GIEWS Country Brief Zambia 12-December-2018


  • Reduced rainfall during start of 2018/19 cropping season

  • Sharp fall in 2018 harvest expected to result in drawdown in national inventories; but domestic supplies still sufficient

  • Significant price increases for maize products mostly resulting from supply pressure

  • Production shortfalls aggravate food insecurity

Reduced rains at start of 2018/19 cropping season

Planting of the 2019 cereal crops is underway and expected to conclude in early January. Precipitation since the start of the main cropping season (October-July) has been generally below average, resulting in dry conditions especially in southern and western provinces, key cereal-producing areas. These conditions are expected to have had a limited impact on maize plantings and germination as crop water requirements are lower at these stages compared to following vegetative phases. Moreover, weather forecasts point to an increased probability of higher-than-normal rainfall from mid to late December that are anticipated to benefit crop development. Rains are forecast to continue to be mostly average between January and March 2019 across large parts of the country, while lower amounts are expected in southern parts towards the end of the first quarter of 2018.

Although official cereal plantings estimates are not yet available, the higher prices in 2018 and a tighter supply situation are expected to have prompted a year-on-year expansion in the area sown from the reduced level of the previous year. However, the drier conditions and forecasts for reduced rains in southern and western regions could curb the extent of the increase.

Expected decrease in stocks to compensate for reduced 2018 harvest

On account of a dry spell during a key cropping stage for the maize crop, the output in 2018 is estimated at a well below-average level of 2.4 million tonnes, about 34 percent lower year-on-year. Total 2018 cereal production, including paddy and wheat crops, is estimated at 2.6 million tonnes, a 34 percent decrease from the record high of 2017.

Despite the reduced maize output in 2018, domestic consumption needs in the 2018/19 marketing year (May/April) are expected to be covered by a significant drawndown of inventories, which were built up from the previous year’s record high output, plus a small increase in imports, albeit only negligible volumes. The Government implemented temporary export restrictions for maize in October, in an effort to shore-up domestic supplies.

Imports of wheat in the 2018/19 marketing year are forecast to almost double on a yearly basis, reflecting the reduced domestic output obtained in 2018.

Sharp increases in maize prices

Supply pressure, due to the reduced 2018 harvest, has exacerbated seasonal price increases of maize since July and, as of November, the average retail price of maize grain and meal products was approximately 30 percent higher on a yearly basis. An abrupt depreciation of the local currency in recent months added further inflationary pressure that underpinned prices.

Reduced harvest aggravates food insecurity

The food security situation worsened in 2018 compared to the previous year on account of the reduced crop production. In addition, the recent acute rise in maize prices are expected to adversely impact food access. Approximately 954 000 people are estimated to be in IPC Phase 3 or worse until March 2019, just prior to the main harvest period. This figure is well above the previous year’s level of 77 000 people, who were assessed to be food insecure.