FEWS Zambia Monthly Report - Rainfall comes too late for some crops



  • Rainfall improves in Southern Zambia, but is too late to save the crop which was permanently wilted.

  • Input support programs halted as the agricultural season progresses towards harvest.

  • National crop forecast likely to come too late unless funded and implemented soon.

  • Maize grain prices stable across the country, with a few exceptions, as mealie meal prices fall.

  • Monthly inflation falls.

  • Informal maize grain imports continue to enter Zambia and stabilize local prices.

  • Food aid distribution level is currently at 20,000MT-25,000MT per month.

  • Government budget to address commercial and relief food imports in 2003.

1.0 Rainfall and Crop Condition

Generally, Zambia is receiving adequate rainfall for good crop development. However, for the southern parts of the country, the improved rainfall has come too late to save part of the crop that had already suffered severe water stress. During the last third of January, Zambia received moderate to heavy rainfall, followed by light to moderate rainfall in the first ten days of February. While the northern part of Zambia recorded normal cumulative rainfall, southern Zambia (Southern province, Sesheke, Senanga, Shangombo, Kaoma, parts of Lusaka province) continued recording deficit rainfall, averaging 45 percent of normal by the beginning of February 2003. Parts of Eastern province, on the other hand, have received above normal rainfall for the past thirty days, consistent with the excessive rains experienced in Malawi and Mozambique.

Figure 1 shows cumulative rainfall for Zambia as of February 20, 2003.

Crop conditions in areas other than the south are generally good, and maize is mostly at the grain filling stage. The critical areas to monitor closely for the rest of the growing season are the following: Southern province; Western province (Sesheke, Senanga, Shangombo and Kaoma); Lusaka province (eastern Kafue, Chongwe) and Eastern province (Chipata, Petauke). These are the main areas which appear problematic as far as rainfall performance is concerned.

MAP - Figure 1. Cumulative Rainfall as of February 20, 2003

2.0 Input Support Program for Small-scale Farmers

Because it is now too late for planting, maize seed deliveries under the Government Fertilizer Support Program (FSP) have been halted. The FSP was meant to improve access to farm inputs for small-scale farmers by providing subsidized seed and fertilizer and thereby increasing household buying power. The goal of the program was to increase food security and incomes at household and national level through increased maize production.

Figure 2 (following page) shows, by province, the percentage of the maize seed and fertilizer actually delivered (in relation to what was planned) by January 13 and January 7, respectively. In aggregate terms, the Government had planned to deliver 2,400 MT of seed to selected farming households, but managed to deliver only 60 percent, or 1,439.45 MT, leaving a balance of 986 MT. While there is still room for improvement, compared to the delivery rate for past input programs, when deliveries started as late as August, this year's program have been more successful. With the exception of Eastern and Western provinces, provincial and district centers received at least 60 percent of the intended seed. North Western, Central and Luapula all received over 80 percent of their allocated seed. On average, 60 percent of the planned seed was delivered to district centers. FEWS NET's view is that this program was crucial since seed retention among small-scale farmers had become very low following two consecutive years of poor harvests.

The Government intends to implement a similar program for the 2003-04 production season, and the 2003 national budget allocated ZMK50 billion (1US$ = ZMK5, 100-Citibank selling rate mid February) for this purpose.

Fig 2: Percentage of Government Inputs Delivered with Respect to what was Planned

Source: MACO

The Government has described the fertilizer distribution program as a success. Over 100 percent of compound D and 98 percent of urea was distributed countrywide. Based on available information, more fertilizer was distributed than seed, implying that some households may not have planted or planted less due to lack of seed. Nevertheless, assuming 100 percent of the fertilizer reached the intended beneficiaries and assuming good management practice and good weather, the aggregate return on this distribution can be estimated. Based on an average recommended seed rate of 20 kg per hectare, the amount distributed (1,439.45 MT) could have seeded 71,973 hectares, or 60 percent of the anticipated 120,000 hectares. Assuming a national yield rate of 1.5MT per hectare (2001-02 season) for small-scale farmers, the best case scenario would result in 107,960 MT of additional maize production. It is important to note that this calculation assumes the same conditions for all areas, not taking into account the possible differences in Southern Province.

FEWSNET proposes that a survey be done to verify the receipt and utilization of these inputs, and to determine how much the input program actually increased national production. This survey should also determine why only 60 percent of the seed was delivered, and how delivery constraints can be eased. This is critical because, being a three-year support program, an evaluation of this year's performance will help the program better meet its objectives in the next two years.

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