Zimbabwe + 10 more

SADC Food Security Ministerial Brief: 28 Nov 2002


Planting has been constrained by shortages of tractors, draught power, improved seed and fertilizer. Government has introduced a policy of leaving no land unplanted and is subsidizing inputs to capable farmers. Rains were good in early to mid-September, enabling planting in mountainous areas. October was drier, but rains improved by mid-November enabling planting of maize and sorghum in the lowlands and foothills.
Farm inputs are reportedly available across most of the country, with prices stable but too high for poor households. Three million families are targeted to receive free "starter packs", which could make Malawi self-sufficient in maize if rains are good. Cassava is being promoted. Generally dry conditions have persisted across Malawi, with only light pre-season rains falling. By the end of October, significant rains had fallen only in parts of the southern region, although rainfall was more even in early-November. Land preparation is underway in most areas.
Based on input availability and distribution plans, the area under cereals could increase by 3% over last year. Farmers are being urged to plant early, and to plant cassava, sorghum, millet and short-cycle maize. Good rains were reported in southern and central areas at the end of October and beginning of November, marking the onset of the rainy season. Rains in northern areas normally begin in December.
Production could be hampered by shortages of fertilizer, draught power and tractor rentals. Some small farmers have shifted to sugar cane production, which could affect staple food production and food supply. Planting was delayed due to poor September rains, which improved towards the end of October. November rains have in general been poor although planting in lowland areas has commenced.
Inputs are reportedly available, but high prices may limit their use. Limited government assistance has reached only 50% of overall plans. Early planting and good germination is reported where conservation farming is practiced in Southern and Eastern Provinces. Overall, northern areas have received good, although at times lighter than normal, rains since late-August/early-September. Rainfall has been less regular in southern and western parts of the country. Most planting normally takes place from early-November to mid-December.
Government has reported shortages of maize seed in anticipation of a 25% increase in the area planted. Only 40% of fertilizer needs are available due to shortages of foreign exchange. Tractor services are also limited. Access to seeds by poor farmers is severely constrained due to high prices and the slow pace of assistance programmes. The rains began towards the end of October, and overall were significant and well distributed in many areas through early-November, marking the start of the planting season and encouraging land preparation. In most areas of the country, the second dekad of November was hot and dry.

Elsewhere in the region, satellite imagery indicate good rainfall over most of Angola and in the DRC, likely marking a favourable start of the cropping season. Overall rainfall has been good in bimodal parts of Tanzania. In South Africa it was estimated that the area under white maize production could increase by 19% over last year, although insufficient rainfall has limited agricultural activities. Namibia and Botswana have received rainfall adequate to support crop production in only a few areas.


Food Aid Pipeline in Short Supply

WFP's emergency operation in southern Africa, running through March 2003, was only 56% funded by mid-November. An additional US$223 million and approximately 350,000 MT of food commodities are required. WFP reports a healthy pipeline for Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Malawi into February. Food aid activities in Zambia have been constrained by government's ban on GM food. Although distribution capacity is increasing in Zimbabwe, food aid shortfalls could occur in December, depending on milling capacities.

Commercial/Government Imports Lag

Commercial/government cereal imports into Zimbabwe and Malawi have for the most part been better than anticipated. However, there is concern over Zimbabwe's capacity to import an additional 300,000MT given foreign exchange shortages. In Malawi, some 60,000MT has been imported through informal cross-border trade. Virtually no formal imports have entered Zambia, although government plans to import 300,000 MT of maize. Even if ambitious import plans are achieved, food gaps are likely to persist in the most affected countries.


Prices in Zambia are higher than last year and have been rising in most markets since May, with wholesale prices up by an average of 4% over last month's prices. Prices are highest in southern areas affected by poor production.

In Zimbabwe, government price controls have lead to serious shortages of basic commodities and an informal market where the staple maize, if available, sells for more than 16 times the controlled price. In Botswana, prices of most commodities have risen in line with South African prices, particularly for staple foods. Food prices in Namibia have increased by nearly 25% over the past year. The CPI, at 13.3%, has hit a new five-year high.

In South Africa, inflation is at its highest level in over a decade, with food prices alone rising at almost 20% per year, the steepest increase in eight years. The price of the staple maize meal has more than doubled in the past year. Neighboring countries (Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland) that rely on the South Africa market are similarly affected.

In Tanzania, maize and rice prices were largely stable with slight increases in some markets. Compared to the five year average, October prices were generally higher for maize and lower for rice.

Overall in Malawi, maize prices are slightly lower than last year, but have been increasing in most markets since June. In the north, local market prices are below government prices, but are generally higher in other markets.

In Mozambique, prices in most central and southern markets, especially in urban Maputo, have been rising sharply and are now well above normal for this time of year. In contrast prices in the north (Nampula) are still below last year's level.

In Swaziland, the price of maize has increased by about 25% over four months, and is more than double what it was one year ago.

Reports from Lesotho indicate that the price of maize grain had increased by one-third during the first half of 2002.


As seen in satellite imagery (left), cumulative rainfall since the beginning of the season has been near normal in most of the region. This however, does not capture the variation in rainfall over time, with some parts of the region already receiving early-season dry spells. Planting has been delayed in a number of areas due to inadequate rains. This effectively shortens the duration of the growing season, making rainfall performance during the remainder of the season even more important, especially the need for good rains toward the end of the season, during crucial phases of crop development.

The El Niño event, which threatens the region with dry conditions, remains moderate (right). Some experts expect it will weaken in the months ahead. Nonetheless, the most recent rainfall forecasts from IRI (below) indicate an enhanced probability of below normal rains throughout much of the region. The SADC Drought Monitoring Center will update its own regional forecasts in December.


The graphs below show (1) a 5.7% drop in US maize production, but near steady global production; (2) US and global maize stocks at their lowest level in seven years; and (3) maize prices in the US well above the past three year average, but currently declining. According to these data, total SADC maize requirements (26.6 million MT) represents approximately 4.5% of this year's global maize production.


UN Creates Coordinating Body

The United Nations has created a Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office (RIACSO) to help manage the United Nations' response to the southern Africa emergency The new office is based in Johannes burg, and headed by WFP's Judith Lewis, who was recently named Regional Coordinator for the UN Special Envoy. RIACSO is charged with strategic planning, assessment and monitoring, reporting, donor liaison and advocacy, inter-agency communication, and establishing the new SAHIMS.

UN Establishes Information Service

The United Nations system has begun work to establish a Southern African Humanitarian Information Management Service (SAHIMS). The goal of SAHIMS is provide information management support to the country UN teams by sorting, storing and sharing data gathered by participating UN agencies. This effort is being spearheaded by UN OCHA and will be based out of the UN offices in Johannesburg. Linkages with data gathered outside of the UN systems and with existing SADC structures must be clarified.

Zambia Reconfirms Ban on Genetically Modified Food Aid

Following a series of study tours, local scientists in Zambia have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to clearly demonstrate the safety of genetically modified (GM) food items. Based on recommendations from the Zambian scientific community, the government has reconfirmed its earlier decision to ban genetically modified maize from being imported and distributed as food aid. Government has announced the decision as final.

Some 15,000MT of GM maize already in Zambia will be diverted to other food insecure countries in the region. This raises concern over the three million people in Zambia who require an estimated 224,000MT of food aid through March 2003. WFP has expressed concern that it may not be able to provide food to all planned beneficiaries because of the ban on GM maize. All other countries in Southern Africa are accepting GM food aid as long as it is milled prior to distribution.


Despite the end of nearly three decades of civil war in April 2002, Angola's food security situation remains critical. The recent ceasefire has opened up large areas of the country that have previously lacked basic government services and/or humanitarian operations, revealing large numbers of households in need of assistance. In addition, there are large population movements as internally displaced people (IDPs), ex-UNITA soldiers and in some cases refugees from neighboring countries return to their homes and their farms. Most lack the capacity to feed themselves, and do not have the means to work their land.

There is an urgent need to assist in resettling these people, although efforts are severely constrained by infrastructure that has been ravaged by years of conflict and the presence of land mines in some areas. The UN warns of the threat of an extremely serious humanitarian crisis in Angola. WFP estimates that the number of people requiring emergency food assistance had increased from some one million people in May 2002 to almost two million by the end of September.

In the first six months following the April 2002 ceasefire, 43 new humanitarian operations were established, along with 35 family reception areas and seven satellite reception areas. According to a UN-OCHA September 2002 report, more than four million people remain internally displaced in Angola. Of this number, only 1.43 million IDPs are receiving assistance from humanitarian agencies. There is concern that as IDPs return to their war-affected homes, the serious absence of basic services, such as health and food, may make it difficult for them to remain, which could result in their subsequent displacement yet again.