Mozambique Food Security Update, March 2005


Due to drought in southern and parts of central Mozambique, much of this season's maize crop will likely fail, while a reduction in other crop yields is expected. Poorer households, especially those relying almost exclusively on maize production, will face food deficits. This late in the season, any improvement in the rains will have little or no impact on the maize crop, but may bring favorable conditions for second season planting where it is possible.

Close monitoring is needed to determine the scale and nature of interventions required because of the drought. Currently, different intervention scenarios are being developed. The World Food Program in its operational plan for April/June 2005 is increasing the number of food aid beneficiaries by 30 percent to 150,405. Beneficiary numbers after May will be based on upcoming assessments. Food, water and health interventions may be needed until the next harvest (March/April 2006). In areas where second season production is possible, such as the southern and central provinces, input trade fairs are planned and underway to make seeds (especially maize and vegetable) available.



- Maize production is expected to be very poor in the southern provinces.

- Continuing low rainfall is likely to affect second season planting conditions and water availability.


Although current food availability and access are adequate, maize shortages are expected to appear in the near future across most of the southern provinces and parts of southern Tete province. Shortages will be most acute in remotely located areas, such as the semi-arid interior of Gaza and Inhambane provinces, which were badly hit by the long dry spell and where households rely more on maize production as alternative income opportunities are more limited. The attempts to replant failed because of persisting dry conditions, and harvest prospects are poor. Poor households will most likely run out of their own production as early as August, when they will be forced to turn to markets earlier than normal to meet their food needs. Monitoring of market prices will be increasingly important as market dependency increases. But with limited income earning options and weak markets, many households in these areas are expected to intensify reliance on negative livelihood strategies, such as forgoing meals and consuming potentially hazardous "famine" foods.

In areas where cassava is an important component of the household farming system as a source of food and income households will have few more months of consumption from their own production. Households should be harvesting cassava in May and June. Although the coastal zones of Inhambane and Gaza have been severely affected by drought, cassava and cashews are doing well and alternative sources of income such as fishing and petty trade are available.

The drought is not only causing a production failure but is also reducing the availability of potable water. Potable water shortages, particularly in the remote areas, are one of the main household concerns, often diverting their time from other productive tasks, as household members are forced to walk as far as ten kilometres a day. Most seasonal rivers remain dry.


Some rains in the south in early March

During the first dekad of March the north and the south received some light to moderate rains, although the impact on the current agricultural season will be very limited as the season is nearly over. Both satellite imagery and INAM's ground station reveal that rainfall was erratic and below normal except in parts of Maputo, where rainfall was near or above normal.

In the north, much of Cabo Delgado, north of Niassa, the costal region of Nampula and the northeast part of Zambézia provinces have received moderate to heavy rains. On the other hand, much of the central region, including Tete, Manica, Sofala and much of Zambézia provinces, have received little, if any rainfall.

Figure 1: Satellite Rainfall Estimates March 1 -- 10, 2005


Rains still below normal in south central

Figure 2 clearly indicates the extent of the drought in Southern and parts of Central Mozambique, showing the difference in cumulative rainfall in the current year (January 1 - March 10) with the normal rainfall for the same period. In the three northern provinces and parts of central region, especially in much of Tete, northern Zambézia and central Sofala provinces, rainfall has been near average. However, rainfall has been below normal throughout the southern region and parts of the central region, especially in Manica, southern Zambézia and southern and northwest Sofala provinces. The most severe rainfall deficits are in southeast

Figure 2: Satellite Cumulative Rainfall Estimates Difference with Normal January 1 - March 10, 2005


Inhambane and eastern Gaza provinces. The interior of Gaza and Inhambane provinces, where the maize production has been most affected, is the area of greatest concern for the government and its partners.

Scattered rains are expected through the end of month, but will not be significant enough to improve the dry conditions. The Regional Drought Monitoring Center is forecasting below normal rains for all of central and southern Mozambique for March-May 2005.

River levels are likely to remain very low, as, for instance, in Chókwe, where the Limpopo river level is 0.5 meter compared to the flood alert level of 5 meters. Last year, the river level in February reached an average of 4m. As many households depend on rivers and small water holes for human and animal consumption, access to water may become a serious problem in the coming months.


The first cropping season was severely affected by the lack of rains in the south and localized inundations in central Mozambique, along the Zambeze River and its tributaries. In northern and parts of central Mozambique, overall crop production is expected to be near normal. Usually, these areas supply food to deficit areas of the southern and center regions. The first harvest production figures will released by Ministry of Agriculture in early April. Table 1 summarizes the crop conditions across the country.

Table 1. Qualitative Assessment of Crop Conditions
In general, crops are developing normally, despite some heavy rains early in the year and a dry spell in February, which are likely to reduce maize production.
Cabo Delgado
Cassava, groundnuts, and sorghum are doing well. Overall crop production is expected to be normal, despite excessive rainfall in some areas.
Despite heavy rains in January, the crops are developing well. Maize and groundnut production is likely to be average or slightly above average. The brown streak virus is still affecting cassava production in coastal areas. In response, multiplication of disease resistant cuttings is underway in the affected areas.
Crops planted in November developed well and are about to be harvested. The dry spell affected the December maize planting and rice along the coast, and yields of these crops are likely to be reduced. Cassava, however, is doing well. The overall production should be good in upper and middle Zambézia.
The November planting progressed reasonably well and is about to be harvested. However in the southern part, crops planted in December were hit by a severe long dry spell and high temperatures in February, when the plants needed more water during flowering and cobbing stages. In addition, along the Zambeze River and its tributaries, some fields were washed out by January inundations. The crop production is likely to be
significantly reduced compared to last year's.
The crops in the highlands were affected by the long dry spell and yields will be below average in the south and north. The lowlands were inundated due to excessive rains in January. Aggregate production should nevertheless be fair.
The current cropping season was affected by the dry spell and the production of maize, rice and millet will be reduced in all districts excluding the central districts, where production is expected to be near normal and the harvest is ongoing. Additional rains are needed for second season planting. Currently seed and input trade fairs are underway in the northern districts, where inundations occurred in January.
Throughout the season, this province has been severely hit by dry spells. While maize is the most affected crop, other crops such sorghum and millet are also affected. Cassava already established is resisting, but the cuttings planted in January have dried up. Additional rainfall and upcoming lower temperatures could stimulate second season planting in lowlands and areas alongside lagoons, which are now dry.
Reduced yields of upland crops are expected. The first planting is being harvested mainly in the lowlands, where maize and groundnut crops survived. The planting in January, including cassava, was severely affected by drought. The districts in the
interior are the most affected because there is no second season. Coastal and riverine lowlands could benefit from additional rains for second season planting.
Among the southern provinces, Maputo is faring better than Gaza and Inhambane provinces, despite being also hit by high temperatures and dry conditions. The crops developed quite reasonably, but a reduction of maize yields is expected throughout the province, except in the lowlands and on irrigated lands. Cassava is performing well across the province.
Source: Early Warning Department (National Directorate of Agriculture), and other field provincial information, March 2005.


Most markets are still supplied with last year's maize, although newly harvested maize has begun entering the markets in some places. SIMA (the Agricultural Market Information System) reports that consumers pay a premium for last season's maize due to its lower moisture content. As the new harvest enters the markets, prices are starting to decline in zones where the production outlook is favorable. SIMA found declining producer maize prices in Gorongosa (central Sofala), and in Chimoio and Manica, where the harvest is underway and the season has been relatively good. Retail prices near these major production zones are beginning to decline as well. Maputo retail prices have stabilized in the past few weeks after sharp increases in February. Despite recent price increases, current prices in Maputo are slightly lower than prices at this time last year.

Mozambique is still a major informal maize exporter to Malawi. The maize is mainly exported from Milange (Zambézia Province). Though the volume of maize traded decreased to just over 5,000 MT in February, total informal maize exports from Mozambique to Malawi from July 2004 through February 2005 have exceeded 65,000 MT and have contributed significantly to the stable food supply situation in Malawi. The volumes are expected to decline further until the harvest, but due an anticipated poor harvest in southern Malawi, exports should again intensify in the coming months.