Armyworm outbreak in several countries may affect maize production levels
In January, areas in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho continued to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes where humanitarian assistance coverage is very low and needs are high. During this peak lean period, there is the possibility for some isolated households to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In Madagascar and Malawi, area outcomes have improved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) because of ongoing assistance.
Across the region, countries are experiencing continuous heavy rainfall and well above-average rainfall totals. Households with the early planted maize are benefiting from the rainfall, while crops planted in mid-to-late December are being affected by waterlogging. Many poor households were unable to purchase fertilizers this season, and leaching has been reported as a major problem in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Malawi.
Cases of Fall Armyworm continue to impact several countries, and recent reports have identified the pest in South Africa’s Limpopo and Northwest Provinces. Zambia has reported that more than 129,000 hectares has been affected, while 5,471 hectares are reported to be damaged in Malawi. Slow responses by the governments of the affected countries could result in localized reductions in household production.
Staple prices remain higher than the five-year average in most countries due to increased demand for market purchases during the peak lean season. Humanitarian assistance has contributed to price stability in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Prices are expected to start decreasing once the green harvest begins.
Dry spells are common in January and usually allows households to engage in weeding and late planting. However, due to the atypically wet conditions across the region, income from these activities in January will be significantly less this season, further constraining food access for poor households relying on market purchases.