase in the winter wheat crop – to be planted in May –following the government’s decision to provide low-interest loans, to help facilitate greater investment in wheat production. Higher yields for tobacco and a larger planted area to cotton contributed to a marginal increase in production of about 2 percent.
Import requirements estimated to rise, while carryover stocks will help to bridge some of the supply gap in 2012/13
National cereal production is estimated to satisfy approximately 55 percent of total domestic requirements for the just started 2012/13 marketing year (April/May). Although imports of cereals are set to increase, sizeable carry-over stocks from last year’s good harvests (the Grain Marketing Board is estimated to hold approximately 311 000 tonnes of maize) will enable the country to partially meet the national deficit through its reserves. A more conducive economic environment has led to improvements in private sector operations, and commercial imports are therefore anticipated to fill a large proportion of the deficit under the current conditions.
Seasonable rise in maize prices
Maize grain prices in Harare, which remained stable between May and December 2011 at USD 0.29 per kg, began to seasonably increase in January, rising to USD 0.33 in February. Further increases occurred in March across the country to levels above that of the previous year, but indications point to a stabilisation of prices in April. The smaller 2012 harvest, however, may contribute to maintaining higher prices compared to 2011, particularly in southern markets.
Southern areas affected by dry spell remain a concern
Areas affected by the dry spell and subsequent production short-falls, particularly in southern parts of Manicaland, Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces, remain a serious concern, despite generally stable food security conditions across the country. It is likely that households in these areas will deplete their stocks earlier than normal, necessitating increased market purchases. However, new supplies from the 2011/12 harvest will enable households to replenish stocks, while improved cash crop production and higher prices for tobacco may also help to raise income levels for some households and increase labour opportunities. However, low-income households, with limited or no agricultural production capacity, may face continued constraints to access food following the slight increase in maize prices. The findings of the 2012 national vulnerability assessment (ZimVAC), to be released soon is expected to provide clearer indications on current and projected food security conditions as well as possible food aid requirements.