FEWS Zimbabwe Monthly Food Security Update 31 Jan 2003


A cereal deficit of approximately 1 million MT is expected for the 2003/04 consumption year; the Government and NGO community need to start planning for continued food aid, non food aid and food imports for the 2003/04 consumption year.

The widespread food availability problems will start to ease up in March 2003 for most farmers who have planted early maize crops in the northern, eastern and some central districts of the country.

To avert food shortages, some households who have already experienced crop failures in the southern districts of the country have moved to the northern districts of the country (such as Hurungwe District), where harvest prospects are better; there they are buying maize before the crop matures.

A total of 904,000 MT had been imported into the country by mid-January 2003. Of this, 695,000 MT is from the Government, 139,000 MT is food aid and the remainder was provided by the private sector. An additional 633,000 MT of maize imports are planned by the Government and aid organizations. If all is imported before the end of the marketing year on March 31, 2003, excess carryover stocks of 370,000 MT will remain. However, it is unlikely that all the intended imports, especially from Government, will be physically in the country before the end of the marketing year.

The number of commercial farm workers affected by the fast track resettlement program has increased from 488,000 in August to one million in December 2002.

46,000 MT of maize seed was sold this season, which is much higher than the normal 33,000 MT; however, despite this increase in sales, the area planted to maize has remained at 1.2 million Ha, much lower than the expected and normal 1.4 million Ha.

Assuming yields are similar to 1998/99, this year’s production would comprise about 800,000 MT of maize or less, 90,000 MT of tobacco, 78,000 MT of groundnuts and 220,000 MT of cotton. This production is higher than last year, but still almost 50 percent lower than 2000/01 and the longer-term average.

Prices of basic commodities, most of which are being sold from the black market, have continued to increase. Prices of maize meal/grain from both the Grain Marketing Board and the open market continue to escalate, indicating diminishing access to food for the majority of people who have become dependent on the market for their food supply.

1. Current Food Security Situation

1.1. Diminishing Food Security Crisis

The widespread food availability problems will start to ease for most farmers who have planted early maize crops in the northern, eastern and some central districts of the country. The majority of these households will be consuming green maize from mid-February 2003. However, these are but a few isolated households, and the food crisis will continue for most households until end of March, when most of the current crop is mature and harvesting and drying off of the mature maize commences. To avert food shortages, some households who have already experienced crop failures in the southern districts of the country have moved to the northern districts of the country (such as Hurungwe District), where harvest prospects are better. There they are buying maize before the crop matures.

1.2. Continuing Food Security Crisis

Shortages of basic consumer goods, which started in February 2002, only seem to be worsening. Included on this list of scarce items are: sugar, cooking oil, maize, maize meal, milk, beef, bread and transport. Since the Government introduced more price controls in November 2002, and some of the manufacturing companies are closing down, relocating to neighbouring countries or scaling down operations, the range of consumer goods in short supply is expanding to include bathing and washing soap, tooth paste, and soft drinks.

1.3. Emerging Food Security Crisis

At the national level, a below-average harvest is anticipated in 2003. Maize production is expected to be about 800,000 MT, leaving a 900,000 MT deficit for the 2003/04 marketing year. The Government’s capacity to fill this gap through imports is limited by the foreign currency shortage. This shortage is exacerbated by poor tobacco earnings, which are expected to be at their lowest level in 10 years. At sub-national level, based on the development of crops and the rainfall season so far, there are already strong indications that most households in the southern and central districts of the country, some of which have experienced 4 consecutive years of poor harvests and have had their coping mechanisms exhausted, will have serious food security problems in the coming year. For instance, severe food shortages are likely to continue in Matebeleland South Province, including Gwanda, Beitbridge and Matobo Districts; in Masvingo Province, including parts of Mwenezi, Chivi , Chiredzi and the Southern part of Zaka districts; In Midlands Province, including Kwekwe, Gweru, Mberengwa and Zvishavane; and in Matebeleland North, including Tsholotsho, Hwange, Nkayi , Bubi and Insiza Districts (Figure 1).

Click here to see Map: Zimbabwe - Crop Conditions

2. Food Security Conditions and Prospects

2.1. Current Food Availability at the National Level

Since the start of the marketing year on April 1, 2002, a total of 904,000 MT had been imported into the country as of mid-January 2003. Of this total, the Government imported 695,000 MT, food aid agencies imported 139,000 MT and the private sector imported the remainder. Although 1.4 million MT of maize was reportedly available between April and January 2003 to meet the country’s estimated consumption requirements of 1.16 million MT, there have been severe food shortages in both urban and rural areas. The Government and aid organizations plan to import an additional 633,000 MT of maize before the end of the marketing year on March 31, 2003. If these imports proceed, 370,000 MT of excess carryover stocks could remain. However, given the current rate of imports, it is more likely that 280,000 MT of maize will remain in stock at the end of the marketing year. The general difference between maize import figures and local availability seems to indicate that the Government’s intentions to import this extra maize may not be achieved before end of the marketing year (Table 1).

Table 1: Food Requirements and Potential Gap for the Remaining Months (February and March 2003)
Planned (MT)
Possible (MT)
Two months Consumption Requirements
Anticipated in country stocks
GMB Planned Imports
Food Aid Planned Imports
Source: ZIM VAC (Adjusted Figures)

2.2. Current Food Security Prospects at the Sub national Level

2.2.1. Food Security in Rural Areas

NGOs and WFP have expanded food aid distributions to cover all districts in the country and reach about 4 million of the estimated 7.2 million who were identified as needing food aid in the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) December 2002 assessment. Based on a more recent Central Statistical Office (CSO) census figure of 11.6 million, FEWS NET revised downward the total national number in need from 7.2 million to around 6 million. Using this figure, at least 67 percent of the estimated 6 million people (both urban and rural) in need of food aid have been met in all districts. Using these same figures, at least 98 percent of the estimated 4.1 million rural people in need of food have been targeted.

Supplies to most rural markets from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) have been erratic and inadequate. Households have resorted to meeting income requirements by employing last-resort survival option such as prostitution, increased gold panning, theft, and wild food sales to supplement the food aid. A study conducted by the ZimVAC in December indicated that 91 percent of the communities interviewed include households engaged in income-generating activities that they normally do not undertake.

2.2.2. Current Food Security in Urban Areas

Since February 2002, shortages of basic commodities have continued in all urban areas. Everincreasing inflation continues to erode consumer purchasing power. The Government’s attempts to control inflation through price controls have only succeeded in pushing a number of basic commodities off the formal market and onto the open/parallel market, where their prices continued to increase beyond the reach of the majority of poor rural and urban households. The year-on-year consumer price index for the month of December 2002 increased to 198.9 percent, gaining 23.4 percentage points on the November rate of 175.5 percent. Food price increases accounted for 73.7 percent of the December inflation rate (Figure 2). To make matters worse, urban consumers will soon be affected by shrinking incomes as the Government, the private sector and labour unions have agreed to freeze wages for the next five months in an effort to curtail the run away inflation rate.

2.2.3. Current Food Security for Farm Workers

The number of commercial farm workers affected by the fast track resettlement program has increased from about 488,000 in August to about a million in December 2002, as more farms have been affected by the Government’s fast track resettlement program. Between 600 and 1,000 former Commercial Farmers Union Farms are currently operational, decreasing from about 3,000 farms last year and about 4,400 farms when the program started in 2000. Currently, organizations such as Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe have started feeding programs in the Mashonaland Provinces, but the level of assistance so far has not kept pace with the needs.

2.3. Food Security Outlook for 2003/04 Marketing Year

2.3.1. Preparations for the 2002/03 Agricultural Production Season

A number of factors have affected the 2002/03 growing season, and these will have a negative impact on food security conditions and planting in 2003/04. These factors include:

a) Although more maize seed was sold than normal (46,000 MT as opposed to the normal 33,000 MT), the area planted to maize has remained at 1.2 million Ha, compared to the normal 1.4 million Ha.

b) In an attempt to avert seed shortages, the Government imported 15,000 MT of seed maize from South Africa, but it came too late to make any meaningful contribution to the 2002/03 planting season.

c) A general shortage of other crop seed and the potential production of seed for next year have been curtailed by the fast track resettlement scheme, which means seed availability could be a problem in 2003/04.

d) Below average rainfall combined with hot dry conditions in November and December 2002 negatively affected the planted crops in some areas causing a complete failure.

e) The Government input distribution was slow, with only 17,000 MT of the planned 25,000 MT under the Government credit scheme distributed by early December.

f) Less than 50 percent of the estimated Z$80 billion required to finance the agricultural season has been raised through the Government, private sector companies and agribills, making credit availability a problem for farmers.

g) Fertilizer shortages have had a negative impact on production.

h) Land reform has also had a negative impact on production; for example, the area cultivated under large scale commercial farms decreased from 60,000 Ha in 2000/01 to 34,000 Ha last year and to 20,000 Ha in 2002/03 season; tobacco decreased from 67,100 Ha in 2000/01 and from a five year average of 83,000 Ha to about 49,500 Ha in 2002/3.

i) The area planted to most crops in 2002/03 decreased and only 78 percent of the average area had been planted. This is equivalent to the area planted during the worst drought of the decade in 1991/92 (Table 2, following page).

2.3.2. Production Prospects in 2002/03 Season

Yields in 2003 are likely to be higher than last year, but still well below average. Preliminary analysis indicates that the 2002/03 season appears to be similar in progression to the 1998/99 season - an El Nino year as well, where most of the southern districts of Zimbabwe had a late start to the season and suffered from a mid-season dry spell which led to total crop failure in some areas. Assuming yields are similar to 1998/99, maize production will be around 800,000 MT, tobacco will be around 90,000 MT, groundnuts will be 78,000 MT and cotton will be about 220,000 MT. This represents total production equivalent to about 50 percent of the 2000/01 season and the average. (Table 3, following page).

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