FEWS Zimbabwe Monthly Food Security Update 27 Feb 2003



While the food security situation is improving in some isolated rural areas of the northern provinces following increased food aid assistance from the humanitarian community and early consumption of the current season's produce, the food security situation in most rural districts and, in particular, the southern districts continues to worsen.

Nationwide, there is a reported decrease in the quantity of maize supplied, with less frequent deliveries and no supplies at all from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) in January 2003

Given the poor harvest and low stock levels experienced in the whole country in 2002/03 season, the country will need to import 840,000 to 1.3 million MT of maize to meet the preharvest estimated deficit expected during the 2003/04 marketing season.

Only about 1.25 million MT of maize are likely to be imported before the end of the marketing year, of which 1.2 million MT can be distributed. Thus, about 50,000 MT of carryover stocks will be physically available, and 287,000 MT of outstanding maize imports will be left at the end of the marketing year on 31 March 2003.

Grain prices continue to rise. FOSENET reported a 50 percent increase to ZW$10-30 per kg of maize grain for the upper end of the price range on the parallel market between November and January 2003.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which was at 198.9 percent in December 2002, increased to 208.1 percent in January 2003. Food inflation accounts for 76.1 percent of the January 2003 inflation rate.

The Government increased the price of fuel by between 20 and 90 percent beginning 25 January 2003. The price remains below the market rate. This increase will affect the prices of most basic commodities.

Small scale food assistance by predominantly religious groups remains the only forms of food assistance in Zimbabwe's urban areas. Despite their efforts, food insecurity continues to grow at alarming rates in major towns and cities.

A total of about 1.9 million Ha were planted to crops in 2002/03 season, of which 63 percent was planted to maize. A harvest of about 414,100 MT to 800,000 MT at most is expected in 2003.

Agricultural extension agents in Masvingo, Manicaland, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Midlands Province reported an outbreak of armyworm.

1. Current Food Security Situation

1.1. Diminishing Food Security Crisis

A few rural and urban households with agricultural plots in the northern provinces of the country covering the Mashonalands, the northern part of Midlands and some parts of Manicaland provinces have started eating green mealies, pumpkins and squashes from this year's meagre crop. By March and April, more households from these areas will be joining them. In January 2003, the World Food Program (WFP) distributed approximately 42,428 MT of food to over 3.2 million beneficiaries in 47 of the 49 targeted districts, more than doubling the total distributed for December 2002. Including all distribution agencies, the food aid program reached over 4 million people. In February, WFP is planning to distribute over 53,000 MT of food to approximately 4.2 million beneficiaries. WFP reports that it has enough food in the pipeline to meet distribution requirements through the end of March. Some NGOs have started child supplementary feeding and school children feeding programs in the peri-urban areas of Harare and Bulawayo. WFP is planning to expand existing urban feeding programs through a pilot child supplementary programme in Harare and Bulawayo, complementing efforts by NGOs, church groups and HIV/AIDS support groups.

Continuing Food Security Crisis

Shortages of basic commodities continue throughout the whole country in rural and urban areas. Long queues for sugar, maize meal, cooking oil and transport are a common site in most urban areas. High transportation costs caused by fuel shortages and the recent fuel price increases have affected every economic activity in the country, thereby fuelling inflation. While sugar, maize meal, milk, and cooking oil are rarely found in the formal market, these commodities are readily available on street corners, but going at prices too high for the majority of poor households to afford.

In rural areas, supplies of maize grain available through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) have become even more erratic. FOSENET revealed that 23 of the 47 districts they monitor have reported that supplies of maize since July 2002 have been diminishing in quantity and deliveries have been less frequent. There were no supplies at all from the GMB in January 2003 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Reported GMB Deliveries to Wards from July 2002 to January 2003


The GMB is managing to bring in between 15,000 and 35,000 MT of maize per week instead of the required 35,000 MT, due to serious shortage of transport. The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), which would normally be carrying the bulk of the food imports, is crippled by fuel shortages and a lack of foreign currency to replace and repair locomotives, wagons, signals and other infrastructure. In addition, the transport rates the GMB is prepared to pay are much lower than NGOs and other competitors are paying to truckers.

Emerging Food Security Crisis

The 2003/04 marketing season, which runs from 1 April 2003 to 30 March 2004, will begin with a limited official grain reserve and very low on-farm stocks. Zimbabwe is currently importing maize from South Africa and the United States, but only about 70,000 MT, or just under half the 150,000 MT needed to meet national consumption requirements, arrive per month, Given the poor harvest and stock levels throughout the country in the 2002/03 season, the country will need to import an additional 840,000 to 1.3 million MT in order to fill the estimated pre-harvest deficit for the 2003/04 marketing season.

Food security conditions at household level in the coming 2003/04 consumption year will be negatively affected by current low stocks and the potential poor harvest. Their ability to cope with the agricultural production losses is limited, as most households are already fully employing a wide range of coping mechanisms and still not making ends meet. As the drought persists, drinking water for both humans and livestock is becoming scarce. The Municipality of Harare has already announced that water rationing measures will be introduced next month.

(pdf* format - 368 KB)