Reference Date: 05-March-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Maize production prospects for 2015 are satisfactory, following improved rains since December after a delayed start
Record maize output estimated in 2014, resulting in large national stocks, including a sizeable exportable surplus
Maize prices continued to rise seasonally, but at subdued rate, reflecting ample supplies
Food security conditions are generally stable
Production prospects for 2015 maize crop are satisfactory
Harvesting of the 2015 cereal crops is expected to commence from April and crop conditions are overall satisfactory. Following a delayed start of seasonal rains, up to one month later-than-normal in the main producing Eastern, Southern and Central provinces, generally favourable precipitation has been recorded since December 2014, benefiting crop development. Vegetation conditions across most of the country were normal as of February 2015, however, the early seasonal moisture deficits on account of the delayed start of the rains are likely to weigh on yields, which are forecast to decline from their high levels of last year. With the area planted to maize likely to remain similar to that of the previous year and yields forecast to return to near-average levels, the maize crop is expected to decline modestly, but remain above-average.
Record maize crop harvested in 2014
Maize production in 2014 was estimated at a record of about 3.4 million tonnes, about 32 percent higher than last year’s below-average output, reflecting both higher yields and a larger planted area. Good rains and the continued input support from the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), contributed to the increase. For other crops, mixed outputs were estimated for sorghum (‑23 percent) and millet (+27 percent) compared to 2013, while a small increase is estimated for rice. The winter wheat crop was estimated at about 200 000 tonnes, 26 percent below 2013’s output, reflecting a decline in plantings. Overall, cereal production in 2014 is estimated at 3.7 million tonnes, 26 percent higher than 2013’s average output.
Large national stocks in 2014/15
The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) increased its maize procurement target in 2014 from 500 000 tonnes to about 1 million tonnes and is estimated to hold about 1.3 million tonnes of maize. During the current 2014/15 marketing year (May/April), about 113 000 tonnes of maize was exported up until December 2014, of which about one-third was delivered to Zimbabwe. Given the generally favourable production outcomes in 2014 across Southern Africa and the competitive South African maize prices, there were limited export opportunities for Zambia in 2014/15. However, the forecast sharp reduction in South Africa’s 2015 maize production, with lower expected exports, could result in improved export opportunities in the 2015/16 marketing year. However, the extent of the country’s engagement in the export market will also largely depend on 2015 production this year, which is currently expected to be above-average, if good weather conditions persist until the harvest period in April.
The low wheat production in 2014, which was not sufficient to cover domestic requirements, prompted the Government to approve an import quota of no more than 75 000 tonnes in February, to be imported before August 2015.
Maize prices increased seasonally, but remain lower than a year earlier
Maize grain prices continued to increase seasonally in February, but at a generally muted rate, as the buoyant national supplies limited larger gains. The third reduction in fuel prices in January, since November 2014, has also contributed to containing larger price increases. In February, the Government also announced the reduction of the maximum wholesale price for breakfast and roller meal, which have been lowered to ZMW 61 (-6 percent) and ZMW 44 per 25 kg (-15 percent). This intervention is expected to help curb strong increases in retail prices for maize products.
Food security conditions stable
The food security situation is reported to be generally stable. The 2014/15 national vulnerability assessment (VAC) estimated that 351 267 people (4 percent of the rural population), up 68 percent from the previous year, required food assistance. Most of these households are located in the western parts, which experienced reduced crop production in 2014. Currently, about 120 000 people in the Western Province are receiving food assistance and no formal request for food assistance has been made from the other districts identified in the VAC, indicating stable conditions.