Zimbabwe Key Message Update, October 2018

Situation Report
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Commodity shortages and sharp price hikes likely to increase food insecure population

Key Messages

Most poor households in deficit-producing areas in the south, west, and extreme north are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes as the 2018-19 lean season intensifies. This is due to depleted own-produced food stocks, macroeconomic hardships, and increasing staple cereal and other food prices. In typical surplus-producing areas in the north and other parts of the country, mostly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are being experienced, though some households will be experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. A worsening economic situation will likely result in some middle and better-off households also experiencing food access challenges, thereby increasing the food insecure population.

Following the implementation of new monetary and fiscal policies in early October, commodity prices increased sharply and many wholesalers, supermarkets, and other retail outlets faced acute shortages of cooking oil, sugar, flour, and bread, affecting poor household food access. Most basic food commodities are only available on the black market.

Until recently, prices of maize grain have largely been stable, but this month prices on informal markets increased partly due to the usual seasonal decline in supplies and increasing demand. Average October maize grain prices in FEWS NET sentinel markets increased by 15 percent within the last month and are 31 percent higher than the same time last year. Likewise, average October maize meal prices increased by 12 percent in the last month and are 18 percent higher than the same time last year.

High prices and commodity shortages will increasingly affect key livelihoods and coping strategies for poor households, including casual labor, petty trading, construction, and remittances among others. In-kind payments for casual labor will be significantly reduced, or where practiced, the terms of trade will be highly unfavorable for poor households. Some poor farmers will experience challenges accessing crop inputs when preparing for the 2018-19 production season because of the high prices and scarcity.

Commodity shortages and high prices impacted the start of cash-based and mixed modalities for the 2018-19 lean season humanitarian assistance. WFP and partners have started lean season assistance in ten districts this month and because of the macroeconomic challenges, in-kind assistance is being distributed to 184,000 people instead of cash or the combination of in-kind and cash.