GIEWS Country Brief Zambia 20-August-2020

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  1. Maize production in 2020 estimated at above‑average level, significant recovery compared to reduced level in 2019

  2. Import requirements in 2020/21 estimated slightly below the average, reflecting larger domestic production

  3. Prices of maize declined in past months but remain higher year on year

  4. About 2.3 million people estimated to be food insecure in first quarter of 2020

  5. The prevalence of food insecurity expected to increase due to the likely effects of COVID‑19 pandemic

Production of maize in 2020 estimated at above‑average level

Harvesting of the 2020 maize crop, the major cereal grown in the country, concluded in June and production is estimated at a bumper 3.4 million tonnes, the second largest output on record and 65 percent above the reduced level in 2019. The sharp increase reflects both an expansion in the area planted and a recovery in yields compared to the reduced levels in the previous year, reflecting improved growing conditions.

Conducive weather during the planting period, together with remunerative prices, instigated an expansion in maize plantings, which surpassed the five‑year average. In addition, average to above‑average seasonal rainfall totals across the country aided normal crop development and resulted in higher yields compared to the reduced levels of 2019. The good level of production was achieved despite crop losses in some areas of Southern, Western, Luapula and Northern provinces where heavy downpours caused localized floods and infestations of Fall Armyworm (FAW), which affected about 15 percent of the total area planted with maize, mostly in Southern and Central provinces.

Import requirements in 2020/21 are estimated slightly below the average

Reflecting an improved supply situation due to the production increase in 2020, import requirements of cereals in the 2020/21 marketing year (May/April) are estimated at 67 000 tonnes, about 7 percent below the previous year’s level and close to the five‑year average. The lower import quantities reflect ample availabilities of grains from domestic production, which is also expected to result in a build‑up of national stocks. Import requirements of wheat are estimated at 35 000 tonnes, slightly below the average, whereas import requirements of rice are estimated at 25 000 tonnes, virtually unchanged on a yearly basis and close to the five‑year average. Regarding maize, minimal quantities are forecast to be imported, given a large harvest and these would mainly be through informal channels in border areas.

Prices of maize declined since April but still remain higher year on year

Prices of maize grain and maize products reached record highs in the first quarter of 2020, following steep increases in the second semester of 2019, driven by the reduced harvest in 2019 and consequently tight domestic supplies. Since April 2020, prices of maize have declined seasonally with the 2020 harvest. However, in spite of these recent decreases, as of July, prices of maize grain and products were about 8 percent higher than their year‑earlier levels. One prominent factor that has supported the higher prices has been the sharp loss of value of the national currency since March, due to the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic, which has also contributed to pushing up overall inflation rates.

Food security expected to deteriorate due to effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Prior to the COVID‑19 pandemic, about 2.3 million people were estimated to be facing severe acute food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4) in the October 2019‑March 2020 period, more than double the number in the corresponding period in 2018/19. The higher prevalence of food insecurity was mainly the result of the reduced 2019 cereal harvest and the spike in food prices. Households in southern and western districts were most affected as shortfalls in production were largely concentrated in these areas.

Notwithstanding the recovery in maize production in 2020, the COVID‑19 pandemic is expected to result in an increase in the prevalence of malnutrition and food insecurity. Potential breakdowns in food supply chains pose threats to food availability across the country, while a reduction in economic activities and loss of income are expected to curtail households’ capacity to access food, and this is likely to be the primary driver of an increase in food insecurity. Preliminary growth forecasts indicate that the economy could contract by as much as 5 percent in 2020. Results from the national food security assessments are not yet available.

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