Household food security expected to improve with prospects of improved harvests region wide
March marks the peak of the lean season across many countries impacted by last year’s El Niño induced drought. During this month, several areas are experiencing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Countries with areas receiving consistent supplies of humanitarian assistance have improved and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) because of ongoing assistance. Acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to start improving as areas begin accessing the green harvest and by May, most areas will likely be experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes as households begin consuming their own production. However, parts of the DRC will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the impact of drought conditions and conflict on agricultural activities this season.
In previous years rains usually tailed off in early March, however this year the region experienced an continuation of rainfall beyond this period. This extension of rainfall will benefit late planted crops, but there are also growing concerns that the later than normal rains will result in cob rot for early planted crops and could increase post-harvest losses.
Maize prices remain above average across the region. Malawi and Mozambique did record a monthly decrease of 12 and 63 percent, respectively, but prices remain close to 100 percent higher than average. The decline is mainly attributed to improved market supply and prospects of an improved main harvest. Grain traders are also focused on offloading old stocks before the new harvest since demand will significantly decrease and effect their profit margins. Significant decreases in staple prices across most of the region are expected with the improved harvests in May.
As farmers prepare for the winter cropping, concerns over the fall armyworm (FAW) infestations remain high in the region. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa normally plant wheat and maize during the off-season. In the absence of any FAW control measures and monitoring, these crops are likely to be vulnerable to the pest. Experience from other regions like South America suggests that a high concentration of FAW on the smaller pieces of land cultivated for winter cropping could be devastated. Such attacks could potentially reduce production prospects for the second season along with casual labor opportunities.