GIEWS Country Brief: Zimbabwe 26-June-2012



  • Drop in cereal production for 2011/12 cropping season following protracted dry spell in 2012

  • Seasonable increase in maize prices during first quarter of 2012

  • Concern over deteriorating food security conditions in southern provinces grows following production short-falls

Sharp drop in maize production in the 2011/12 cropping season

Harvesting of main 2011/12 maize crop is being concluded in June 2012. Production forecasts, from a Government assessment in April, indicate a sharp drop in production compared with the previous season, on account of prolonged dry spell. At 968 000 tonnes, the estimated maize output in 2012 is about 33 percent below last year’s level and marks a reversal of the increasing trend since 2009. An estimated 722 557 hectares of maize were written off as result of moisture deficits, while delayed and erratic at the start of the 2011/12 rainy season (October-March) had already resulted in the contraction of maize plantings by about 20 percent compared with the previous season’s 2.1 million hectares. Similarly, millet and sorghum production are estimated to be below the levels of 2011, following reduced plantings and lower yields. Other major crops – groundnuts, soy beans, sunflower and sugar beans – also registered a decrease in production in the 2011/12 cropping season.

Overall, cereal production in 2012 is put at 1.13 million tonnes, nearly one third less than last year’s good output. This estimate also includes a forecast for the winter wheat crop, to be harvested from October. Despite early indications of favourable 2012 wheat output, the continuing difficulties facing wheat farmers, most notably an erratic and insufficient power supply, deterred an expansion in the planted area to wheat. As a result, wheat production is forecast at a significantly lower level than last year.

Deterioration in pasture conditions

The prolonged dry period in 2012 also negatively impacted on pasture in southern provinces. This has limited the availability of grazing land and recent reports indicate that farmers are now moving their livestock in search of pasture, which is expected to intensify demand and strain resources in these areas.

Import requirements estimated to rise in 2012/13; carryover stocks will still help bridge some of the supply gap

National cereal production is estimated to satisfy approximately 55 percent of total domestic requirements for the current 2012/13 marketing year (April/May). Although imports of cereals are set to increase, sizeable carry-over stocks from last year’s good harvests (the Grain Marketing Board is estimated to hold approximately 311 000 tonnes of maize) will enable the country to partially meet the national deficit through its reserves. A more conducive economic environment has led to improvements in private sector operations, and commercial imports are therefore anticipated to fill a large proportion of the deficit under the current conditions.

Seasonable rise in maize prices

Maize grain prices in Harare, which remained stable between May and December 2011 at USD 0.29 per kg, began to seasonably increase in January, rising to USD 0.33 in February. In March, new supplies from the 2012 harvest lowered prices to USD 0.29, and remained unchanged in April. Elsewhere in the country maize grain prices followed similar movements. However, in southern provinces, market prices remained at high levels or increased, reflecting poor production levels in these locations.

Southern areas affected by dry spell remain a concern

Areas affected by the dry spell and subsequent production short-falls, particularly in southern parts of Manicaland, Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces, remain a serious concern, despite generally stable food security conditions across the country. It is likely that households in these areas will deplete their stocks earlier than normal, necessitating increased market purchases. On average, households’ supplies from own production are estimated to be sufficient to cover about four months of consumption requirements. However, in northern parts of the country, which fared better in the 2011/12 cropping season, production will be adequate to cover longer periods. In Gokwe South for instance (northern part of Midlands province), cereal harvests are estimated to be sufficient for 7 months. Furthermore, improved cash crop production and higher prices for tobacco may also help raise income levels for some households and increase labour opportunities.

The findings of the 2012 national vulnerability assessment (ZimVAC), to be released in July, are expected to provide clearer indications on current and projected food security conditions as well as possible food aid requirements.