FEWS Zambia Food Security Update: 27 Nov 2002

1.0 Rainfall Forecast for 2001/2002 Season

The 2002/2003 rainy season has effectively started. During the first dekad of November, Zambia received light to moderate rainfall. Most of the rain was concentrated in the northern part of Zambia, which had, on average, 8 rainy days while the southern half had very few rain days (on average 3). Reports from the Meteorology Department indicated that rainfall in the northern parts of the country was currently lighter than normal, but still adequate for planting. Most rainfall activity has been confined to the extreme northern parts of Zambia. In the southern half, on the other hand, there have been some long breaks in rainfall (about two weeks). Normally, rains fully start throughout the country by the third week of November. However, it is still too early in the season to start worrying since the planting period is still current and most planting takes place from early November to mid-December.

On a cumulative basis, rainfall performance as of the first dekad of November had been below normal only in a few areas of the country, especially in the Western province. Other areas had received normal to above normal rainfall (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Rainfall Departure Map (July 1, 2002 to November 10, 2002)

Source: Zambia Meteological Department

Information from the Department of Meteorology confirms that moderate cumulative rainfall in excess of 100 mm was recorded over some areas of the country. Solwezi, in the Northwestern province, reported the highest rainfall, at 142 mm followed by Ndola at 128 mm and Lusaka City Airport at 120 mm. Other significant amounts were reported over Mt Makulu in Chilanga (95 mm), Kabwe (83 mm), Msekera in Chipata (56 mm) and Misamfu in Kasama (55 mm). Elsewhere cumulative rainfall was below (50 mm).

Lusaka City Airport reported the highest percentage increase of 271% above normal rainfall, followed by Ndola 194%, Msekera in Chipata (179%), Mt Makulu in Chilanga (169%), Solwezi (115%) and Kabwe (106%). Below normal rainfall was received only over Mongu (-55%), Petauke (-42%) and Lundazi (-31%).

Meanwhile, it is reported that land preparation is proceeding well in many areas of the country. Dry planting is occurring successfully, especially in areas where seeds are readily available. In areas where conservation farming is being practiced, farmers planted early, and already good germination has been observed. Conservation farming is mostly practiced in the Southern and Eastern Provinces of the country.

2.0 Food Availability

Generally, commercial supply of staple food is currently available in urban markets. Most large millers in Lusaka and the Copperbelt have indicated that they have adequate maize stocks to last through the end of December. Thereafter, they would need to rely on imported maize. As a result of the drought this year, the private sector intended to import 150,000 MT of maize, but this has not started yet. This delay is most likely a result of the Government' s recently stated intention to import 300,000 MT of maize for both relief distribution and commercial supply. Two South African companies have been awarded the tender to supply this maize to the Government. The private sector may be reluctant to import additional maize since prices are likely to decrease with the Government's imported supply. On request by the Government, the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is in the process of finalizing tender awards for warehouse management in preparation for the 300,000 MT. Based on past experience, the Government is unlikely to be able to import that much maize this marketing season because of the limited time frame (there are only five months left) and limitations on transportation. It is more likely that only part of this 300,000 MT will come into the country and that imports will have to continue into the next marketing season. Already, commercial farmers have expressed concern over this intended importation because of the possible effects on prices next marketing year.

Meanwhile, the FRA had purchased 9,428 MT of the targeted 11,100 MT of maize as of mid-November. This maize was purchased from selected districts of northern Zambia, namely Mbala, Isoka, Mpika (Northern Province); Kawambwa (Luapula Province); Chadiza, Lundazi, Mtilizi-Nyimba (Eastern Province); and Kasempa North-western Province). The highest purchases were from Mbala, Isoka and Lundazi Districts. Purchasing points in Kawambwa, Mpika and Chadiza have run low on stocks making it difficult for the FRA to meet its purchasing targets in these areas. As a result, the FRA is trying to increase purchases from other buying points (especially in the northern areas where part of the maize is actually coming into Zambia from Tanzania through cross border trade, and in Eastern Province through Mozambique cross border trade with Zambia). The FRA is in the process of selling this maize to the Government to meet food relief supply needs. In the early part of November, the FRA sold 4,800 MT of maize from fertilizer loan recoveries to the Government, and this maize also went to meet food relief needs.

In many rural areas, food problems have continued. This is especially true in areas affected by last year's drought, especially southern Zambia. Given that not much relief food was distributed in the last month and that this is the start of the normal hunger period (November to February) in Zambia, there are continuing reports of food problems in the rural areas with desperate calls for the Government to assist poor households. Inadequate nutrition may be affecting rural farmers' ability to cultivate now, which will affect next season's harvest in these already-stressed areas. More on this potential problem will be known when results of the November/December food security and nutrition assessment are published in mid-December. This assessment is currently underway, and being led by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee.

3.0 Market Situation

Maize and meal prices in both urban and rural areas have continued to rise. November local maize prices range between US$230-US$250/MT, which is up from the previous month's average price of US$220/MT. Two seasons ago, the highest price farmers were getting for their crop was about US$90/MT. These prices are a clear reflection of the below normal production this past year. Reports from the Zambia National Farmers Union indicated that in response to these high maize prices, commercial farmers are planting relatively more maize this season.

Since May, prices in selected districts have shown a general upward trend. Normally price increases are only observed towards the end of the year, starting around October. Among the selected districts (see figure 3), the highest prices were observed in Southern Province, which is where the poorest production was observed this last year and the biggest food problems appear to be right now.


The observed nominal retail price for maize continued rising in the month of October for most of the outlying districts. However, a slight decrease was observed in two districts of Central province (Kabwe rural and Mumbwa). This is depicted in figure 3. The sudden drop in prices in the two areas needs to be verified and explained. This explanation will be sought in the current field assessments. Overall, however, the continued price increase in most districts indicates that the maize shortfall in these districts is still significant. Figure 4 confirms that real maize grain prices this season, compared to those at the same time last year, and an average of several years at the same time, are also higher than normal.

Relief Update

Distribution of relief food during the last month has been very slow. Reports from WFP indicated that on their part this was because only genetically modified maize was available, and this has been rejected by the Government. At the end of October, the only supply they had available for immediate distribution was genetically modified maize/meal from the USA, and they were waiting for maize from South Africa to arrive. This may be a long wait, however, due, in part, to the fact that Zambia is competing with a number of other countries in southern Africa for this same supply. The current WFP imports were funded by the Netherlands and Japan. The European Union is making available 15 million Euros for the purchase 32,500 MT of maize, and a further 5 million Euros for an additional 10,000MT of maize. This maize is only likely to be available in December or January. Funding from DFID is likely to go towards an additional 10,000MT, but this food would only be available in January or February at the earliest.

Government relief has been slow as well. According to the Disaster Management Unit, there has been very little distribution of relief food between mid-October and mid-November.

All this points to the fact that amount of relief distributed in the past month has been far below what is required. Further details on these distributions in relation to the stated needs will be provided in next month's report.

4.0 Input Supply Update

Of the 48, 000 MT of fertilizer which the Government "Fertilizer Support Programme" is targeting to 120, 000 smallholder farmers, 26, 316.20MT has been delivered throughout the country so far. On the other hand, maize seed deliveries started in mid-November (less than two weeks ago), and less than half of the targeted amount (2,400 MT) has been delivered. The sowing rains have already fallen in most parts of the country and yet less than half of the targeted maize seed deliveries have been made so far. It should however be noted that this program is only providing for a small number of farmers. There has been more emphasis this season on assisting farmers with seed due to reports that farmers were forced to eat all that was harvested without keeping any grain for seed (normal practice among small scale farmers) as the harvest in affected areas was so bad.

It is worth noting that fertilizer distributed on this type of loan basis has never been adequate in any year since market liberalization, not even in surplus years. Farmers with the means should be encouraged to source the commodity from the market. One worries more when there is a shortage of seed since some farmers do not use fertilizer. .

5.0 Macro Economic Indicators

While the annual inflation rate has been increasing steadily since May, it held steady between September and October, recorded at 23.8 percent in both months. Although the price of staple foods showed significant increases, prices of a few non food commodities fell, which explains the overall stability in annual rate of inflation.

The price of most foods increased by 2.5 percent in October 2002 compared to 1.9 percent in September 2002. The relatively higher food prices seen in October 2002 were mainly driven by increases in the price of maize grain, millie-meal, meat, fresh vegetables, cereals and other cereal products.