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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 16-November-2016


  1. Above‑average rainfall conditions forecast for 2016/17 cropping season

  2. Drought‑affected 2015/16 season resulted in 31 percent decrease in maize output

  3. Increased quantities of cereal imports required, with grain expected to be also sourced from outside subregion

  4. Food insecurity worsened significantly with food insecure population forecast to rise to about 4 million people in first quarter of 2017

Forecasts point to enhanced chance of above‑average rainfall conditions during 2016/17 cropping season

Planting of the 2017 cereal crops is underway and is expected to be completed early next year. Rainfall forecasts for the 2016/17 main summer cropping season (November‑June) indicate an enhanced chance for above‑average rainfall conditions; this is in contrast to the severe dryness that adversely affected the previous season.

The agricultural productive capacity of farming households is expected to be further constrained this year, particularly in regard to access to fertilizer and seed supplies that is reflective of two consecutive years of below‑average harvests. In response, FAO is supporting households in the most affected southern districts with agricultural inputs, as well as subsidized stock feed. The Government is also continuing to facilitate improved access to agricultural inputs, targeting 800 000 vulnerable smallholder farmers through the Presidential Input Scheme as well as commercial farmers through the Command Agriculture Programme. In addition the Government is investing in the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure. Although an expansion in 2017 maize plantings is not foreseen, based on the current weather forecast, yields for the 2017 crop are expected to rise above the reduced levels of 2016.

El Niño drought caused decline in 2016 cereal output

Total cereal production is estimated at about 636 000 tonnes, 27 percent down from the drought‑reduced 2015 harvest and approximately half of the previous five‑year average. The bulk of the decrease reflects a reduced maize harvest, estimated at 512 000 tonnes, 31 percent down on a year-on-year basis. Aggregate small grains (millet and sorghum) production is also estimated to be at a well below‑average level, although only slightly down from the previous year’s output. The poor 2016 production was largely driven by El Niño‑induced drought conditions that particularly affected southern and western provinces.

Larger import needs following two consecutive seasons of well below‑average harvests

On account of the reduced 2016 cereal harvest and minimal carryover stocks, the cereal maize requirement for the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March) is estimated to be close to 1 million tonnes (assuming an unchanged per caput consumption rate). The country is expected to satisfy a large proportion of their import needs with supplies from South Africa and Zambia, which has, however, recently implemented an export ban. Given the limited exportable availabilities within the subregion, imports are also expected to be sourced from outside of Southern Africa.

Although the strong US dollar (the country’s dominant currency in the multi‑currency system) has lessened imported inflation, particularly from South Africa, liquidity constraints have dampened domestic demand and constrained economic performance. In response, the Government is planning to issue bond notes in November to boost liquidity and help augment the country’s import capacity.

Maize meal prices decrease

Maize meal prices, in contrast to neighbouring countries, have been stable and declining during much of 2016. In September 2016, prices of maize meal were between 40 and 55 percent lower than their year‑earlier values. Overall, the country has experienced deflationary conditions in 2016 that were mainly sustained by the stronger US dollar compared to the South Africa rand (the country’s main trading partner) and liquidity constraints that has contributed to limiting demand.

Increased numbers of food insecure in 2016/17

Food security conditions deteriorated significantly in 2016, driven principally by the drought‑reduced agricultural production, which followed an already poor 2015 agricultural campaign. The consecutive poor harvests have severely eroded households’ productive capacity, increasing their vulnerability to further shocks. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) projected that an estimated 4.07 million people (44 percent of the rural population) would be food insecure during the peak of the lean period, between January and March 2017, approximately 44 percent higher than the 2.83 million people estimated in the first quarter of 2016. In the current October‑December period, 33.1 percent (approximately 3 million people) of the rural population are estimated to be food insecure. The highest rates of food insecurity are in the provinces of Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland North, corresponding to the areas that were most affected by seasonal dryness; these provinces also had the highest levels of food insecurity in 2015/16.

Government and partner organizations are targeting the entire food insecure population for assistance, with both in-kind as well as cash-based programmes, which have been harmonized between the implementing organizations so that the transfer value is USD 7, reflecting the latest market assessments.