Extended dryness and high temperatures are likely to reduce 2018 harvests
The food security situation across the region is stable as a result above-average supplies from the 2017 harvests and food prices that are much lower than they were during this same period last year. Most households are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the lean season as they continue to consume their own produced food stocks. The exceptions are areas in the southern parts of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Madagascar that are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and experiencing abnormal dryness this cropping season. Continued conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has also resulted in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Kasai and Tanganyika provinces.
Most of areas in the southern half of the region have experienced below-average rainfall and abnormally high temperatures since October/November 2017, resulting in poor crop conditions across several countries, including the maize-triangle region of South Africa. The Food and Nutrition Security Working Group released a Special Alert on February 8th that urged countries to closely monitor the current agricultural season. By mid-January crops in southern parts of Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Zambia, southern and central Mozambique, Lesotho, and parts of Malawi exhibited significant moisture stress. There are reports that some of the affected crops have wilted beyond recovery. In the absence of immediate and consistent rainfall for the remainder of the season, reductions in crop yields are likely.
While prices of maize grain have remained below last year and five-year average, countries affected by the current dry spells are likely to experience sudden increases in staple prices in the coming months. Typically, households with surplus grain start disposing old stocks in January and February in anticipation of new harvest. However, due to the drought conditions, households with surplus grain are likely to withhold sales. This will likely reduce supplies on the market at a time when more households will increase reliance on market purchases and will likely trigger price increases.