Zimbabwe

FEWS Zimbabwe Food Security Update: 24 Mar 2002


Summary

The total area planted to all crops in 2001/02 season is estimated at 2.4 million hectares. Although seed sales indicate that a total of 1.7 million hectares potentially could have been planted to maize, because of the late delivery of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) seed under the Government Input Credit scheme some of the maize seed was not planted. As a result only about 1.4 million hectares were planted to maize.

All crops in the southern districts of Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matebeleland South and North Provinces were severely affected by the dry spell experienced from January through to mid March. From the recent crop assessment initiated by the NEWU, and confirmed with the Crop Water Requirements Satisfaction Index (WRSI) images for the second dekad of March 2002, most maize, sorghum and millets in the southern, central and eastern districts of the country have wilted, hence reducing harvest prospects this season.

As the 2001/02 marketing season that runs from 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002 draws to an end, Zimbabwe is experiencing one of the worst food security conditions in 50 years. Some farmers have indicated that the drought they experienced is worse than the 1991/92 and 1946/47 drought. The Meteorological Department has ranked the order of severity of the drought using national rainfall figures as follows: 1991/92, 1946/47, 1972/73, 1921/22, 2001/02.

Preliminary estimates indicate that Zimbabwe expects a maize harvest between 456,000 MT and 760,000 MT. The final estimates will be available after the national crop forecasting committee meets during the first week of April 2002.

Preliminary analysis indicates that Zimbabwe will have a maize deficit of between 1.2 to 1.5 million MT in 2002/03 marketing season, a deficit similar to the 1992/93 marketing season.

Food security in more than 50 percent of the districts of the country has reached critical levels, except for those isolated districts in the central, eastern and north of the country who will manage to harvest some crops.

Some farmers started early to harvest and dry their maize - as early as February 2002 - to feed their families. This will further reduce the amount of grain available for consumption in the 2002/03 marketing season.

Most farmers are relying on maize purchases from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots (including the satellite depots that were established to help farmers access the maize). Maize supplies are erratic and many households have reduced the number of meals to one per day.

1. Current Food Security Conditions

1.1. Area Planted

The total area planted to all crops in the 2001/02 season is estimated at 2.4 million hectares. The total area planted to all crops to date is 4 percent more than both last year and the 1990s average. Although seed sales indicate that as much as 1.7 million hectares could have been planted to maize, according to preliminary estimates only 1.4 million hectares were actually planted. The reasons cited as to why the potential area planted to maize was not realized include the late seed deliveries of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) under the Government Input Credit scheme. Still, the area planted to maize is12 percent more than the 1990s average and a 20 percent increase over the 2000/01 season. The final area planted to crops will be determined after the crop assessment mission being conducted by AGRITEX, Central Statistical Office (CSO), Social Welfare, the National Early Warning Unit, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union and FEWS NET from 17 to 28 March 2002.

1.2. Crop Conditions

All crops in the southern districts of Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matebeleland South and North Provinces were severely affected by the dry spell that lasted from January through to mid March. Both the early planted (planted from end of October to end of November) and the late planted (planted in December) crops have wilteddue to severe moisture stress in most of the central, southern and eastern districts of the country. The prolonged dry spell has resulted in wilting even for the normal drought tolerant crops - such as sorghum, pearl and finger millet, and the potential harvest being reduced as little as ten percent of the 1990s average. Preliminary indications from the current crop assessment mission indicate that some districts such as Buhera, parts of Mutare, Chipinge and Mutasa Districts (Manicaland Province); Chikomba (Mashonaland East Province); parts of Zaka, Chiredzi, Chivi and Mwenezi Districts (Masvingo Province); and all districts in Matebeleland South and North Province experienced as much as a 90 percent crop failure. During the visit, some farmers classified the 2001/02 season as worse than the 1991/92 and 1946/47 drought as most farmers in these areas affected will not be harvesting anything. The Meteorological Department has ranked the order of severity of the drought using national rainfall figures as follows: 1991/92, 1946/47, 1972/73, 1921/22, 2001/02.

The Crop Water Requirements Satisfaction Index (WRSI) images for the second dekad of March 2002, confirm that most maize, sorghum and millets in the southern districts of the country have wilted. In the rest of the country, crop conditions are poor, with the only exception being the isolated areas in the eastern and north eastern districts of the country, which has just about an average crop (Figure 1). The satellite imagery confirms observations from the field during the recently completed crop assessment mission.

1.3. Seasonal Outlook

Most southern, central and eastern districts of the country received the last effective rainfall during the last week of December 2001. Although some areas received light and scattered rainfall from January to mid March 2002, some areas have experienced dry conditions for 10 consecutive weeks. Some areas received heavy rainfall during the third week of March 2002, but these have come too late for most of the cash and grain crops which had already wilted. However, the rainfall received in March will benefit livestock as grass was rejuvenated and watering points replenished.

While Zimbabwe is coming to terms with the current 2001/02 dry spell, there are fears that the 2002/03 season could be yet another drought. As a result of warm sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, an El Niño event - which is normally associated with poor rainfall in Southern Africa - is beginning to develop.

1.4. Marketing Conditions

Shortages of basic commodities that started from January such as cooking oil, sugar, maize meal, soft drinks, fresh milk and margarine has persisted throughout the country. Long queues for these commodities that started in February 2002 are still common at retail outlets and the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots as consumers in both urban and rural areas scramble for maize grain or maize meal. Maize has become very scarce despite Government’s effort to import maize and maize meal from South Africa. The Government has maintained the price of maize at GMB depots at Z$840-970per 50 kg bag (depending on the source), but the maize is not readily available. In the parallel market, the price of maize (when available) has more than doubled from the October 2001 (Z$22 per kg) to between Z$800 to Z$1,500 per bucket (Z$44.44 to Z$83.33 per Kg) in mid March 2002.

2.0 . Food Security Prospects for the 2001/02 Consumption Year

2.1. Current Food Security at the National Level

As the 2001/02 marketing season - which runs from 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002 - draws to an end, Zimbabwe is experiencing one of the worst food security conditions in 50 years. Imports of 80,000 MT of the planned amount of 200,000 MT have arrived into the country since mid February, but these have not been enough to meet domestic requirements estimated at 5,000 MT per day. To spread the available stocks, maize rationing has been instituted in the communal areas and millers. In some of the communal areas two households are asked to buy and share a 50kg bag over a period of a month, which is not adequate. Most households have reduced their meals to one per day to adjust to the low supplies. Some households in rural areas that can afford are supplementing their grain supplies with bread, wheat flour and sugar.

Food aid programs which started in February have been implemented late, but are benefiting farmers who have had three consecutive years of poor harvests. The World Food Program has imported 5,200 MT into the country and are implementing feeding programs in Chiredzi, Zaka, Mwenezi Districts (Masvingo Province); Chipinge District (Manicaland Province); and most districts in Matebeleland South and North Provinces. The food aid program is intended to feed about 558,000 people.

2.2 . Food Security Prospects for 2002/03 Season

Food security conditions are not expected to improve in the coming months. The country has experienced a below-average harvest in 2002, foreign currency inflows is likely not to improve, high unemployment, high inflation and insufficient maize imports.

Harvest prospects for 2002 are very poor due to the dry spell experienced in January and February. Zimbabwe expects a maize harvest between 456,000 MT (if poor yields of 1991/92 are experienced) and 760,000 MT (with yields similar to 1994/95 season). The 2001/02 season has been described by some farmers as the worst compared to the past El Niño years of 1991/92 and 1947 due to;

a) Farmers in more than 50 percent of the country have experienced a total crop failure.

b) There is limited grain available in the market for those who have the purchasing power, unlike past years stocks were available locally or from Government.

c) Grain prices this year are high due to high inflation and low supply.

d) Low prices and demand for livestock and livestock products.

Preliminary analysis indicates that Zimbabwe will have a maize deficit of between 1.2 to 1.5 million MT in 2002/03 marketing season (Table1). The Government is has indicated their intention to import 1.5 million MT of maize from Kenya, Argentina and Brazil to meet the potential deficit. Given the problems of foreign currency, the Government will find it difficult to meet the large imports. Given the dry spell in early March , the Government has declared 2002 a disaster year to allow the donors and NGOs to intervene. A donors meeting is planned for the last week of March to discuss possible programs that could complement Government efforts to provide food to the hungry.

Table 1: Zimbabwe preliminary maize and millets cereal balance sheet
(1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003)
Maize
Millet
All Grains
A. Potential Domestic Availability
462,100
69,181
531,281
Formal Opening Stocks (April 2002)
100
-
100
Gross Harvest Production (estimate)
460,000
68,181
528,181
Unmonitored Stocks: Farmers & other (estimate)
2,000
1,000
3,000
B. Annual Requirements
1,862,035
169,220
2,031,256
Gross Consumption Requirement
1,562,035
169,220
1,731,256
Livestock, other uses and losses
300,000
-
300,000
C. Domestic Balance (DB) (A minus B)
(1,399,935)
(100,039)
1,499,975)
D. Cross Substitution
(100,039)
100,039
-
E. Cereal Exports to date (estimate)
-
-
-
F. Cereal Imports to date (estimate)
-
-
-
G. Forecasted Closing Stocks (March 2003)
(1,499,975)
-
(1,499,975)
H. Strategic Reserve Requirement (SGR)
500,000
-
500,000
I. Imports Required to Cover SGR and DB (March 2003)
1,999,975
-
1,999,975
J. Planned Imports this year and carryover imports
1,600,000
-
1,600,000
K. Forecasted Closing Stocks after Imports (March 2003)
100,025
-
100,025
Assumptions
Est. mid-year population
13,016,961
13,016,961
13,016,961
Est. Human Annual Consumption Requirement. (Kgs/Person)
120
13
133
Source: AGRITEX/NEWU and FEWS NET

2.3. Food Security Prospects at Sub national Level

2.3.1. Current Food Access in Rural Areas

Food security in all districts of the country has reached critical levels, except for those districts in the central, eastern and north of the country who will manage to harvest some crops. Most households have run out of stocks from last year’s harvest. Due to the dry spell experienced from January to mid March, most households in the drought affected areas do not have access to foods such as pumpkin and pumpkin leaves, cowpeas and cowpea leaves, traditional vegetables from the fields, water melons, groundnuts, bambara nuts and sweet potatoes that are normally available this time of the year. Some farmers started harvesting and drying maize from the fields from February 2002 to make immediate food provisions, this would further reduce the amount of grain available for consumption in 2002/03 season. Most farmers are relying on maize purchases from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots (including satellite depots that were established to help farmers access the maize). However, the maize supplies are erratic for some of the districts and farmers have constantly been unable to get the maize. Maize supplies seem to be stable only in those districts such as Mutare, Murehwa, Hurungwe, Mutoko and most districts of Mashonaland Central and West Provinces that have started consuming maize from their own fields. Food access for some farmers has been made worse by the suspension of the public works program in early March. Some farmers have benefited from public works program and hence been able to afford to buy maize if available from the GMB.

The widespread food insecurity in communal, resettlement and commercial (farm workers) areas requires a massive food aid program to avert widespread extreme food insecurity from June 2002 onwards. Rough estimates put the rural population that may need food assistance at 2 million people and 500,000 people from the commercial farm workers could need assistance. These estimates will be refined in the coming months after a series of planned field assessments are conducted.

For some of the affected communal areas plans are required to relocate the livestock and sell off old stock as pastures and water supplies are decreasing. Some of the water supplies that normally lasts the season are expected to run out by August 2002. Some farmers in the affected areas have started distress selling off of cattle and prices have gone down by 20 percent from last year.

3. Food Security Recommendations to Consider Immediately

FEWS NET suggests the following recommendations:

  • In addition to the carryover planned imports of about 100,000 MT, there is need to import an additional 1.5 million MT to meet the consumption requirements for the 2002/03 marketing season.

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

  • Examine the use of all possible entry paths - including the 5 ports - that could potentially be used to import food into Zimbabwe.

  • Food aid programs by Government and NGOs need to be expanded to cover more people before June 2002.
    FEWS NET, WFP, the AGRITEX National Early Warning Unit and the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee should complete the vulnerability assessment for Zimbabwe before June to allow proper food aid targeting.