High fuel price increases are expected to impact poor household food access
The bulk of typical cereal-deficit areas across the country continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes. These outcomes are mainly due to depleted own-produced food stocks, high food prices, and constrained livelihoods. Poor households in only a few areas in the north and other surplus production areas are meeting their basic food needs, but are unable to meet their basic livelihood needs, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. These area outcomes are expected to persist until the start of the 2019 harvest, which is likely to be delayed to April/June instead of March in typical cereal-deficit areas.
Petrol and diesel prices more than doubled in January. Demonstrations and business closures continue to occur in response to fuel price increases. Shortages of most basic food commodities like cooking oil, sugar, wheat flour, and bread that began in October 2018 are expected to continue and the higher fuel prices are expected to further push up prices for basic food and non-food items. Transport fares and costs also increased by more than double this month, and are expected to adversely affect the general population and businesses. Maize grain and meal prices are likely to increase as traders, millers, and retail outlets factor in increased transport costs. There are also reports of low maize meal supplies in some wholesale and retail outlets because of panic buying following the substantial increase in fuel prices.
The continued macroeconomic challenges have eroded rural and urban livelihoods to the point that an increasing number of poor households will continue to face food and livelihood deficits from January to April, as well as some middle and better-off households. Both casual labor opportunities and labor rates are very low. Water and pasture availability for livestock remain poor and livestock conditions continue to deteriorate in typical arid areas. Across most provinces the prevalance of livestock diseases is high and livestock deaths are affecting livelihods in some areas.
Following a delayed start to the 2018-19 rainfall season, rainfall is still below normal across most of the country for this time of the year. Only parts of the Mashonaland Provinces in the north and Manicaland Province in the east have received normal rainfall amounts. The late start of the season and low rainfall amounts are likely to result in lower than normal cropped areas this season, poor seed germination, water stress for crops—all factors that would indicate a likelihood of below-average production in several parts of the country.