The market assessment was conducted to determine the functionality of the food market systems for maize, beans and cooking oil in Lesotho. The findings demonstrate that markets in Lesotho are well-integrated and are functioning. The report also explores Lesotho’s cereal availability for the 2016-17 season, which remains one of the key food security concerns for the upcoming marketing season especially in light of the soaring food prices in the country as well as across southern Africa.
In early 2016, DMA requested LVAC to conduct a market assessment in Lesotho to determine the functionality of food market systems (for maize, pulses and cooking oil) in the country. The findings of the assessment are intended to inform design and implementation of humanitarian assistance programmes in the country in 2016.
The market assessment covered the country’s 10 districts, all of which had been identified by a prior LVAC food security assessment to be highly food insecure for the 2016/17 consumption season. The market assessment identified whether local markets have the ability to effectively respond to increased consumer demand. The report also examined adequate food supply levels in the country and assessed the stability of food prices in both the short and long term.
The assessment employed primary and secondary data. Structured trader, agriculture inputs and key informant questionnaires were used to collect the primary data while key stakeholder discussions were undertaken to obtain information from market actors. A total of 110 markets were assessed, interviewing 294 traders, using a structured trader questionnaire and of which 15 traders were wholesalers, 90 were medium vendors, and 189 were small traders/retailers. National millers were also interviewed as key informants. An additional 49 traders were interviewed using an agriculture inputs questionnaire.
Food security under increasing pressure
Southern Africa is experiencing an unprecedented El Niño phenomenon which manifested itself with two consecutive years of drought and erratic rains. Last year (2015) was the hottest and driest year on record in over a century for South Africa; seven out of South Africa’s nine provinces have reported a situation of drought related disaster. Moreover, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have recently (December 2015 – February 2016) declared a state of drought emergency while Mozambique has issued a state of red alert related to the worsening drought. SADC is now considering announcing a regional state of drought emergency.
The unfavorable climatic conditions have triggered a second year of heightened food insecurity levels in the region. Already southern Africa’s 2014-15 harvest was below average, reporting a 7.9 million tonnes cereal deficit. The 2015-16 harvest is expected to be worse, with South Africa, the world’s tenth largest (in terms of volume) producer of maize and southern Africa’s largest maize producer, forecasted to import 3.8 million tonnes of maize in 2016-17. Multiple countries in the region depend on South Africa for their food security. Grain SA (an association of South African grain farmers) estimates that South Africa will need to supply 810,000 tonnes to countries in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland), to support their food security needs; a requirement which South Africa seems to be able to accommodate for through its planned 2016-17 maize imports.
In Lesotho a rapid food security assessment (LVAC Rapid Assessment) conducted in January 2016 found that the estimated total number of food insecure people in Lesotho had increased by 15.2 per cent to 534,502 people, from 463,936 in July 2015.