Zimbabwe

FEWS Zimbabwe Food Security Update: 22 Jun 2002


Summary

A total of nearly 5.6 million people are considered food insecure during the current consumption year (April 2002-March 2003). Of these, almost 3.7 million people are in the communal sector, another 489,000 are commercial farm workers, and 850,000 people are in urban areas. The food insecure population will require about 849,000 MT of food aid maize and 815,000 MT need to be provided on the market for those with the purchasing power to buy.

If households had no recourse to subsidized maize and had to pay the full-value import price of about Z$76 per kg, household income sources would be further stretched, increasing food aid requirements from 849,000 MT to 910,000 MT and the number of people requiring food aid from 5.5 million to 5.8 million.

Progress on closing the maize availability gap, estimated at 1.4 million MT last month, for the 2002/03 consumption year has been very slow, allowing grain shortages to continue. As of June 19, only 9 percent of the maize deficit at the beginning of the current consumption year had been imported.

Wheat stocks are estimated to have dropped to 85,000 MT as of mid-June and are projected to be depleted by the end of August, more than one month before the October harvest.

Winter maize is expected to yield between 3.5 to 4 MT/ha and inject about 8,400 MT to 9,500 MT of grain onto the market in August and September. Wheat yields are expected to be 3 MT/ha for smallholder farmers and 5 MT/ha for the large-scale commercial farmers, resulting in production of about 200,000 MT to 230,000 MT in October.

Persistent shortages of basic foodstuffs, such as maize meal and maize grain, sugar, milk, and cooking oil, have continued to fuel parallel market prices of these commodities well above the controlled prices.

The condition of all forms of grazing livestock continues to be good throughout the whole country. Livestock in drought-affected areas, such as parts of Buhera and Beitbridge districts, are being moved to nearby areas with adequate grazing. Water for livestock is generally available everywhere.

Tobacco marketing is in full swing. By June 17, 14.6 million kg of Virginia tobacco had been sold at an average price of US$1.86/kg, earning the country about US$27.2 million of much-needed foreign currency. About 92,355 kg of burley tobacco had been sold by the same date to raise about US$119,000.

Cotton marketing is at its peak. About 70 percent of the 200,000 MT cotton harvest is expected to come from smallholder farmers this marketing year. Income from this crop will contribute significantly toward food purchases in the rural areas.

1. Current Food Security Conditions

1.1. Area Planted to Winter Crops

Planting of the 2001/02 winter season wheat, barley, and maize crop was completed in mid-June amid great publicity from the Government. A total of 2,386 ha was planted to winter maize, mainly in the generally frost-free lands of the Southeastern Lowveld of Zimbabwe.

Preliminary rough estimates put the area planted to wheat at mid-June at 64,000 ha, of which 44,000 ha were planted by smallholder farmers, including the newly resettled farmers. The area planted to wheat this year is 41 percent higher than the 1990s average. This expansion is attributed to the Government's winter wheat support program offering technical advice, seed, and fertilizer to communal, resettlement, small-scale commercial, and newly resettled large-scale commercial farmers as well as to Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (parastatal) farms where irrigation infrastructure is available. The area planted by the traditional large-scale commercial farmers is estimated to have decreased by 30 percent from last year. This decrease is attributed to: a) the Government's land redistribution under the fast-track resettlement program that has reduced the size of the large-scale commercial sector by about 90 percent; b) the failure by the majority of the traditional large-scale commercial farmers to secure production credits as banks refused to make loans to farms issued with an eviction order (Section 8); and c) the uncertainty surrounding the producer price of wheat at harvest time this October (Figure 1).

1.2. Winter Crop Conditions

Winter maize planted in the Lowveld in April and May is in good condition and has flowered, with some crops at the early reproductive ("soft dough") stage. Most of the barley and wheat is now germinating. Though the area planted to wheat has increased in all sectors except the large-scale commercial farms, yields are likely to be low due to: a) the late planting of the crop in the communal, resettlement, and small-scale commercial farming areas due to the late supply of seed and basal fertilizers; and b) poor water and crop management practices on the part of smallholder farmers as they learn the ropes of irrigated winter wheat management.

1.3. Crop Production in 2001/02

The National Crop Forecasting Committee released its final official harvest figures for 2001/02 (April-March) for all crops in May. The committee has estimated 2001/02 maize production at 498,540 MT while millets are estimated at 37,328 MT. The official harvest figures are 4 percent more than the earlier estimates by the WFP/FAO crop production and food supply assessment in early May. The maize harvest estimates exclude newly planted winter maize that is expected to yield between 3.5 to 4 MT per hectare, adding about 8,400 to 9,500 MT of grain onto the market in August and September.

Preliminary estimates by FEWS NET indicate that about 200,000 to 230,000 MT of wheat will be harvested in October and November. This estimated harvest is 33 percent more than the FAO/WFP projection of early May 2002, but 16 percent lower than the 1990s average of about 275,000 MT. Wheat yields are expected to be 3 MT per hectare for smallholder farmers and 5 MT per hectare for the traditionally large-scale commercial farmers.



1.4. Livestock Conditions

Pastures are generally good in most parts of the country except in some drought-affected parts of Buhera and Beitbridge districts in the south, where the grazing has deteriorated and cannot support livestock until the next rainy season in November. Farmers are moving their livestock to parts of the same or neighboring districts with adequate grazing. Water for livestock is generally available throughout the whole country. However, stock feeds are scarce and hence expensive. Large commercial poultry and piggery producers have been given permits by the Government to import more than 10,000 MT of maize as animal feed for the industry. Some commercial farmers with large investments in livestock production infrastructure, which are still secure, are forced to maintain their breeding herd with imported maize landed in Harare at ZW$60,000 to ZW$65,000 per MT -- more than four times the price of maize delivered to the Grain Marketing Board. As more traditional dairy and beef commercial farmers are issued with eviction orders under the fast-track resettlement program, there is immense pressure to continue destocking. About 380,000 head of cattle from this sector alone have been sold for slaughter since last year, even the valuable breeding herd, and the trend continues.

A new outbreak of foot and mouth disease has been reported in Gokwe District (Midlands). More outbreaks of the disease are expected as fences on large-scale commercial farms break down with no one repairing them, making the usual quarantines ineffective as the newly resettled farmers bring their cattle to the new plots.

1.5. Marketing Conditions

Tobacco marketing is in full swing. By June 17, 14.6 million kg of Virginia tobacco had been sold at an average price of US$1.86/kg, earning the country about US$2.75 million of much-needed foreign currency. About 92,355 kg of burley tobacco were sold in the same period, raising about US$119,000. A total of 170 million kg of tobacco valued at US$316 million (at current average prices) is expected to be sold through Zimbabwe's three auction floors by the end of the tobacco marketing season in October. Foreign currency raised from tobacco and other export commodities could play a significant role in the importation of fuel and maize. By comparison, total maize imports for the 2002/03 consumption year, both commercial and food aid, are valued at about US$366 million. Some 815,200 MT of commercially imported maize are required to complement the estimated needs of 848,600 MT of food aid maize to close the current marketing year's cereal gap of 1.782 million MT (Table 1, line K).

Marketing of the estimated 200,000 MT cotton harvest is at its peak. About 70 percent of this 2001/02 harvest is expected from smallholder farmers. Cotton is marketed through 10 buyers of which the Government's Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cotco) has the largest market share of about 70 percent, followed by Cargill with about 20 percent. Farmers earn between ZW$37/kg for the lowest grade cotton to about ZW$44-45/kg for high-quality grades. Cotton producer prices have increased by between 20 to 30 percent in nominal terms since last year, but only between 6 and 15 percent in real terms. Good prices will contribute significantly to the incomes of smallholder cotton farmers, enhancing their food access.

Small quantities of maize are being delivered, mainly from the commercial farms in the Mashonaland Provinces, to depots of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), which has a monopoly for buying and selling maize and wheat in the country. About 60,000 MT of the 498,540 MT of maize produced in 2001/02 are expected to be delivered to the GMB. The maize price paid by the GMB, ZW$15,000/MT, is considerably lower than the current maize import parity price of about ZW$75 to ZW$110 per kg (at the parallel market exchange rate of ZW$350 = US$1.00) landed in Harare or the parallel market retail price of about ZW$33 per kg in some urban markets. Some private traders, who are predominantly licensed small-scale millers, are reported to be offering farm gate maize prices between ZW$25,000/MT and ZW$35,000/MT to smallholder farmers in Makonde and Hurungwe Districts (Mashonaland West).

Beef prices continue to be depressed due to an over-supply of cattle mainly from commercial farmers served with eviction notices. Current prices range between ZW$35 and ZW$45/kg live weight. The export beef sale to the EU has been suspended due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease last August. South Africa also recently slapped a similar ban on beef imports from the Zimbabwe. These developments are reportedly compromising current negotiations for beef exports to both Libya and Malaysia.

2. Food Security Prospects for the 2002/03 Consumption Year

2.1. Current Food Availability at the National Level

Imports to meet the maize deficit estimated at 1.4 million MT for the 2002/03 marketing year (April 2002 to March 2003) have been very slow. As of June 19, a total of 155,803 MT of food had been imported, of which the Government imported 147,000 MT and WFP 8,803 MT, since the start of the marketing year on April 1. These imports are only 9 percent of the total cereal deficit estimated at nearly 1.4 million MT. At the current rate of imports, it will take more than two years to close the cereal gap (Table 1). The slow movement of imports into the country has resulted in continued food shortages.



Wheat stocks are estimated to have declined from 165,000 MT at the start of the marketing year on April 1 to 85,000 MT by mid-June. At the current consumption rate of 32,000 MT per month, the remaining stocks will be depleted by the end of August. Currently, the GMB, holding the monopoly to import wheat, has no known plans to import the required 100,000 MT to bridge the gap before the 2002 harvest comes onto the market in October. Even the 2002 wheat harvest of about 200,000 MT will not be enough, as Zimbabwe will need to import an additional 100,000 MT to meet its anticipated consumption deficit in the 2002/03 marketing year.

2.2. Food Requirements

FEWS NET estimates that nearly 5.6 million people are food insecure this marketing (consumption) year. Of these, almost 3.7 million people are in the communal sector, another 489,000 are commercial farm workers, and 850,000 are people in urban areas. The food insecure population will require about 849,000 MT of maize as food aid. The remaining 815,000 MT of their estimated 1.664 million MT cereal shortfall has to be made up through the market (Table 2).

The number of food insecure people at the national level will be influenced greatly by the ready availability and price of maize or maize meal in the market which, in turn, affects the terms of trade between livestock and other sources of income and maize. As the price of maize increases, household resources available to purchase maize will be tightly stretched, making more people food insecure. If households had no recourse to subsidized maize and had to pay the full-value import price of about Z$76 per kg, household income sources would be further stretched, increasing food aid requirements from 849,000 MT to 910,000 MT and the number of people requiring food aid from 5.5 million to 5.8 million.



2.3. Food Security Prospects at the Sub-national Level

2.3.1. Current Food Access in Rural Areas

The recently completed Food Security Assessment reports by FEWS NET/Zimbabwe indicate that with a poor agricultural season, communal grain and cash crops production also decreased. The per capita cereal production ranges from 0 to 436 kg and averages 42 kg for all communal areas (CAs) of Zimbabwe in the 2001/02 production year. By comparison, the 1990s average production per capita grain ranged from 41-652 kgs, while that for maize was 5-731 kgs. During the same decade, 30 districts had sufficient per capita grain production to cover their per capita consumption requirements, whereas in the 2002/03 marketing year, only four districts are able to do so.

In the 2001/02 production year under review, both small grain and maize production from the resettlement areas (RAs) is the lowest of the past three years. Per capita maize production in the RAs (like that of the CAs) is lowest in the two Matebeleland provinces, where only the RAs in Lupane and Bulilimangwe District recorded non-zero per capita grain production of 9 kg and 17 kg, respectively. Masvingo's traditionally food insecure districts of Chivi, Chiredzi, and Mwenezi also recorded nil per capita grain production in the 2001/2002 production year, an ominous start to the 2002/03 marketing year.

With the decrease in per capita food access in both communal and resettlement areas, a total of 52 of the 57 districts are ranked as food insecure based on food access from all sources of crop production and income, measured in terms of "maize equivalent income" (MEI), falling below the minimum threshold of 163 kg of maize per capita per year. Of these 52 districts, average households in 40 districts where communal areas predominate are classified as extremely food insecure for the 2002/03 consumption year, with a minimum food security threshold of less than three months (or less than 40 kg per capita MEI). According to the FEWS NET definition, extremely food insecure populations are now, or will soon be, unable to meet their consumption needs. They have already exhausted their strategies for acquiring food and are currently or nearly destitute.

Another eight districts are considered highly food insecure, with a minimum food security threshold between three and six months (or less than 80 kg per capita MEI). The remaining four districts are moderately food insecure, with a minimum food security threshold between six and nine months (or less than 120 kg per capita MEI). Only five districts are considered food secure: Chegutu, Hurungwe, UMP, Guruve and Shamva (Figure 2 and 3).

A total of nearly 5.6 million people are considered food insecure, of which about 3.8 million people in all sectors are extremely food insecure. Unlike in most years when the food insecure population is concentrated in the traditional chronically food insecure southern districts of the country, the food insecure population in the 2002/03 marketing year is scattered throughout all districts of the country. Even the traditionally grain-producing districts in the northern and central districts of the country are also experiencing large food security problems. More than 26 districts in the country each have more than 200,000 people who are considered extremely food insecure and another 21 districts have more than 100,000 people considered highly food insecure. The districts in Masvingo, Midlands, Matebeleland North, and South Provinces have the greatest number of people considered food insecure, with more than 50,000 in each district (Figure 3).

2.3.2. Current Food Access in Urban Areas

Persistent shortages of basic foodstuffs, such as maize meal and maize grain, sugar, milk, and cooking oil, have continued to fuel the parallel market prices of these commodities well above the controlled prices. For example, 10 kg of maize meal is going for ZW$600 on the parallel market in Harare, while the controlled price is only ZW$248. Inflation (now at 122.5 percent per year) and unemployment (at 70 percent) are further weakening the ability of the urban population, particularly the urban poor, to access food. In response to the plight of the urban poor, urban municipalities have embarked on cash-for-work programs to help them earn some money for food.

3. Food Security Recommendations to Consider Immediately

FEWS NET recommends the following actions for immediate consideration:

  • The maize marketing system needs to be reviewed to allow more private sector participation in the marketing and distribution of maize to increase supplies, lower prices, and make maize easily accessible to starving people.

  • The NGOs, donor community, and Government need to provide about 849,000 MT of food aid to about 5.6 million people whose food security is under threat and will deteriorate further from August 2002 onward.

  • To improve maize supplies in the country and avoid imminent starvation, the pace at which maize imports are moved into the country needs to be increased to meet the gap of 1.4 million MT before the end of the marketing year.

  • FEWS NET, WFP, the AGRITEX National Early Warning Unit, and the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee should complete the planned food needs assessment for Zimbabwe before August to allow proper food aid targeting.

  • Wheat imports of 100,000 MT are required before August 2002 to meet the imminent deficit before the next harvest comes into the market in October 2002.