Persistent increases in maize meal prices will likely continue to restrict household food access
Typically, at this time of the year, poor households begin to consume and sell green foods to access income. However, due to the delayed and below average precipitation season, income and in-kind payments from agriculture labor and the green harvest continue to be significantly below average and will likely continue to below average despite the upcoming harvest. Below average access to incomes and green foods is resulting in continued Crisis (IPC Phase 3), however outcomes are expected to improve with the harvest to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
Maize cropping conditions are poor to average despite late season rainfall, as crops have been damaged beyond recovery in some parts of the country. Although, in other areas crops were able to recover. The maize crop stage in Lesotho is of concern as most crops are atypically in the reproductive stage, increasing the risk of negative effects if there is an early frost. A combination of these factors continues to reduce prospects for the 2019 harvest.
Although maize meal prices in Maseru are still trending slightly below the five-year average, they increased in January. Maize meal prices are anticipated to continue to increase due to increased demand and speculation of a poor 2019 harvest following a poor rainfall season. This is expected to further erode poor household’s purchasing power, as they are already facing difficulties accessing market foods due to below average incomes. Nonetheless, markets remain well stocked with consistent supplies from South Africa.
Labor opportunities and incomes are significantly below average with households earning income through casual agriculture labor. Some poor households are coping by increasing non-farm labor such as domestic work and house maintenance, however opportunities are also below average as they usually peak during the dry season. Vegetables selling is a typical income source this time of year, ongoing rains resulted in the recovery of some vegetables however continue to be below average. Households have begun preparations for off-season vegetable production.