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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 08-May-2018


  1. Production of maize in 2018 forecast at well below average level due to reduced yields and plantings

  2. Sorghum production also foreseen to decrease, but production of other food crops expected to remain unchanged or rise

  3. Despite anticipated drop in maize production, national supplies forecast to be sufficient in 2018/19 marketing year (May/April)

  4. Production shortfalls in southern areas most affected by dry spell expected to aggravate food insecurity

Mid-season dry spell forecast to result in below-average cereal output in 2018

Harvesting of the 2018 cereal crops is underway. Despite a generally favourable start to the 2017/18 rainy season in October and November 2017, a mid-season dry spell in December 2017 and January 2018 affected southern areas, namely Southern, Western and Lusaka provinces, as well as parts of Eastern and Central provinces, causing moisture stress and, in some areas, permanent crop wilting. The dry period has likely caused a reduction in yields, while a contraction in the area sown has also negatively weighed on the production outlook. As a result, maize production in 2018 is forecast at a well below-average (previous five years) 2.4 million tonnes, a decrease by 34 percent on a yearly basis. Most of the decline would originate in the small and medium-scale farming sectors. Production from large-scale maize farmers is anticipated to decline by 50 percent on a yearly basis, although the output from this sector only represents about 5 percent of the total domestic output.

The sorghum output is forecast to remain virtually unchanged, while production of millet is foreseen to decrease by 24 percent, driven by lower plantings. Early projections for the 2018 winter wheat crop, which is currently being planted, points to a 41 percent production fall relative to the previous year, mostly based on expectations of a contraction in the sown area.

Production of beans, groundnuts and rice is, however, forecast to increase in 2018. In addition, larger plantings for tobacco crops are foreseen to drive production upwards.

Supply situation expected stable in 2018/19

Despite a reduced maize output in 2018, supplies are forecast to be sufficient in the 2018/19 marketing year (May/April). This situation reflects the country’s large national stocks, following the record 2017 output, which are estimated to be around 0.8 million tonnes. Of this volume, the Food Reserve Agency is estimated to hold 0.6 million tonnes.

Prices of maize down in 2018

Although prices of maize grain have risen since the start of 2018, in April they were still below their year-earlier values, mostly on account of the good supply situation. Similarly, prices of maize meal products were also lower on a yearly basis in April.

The rise in maize prices has contributed to a small uptick in the food inflation rate, estimated at 6.5 percent in April compared to 6 percent in the corresponding month of 2017. An increase in fuel prices in February, supported by higher international oil prices and a weaker currency, also contributed to the higher inflation rate.

Food insecurity expected to intensify in some southern regions

Food insecurity is expected to intensify in southern areas that were most affected by the dry spell. The results from the annual Zambian Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s evaluation are expected to be available in June/July and will provide the official estimates on the number of food insecure. In 2017, an estimated 77 000 people required food assistance, well below the 2016 level when about 1 million people were food insecure.

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