FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Maize production forecast to increase significantly in 2017 to well above-average level
Import forecast for grains cut sharply in 2017/18 marketing year
Food security conditions expected to improve on account of large agricultural output and lower cereal prices
Maize production forecast at bumper level in 2017
Harvesting of the 2017 summer cereal crops is nearing completion, with the winter wheat crop to be harvested in the last quarter of the year.
Maize production in 2017 is officially forecast at a well above-average level of 2.1 million tonnes, significantly higher than the drought-reduced output of 2016. The large year-on-year increase is reflective of an expansion in plantings (estimated at about 1.9 million hectares compared to 1.2 million in 2016) and an upturn in yields, instigated by good rains and extensive input support programmes. On a geographic basis, large increases are expected in the main-producing Mashonaland provinces in the northeast, while significant annual gains are also forecast in Midlands and Masvingo provinces.
Although most of these increases would originate from the communal farming sector, large-scale farms are also expected to contribute to the steep production gains as they were supported by the Government’s Command Agriculture Scheme. Under this programme, large-scale farmers were committed to providing 5 tonnes of maize per hectare to the Government as repayment for inputs and agricultural equipment. This programme is in addition to the Presidential Input Support Scheme that mainly targeted small-scale farmers.
Total cereal production in 2017 is forecast at 2.5 million tonnes, with a significant increase in sorghum production also contributing to this year’s improved performance.
Cash crop production is also estimated at a high level in 2017. Production of cotton, a key crop, is estimated at 125 000 tonnes, compared to 36 000 tonnes in 2016. Good weather conditions and the continuation of free input distribution through the Government’s support programme are the main drivers behind this year’s growth.
Imports forecast to decrease significantly in 2017/18
As a result of the large increase in domestic production in 2017, the import forecast for the 2017/18 marketing year (April/March) has been cut significantly to less than 5 000 tonnes, which would mainly consist of informal cross-border trade. Currently the Government has also placed a ban on imports. In the previous marketing year, just under 1 million tonnes of maize were imported to cover the supply shortfall following the sharply drought-reduced 2016 output.
The parastatal Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has been purchasing maize from local producers at a cost of USD 390 per tonne this marketing year. With a current budget of USD 200 million to procure maize, the GMB is set to purchase approximately 0.5 million tonnes to replenish national reserves.
Maize meal prices at low and stable levels
Prices of maize meal continued to remain stable at the beginning of 2017 and were well below their year-earlier levels as of April. The strengthening of the US dollar (the main currency used in the country) against the rand of South Africa (a key source of grain imports) was a significant contributing factor for the low and stable prices during 2016, particularly given the increased level of imports in total domestic supplies. However, with a more stable exchange rate in 2017, prices have remained more or less unchanged in recent months.
Liquidity constraints in the country had also dampened domestic demand and constrained economic performance, lessening inflationary pressure, while the larger agricultural output in 2017 is likely to sustain the downward pressure on food prices.
Food security situation expected to improve in 2017/18
The results of the 2017 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (ZimVACs) evaluation are expected to be released in July. Given the significant improvement in the performance of the agriculture sector and the lower grain price, food security conditions are similarly expected to improve in 2017/18. Based on the Government’s latest crop assessment, at the provincial level, this year’s cereal harvest is expected to be sufficient to cover the population’s consumption needs until at least the end of the year. However, in some districts of Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland North provinces, production is forecast to only cover the next four to six months.
In 2016/17, ZimVAC estimated that 4.07 million people (44 percent of the rural population) were food insecure at the peak of the lean period between January and March 2017, about 44 percent higher than the 2.83 million people estimated in the first quarter of 2016.