FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
- Favourable weather forecasts improved production outlook in 2017
- Tighter supplies sustain higher year-on-year maize prices
- Food security conditions remain stressed in southern parts that were most affected by prolonged dryness and poor agricultural production in 2016
Increased chance of above-average rains favours production prospects in 2017
Due to a slightly delayed start of seasonal rains and below‑average precipitation between October and December, about two-thirds of the average volume, planting of the 2017 cereal crops is still underway, but expected to be completed in the next weeks. Weather forecasts for the remainder of the 2016/17 main summer cropping season (November‑June) indicate an enhanced chance for above‑average rainfall conditions. Vegetation conditions in cropped areas are slightly below normal as of late December, reflecting reduced rains since the start of the season; however, the heavier rains at the end of year and expectations of continued normal to above‑normal rains are anticipated to improve crop conditions.
Infestations of army worms have been reported in about 124 000 hectares of cropped land; if not treated this could have negative impact on production outcomes in affected areas.
Similar to previous years, the Government is continuing to support farmers’ access to inputs through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP). This year the Government increased the number of farmers utilizing the electronic voucher system, in efforts to reduced overall administrative costs and improve the efficiency of the Programme. Based on the current conditions, the 2017 agricultural outlook is overall favourable and an above‑average maize harvest is expected.
*Tighter national supplies, but sufficient to meet domestic requirements**
National maize supplies in the 2016/17 marketing year (May/April), including carryover stocks, are adequate to cover domestic requirements. However, to ensure sufficient supplies until the start of the harvest and ease price pressure due to the heightened export demand from neighbouring countries, the Government revoked all maize export permits except for humanitarian purposes in mid‑October; an estimated 160 000 tonnes of maize were exported to Malawi and Zimbabwe for humanitarian use.
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA), the Government parastatal mandated to manage the national strategic stock and engage in market facilitation, targeted the procurement of 0.5 million tonnes of maize in 2016/17. However, by October only about 320 000 tonnes had been purchased and the FRA issued a second tender in November, normally the end of the marketing season is October, to try to secure the additional supplies.
Maize prices rise in response to tighter supplies
Prices of maize grain and maize meal, which have been increasing since July, were up by approximately one‑quarter on a yearly basis in October 2016, with meal product prices at record highs. The higher prices mostly reflect the tighter supplies, while a sharp increase in retail fuel prices in mid‑October is expected to continue to sustain upward pressure.
Stressed food security situation in southern areas
Food security conditions are stressed in southern areas of the country that were most affected by the El Niño‑related dryness and consequent reduced agricultural production. The Zambian Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s 2016 evaluation in southern areas of the country estimated that 975 738 people (162 623 households) are food insecure and would require assistance. Between August and December 2016, humanitarian assistance targeted about 258 000 severely‑affected people (approximately 43 000 households), while during the peak of the lean season (January‑March 2017), the total food insecure population will be supported mainly through the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme. Conditions are anticipated to improve with the start of the main season harvest from April onwards. – (ReliefWeb)