FEWS Mozambique Food Security Update: 17 May 2002

Originally published

This monthly bulletin is a result of FEWS NET collaboration with its partners, which includeDAP (MADER), SIMA(MADER), INAM, and WFP.


The preliminary findings of the joint crop assessment and food availability mission, jointly carried out by the FAO and WFP, with participation from partners including Government, USAID and FEWS NET (April 22 to May 5, 2002), indicate that national cereal production will increase from last year. The final figures will be released soon, but they are expected to be close to the latest MADER estimate of approximately 1.8 million Metric Tons (MT) for cereals, an increase of 6% from last year.

Nevertheless, in the 2002/2003 marketing year (April/March) there may be areas of food insecurity for several reasons: a) prolonged dry spells during the year 2002 that severely affected agricultural production in the southern part of the country and in parts of the central region, b) weakening of some coping mechanisms used by vulnerable populations after poor production and flooding last year; c) the expansion of the cassava viral disease in the coastal area of Nampula Province, where cassava is the main staple food, d) high retail prices of white maize and dry cassava and e) the damage to crops caused by wild animals in some productive northern districts.

Food security improved in May 2002 due to the increased food availability from the ongoing harvests in the central and northern regions of Mozambique. The southern and central regions of Mozambique were severely affected by dry spells. Although food security and nutritional status are currently adequate in most areas, this is likely to change in the south and center as stocks are depleted.

Freshly harvested maize has already entered the 2002/03 marketing channels due to high prices and strong demand from neighboring countries. Maize produced in the southern areas of Niassa Province, northern areas of Zambézia Province and the western area of Nampula are being exported in substantial quantities to Malawi, mainly informally on bicycles.

The beginning of the harvest has pushed retail maize prices down by 40% in the southern region, 65% in the central region, and 70% in the northern region of Mozambique, from the first week of February until third week of May 2002. It will be important to monitor the duration of the price reductions over the coming months. It is possible that with the poor harvest in some parts of the country and the very strong regional demand, prices will begin increasing again soon.


The preliminary findings of the crop monitoring and food availability mission show that there is a possibility of food insecurity in some regions of the country during the 2002/03 (April/March) commercial year.

The joint FAO and WFP mission, carried out in coordination with partners including Government, USAID and FEWS NET, visited 60 districts in Mozambique from April 22 to May 5, 2002. The preliminary analyses show that national cereal production will increase compared to the 2000/01 agricultural season. Estimates issued earlier by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development through the National Directorate of Agricultural/Early Warning Department (MADER/DINA-DAP) were generally confirmed by the field mission.

However, the increased cereal production does not translate into satisfactory food access for some population groups for the 2002/03 season until next harvest. This is because the productive capacity of families living in the central and southern region of the country has been severely affected by the drought. Data from MADER show that 59,900 families (corresponding to 299,500 people) were severely affected by the drought, and for cultivated area lost is 83,690 hectares. These families will run out of food stocks between September and December (just before the harvest). Any food assistance ought to be directed to the most vulnerable families for a short period of time (2-4 months) in the southern region, and 2-3 months in some areas in the central and northern regions of the country.

The quick spread of the cassava disease "Brown Streak Virus", (which rots the cassava root, and diminishes the availability of resistant stalks for sowing) is already affecting the food security of some families, mainly those that rely on cassava as staple food. This disease is most severe in the coastal area of Nampula province where about 70% of the cassava plantations are reportedly infected by the virus. As a result, families have not yet reached the production levels registered in the past three years, the period that preceded the breakout of the disease. The search for resistant varieties is already boosting the local initiatives of informal commercialization of healthy and resistant stalks brought from other regions within Nampula and elsewhere. In the coastal area of Nampula, the distribution/commercialization programs of resistant cassava stalks, along with short-term food and distribution, could result in the reduction of food insecurity. Food security monitoring in the coastal area of Nampula is critical, since there is inadequate maize and sorghum in local markets to replace cassava.

The poor availability of maize, associated with a higher regional demand, resulted in a steep and unusual price increase in the 2001/02 commercial year. The buying capacity of the poor and rural families was weakened in the last season, which led to a greater demand for dry cassava. It is therefore increasingly important to carefully monitor the prices and the availability of both products in national markets.

The coping mechanisms of many rural families were negatively affected by recent natural disasters, (the 2000 floods in the southern and central region of the country; the 2001 floods in the central region and the 2002 drought in the southern region and some parts of the central region). For instance, small livestock numbers have decreased considerably (by 36% for goats, according to National Directorate of Livestock, MADER) with floods and many families have not yet managed to reconstitute small livestock holdings. Therefore, because of this year’s drought occurs at a critical period of increased vulnerability for families, it is important to very closely monitor food security and promote animal health in the most vulnerable areas.

The report of the joint mission will be available the second week of June 2002.


Food security and access were generally satisfactory through May as a result of the continuing harvests of the first season crop, but the strong regional demand could leave Mozambique with An overall maize shortfall later in the season.

In general the supply of basic food commodities has increased in the markets and supplied family granaries through May with the increase of harvested products in the central and northern regions. The harvested maize, groundnuts, beans in the central and northern region have above-average humidity rates, which suggests premature harvesting and/or marketing, because families are running out of stocks (for example, in the Zambeze valley the families with agricultural fields along the river were severely affected by the 2001 floods) and the greater demand for maize in the local and regional markets (such as Malawi), with favorable prices for Mozambican producers.

In the southern region of Mozambique, where there was a severe drought on agricultural production, the food security situation was satisfactory in May. Most of the families in this region were having three meals per day, and the nutritional levels are considered adequate.

The drafts of the field reports prepared during the Crop and Food Availability mission in the north of Mozambique and in the north of Zambézia Province show that the maize of the present agricultural season has already entered in the market at the end of April. Large quantities of maize (40 to 75 MT of maize per hour1, which represents 9.000 MT per month) are already being exported into Malawian markets. This rapid and large scale marketing means that the 2001/2002 harvests may only cover household food needs for a short time, since many families had few or if any stocks of maize carried from the 2001/02 commercial season. It is possible that in the second half of the commercial year (e.g., October 2002 to March 2003) some families - even in productive northern districts - will run out of maize stocks. Some local authorities interviewed in the northern region reported that the excessive sale of food commodities is a problematic issue, but others indicated that maize sales will not cause food insecurity if local markets are supplied with other food commodities such as imported rice or maize, dry cassava, etc., as a substitute for local maize. This will require carefully monitoring in the months ahead.


Figure 1 illustrates retail maize price in the Maputo (southern region), Beira (central region) and Lichinga (northern region) from the first week of February until the third week of May 2002, according to the data from the Agricultural Markets Information System/National Directorate of Agricultural Economy (SIMA/DEA). The beginning of the harvest has pushed retail maize prices down by 40 % in the southern region, 65% in the central region and 70% in the northern region of Mozambique, from the first week of February until third week of May 2002. The retail maize price in third week of May were 3810Mt/Kg in Maputo, 1932 Mt/Kg in Beira and 2571Mt/Kg in Lichinga. It will be important to monitor the duration of the price reductions over the coming months. It is possible that with the poor harvest in some parts of the country and the very strong regional demand, prices will begin increasing again soon.

The evaluations of dry cassava prices in the past three months (February - April 2002) in the SIMA/DEA in the wholesale markets show that the prices have also fallen considerably in almost all markets in the country, including the northern region.


Since the harvests of the first agricultural season of 2001/02 are in progress, food access is not presently a problem for most households. However, this situation is not likely to last as household coping capacities have been eroded by poor production, high prices and natural disasters over the last three years. Therefore, it is crucial that additional vulnerability analyses for the 2002/03 commercial year be completed. These analyses are essential to identify of the most vulnerable families and to define the kind and duration of the intervention necessary.

In June, USAID/FEWS NET in coordination with WFP and the Vulnerability Assessment Group (the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, INGC, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Heath and NGOs) will identify the highly food insecure districts and analyze the food insecurity at rural household level. This information will be then compared with the Mozambique Food Economy Zones (see the Map with 43 food economy zones) with the aim to define key areas in the country where a rapid household food economy assessment will be conducted. This process will provide a clear understanding of rural livehoods in the highly food insecure areas in the country as well better tools for monitoring food access, and defining the type and duration of food assistance programs for the 2002/03 commercial year.


1 Estimate based on the number of bicycles that carry an average of 150 Kgs of maize passing through the various border areas in the south of Niassa province, north of Zambézia and the western area of Nampula province.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is funded by USAID and managed by Chemonics International, Inc.

FEWS NET Mozambique / Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development / National Directorate of Agriculture
PO Box 1406
Maputo, Mozambique
Telephone: (258-1) 460008/460195/460588
Facsimile: (258-1) 460588