FEWS Zambia Annual Harvest Assessment Report Oct 2004

from Famine Early Warning System Network
Published on 31 Oct 2004


For the second consecutive season, Zambia produced a good harvest after the two bad seasons of 2000/01 and 2001/02, both drought years. Although the growing season started poorly in many parts of the country in terms of rainfall distribution and quantities, as the season progressed, crops showed great improvement, even in the south. In line with the surplus harvest, the price of maize dropped noticeably in May and June. However, in July, prices in rural areas rose as a result of the price distortion (Government floor price) and FRA purchase program. Despite this, the maize prices so far have been relatively low, due to the surplus harvest, and are still below the ten year average. Although this will guarantee improved access to staple food for the majority of the population, the low prices put the small scale farmers who are the major maize producers at risk of failing to engage in meaningful production in the coming season.

Background: Zambia's production system

Zambia's crop production is largely rain dependent with a distinct production season running from November to April. Rainfall performance is the major determinant of the crop performance in any given year. The country is divided into three distinct agro ecological zones differentiated by the rainfall pattern and soil type-see figure 1.

Region 1 covers the valley areas located in the extreme southern and western parts of the country. This is generally a dry area with less than 800mm annual rainfall and best suitable for production of small grains and livestock rearing. Although maize is unsuitable to this region, it is still grown at the subsistence level. Crop production in this region is mostly at subsistence level and therefore households depend on food from outside this region to meet their needs for part of the year.

Region 2 which covers the central part of Zambia has annual rainfall in the range of 800mm to 1000mm and is divided into two sub-regions. Region 2a includes the plateau areas of Lusaka, Central, Eastern and Southern Provinces, by far the most productive areas in the country for both food and cash crops. The less productive Region 2b covers the Kalahari sand plateau and Zambezi flood plains. It has high potential for cassava and rice production as well as cattle rearing.

Region 3 is a high rainfall area, with amounts exceeding 1000mm per year and covers Northern, Luapula, Northwestern, Copperbelt and northern parts of Central province. This is a high cassava growth and consumption region. Due to the nature of the rainfall pattern, soils here tend to be highly acidic, limiting the production potential.

The rains start from the north and progress to the south. Thus the growing season is shorter further to the south. Some variability in the start and duration of the season exists. Generally, planting is done from November to December, however early planting (October) is practiced in parts of the country, especially the north. The main harvesting takes place from April to June for all rainfed crops except cassava, which is harvested all year round. The green (early) harvest takes place between February and March which characterizes the end of seasonal hunger period.

Winter production is mainly practiced by commercial farmers for wheat production and to a less extent maize production. Small scale maize winter production is at subsistence level and only practiced in areas around the flood plains and those along major rivers, such as the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers.

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