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Country Briefs

  Zimbabwe

Reference Date: 11-July-2018

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Production of maize estimated above average, but well below the 2017 bumper harvest

  2. Prices of maize generally stable, with slight decrease in April 2018

  3. Number of food insecure expected to increase in 2018/19, with highest prevalence of food insecurity in southern and western provinces

Cereal production in 2018 estimated to remain above average

The 2018 maize, millet and sorghum harvest was recently completed, while planting of the winter wheat crops just began.

The 2018 cereal production is forecast at just under 2 million tonnes, 24 percent lower on an annual basis, but still above the previous five‑year average. Maize production is expected to decrease by 21 percent in 2018 on a yearly basis, while production of sorghum and millet is foreseen to be around half of the high levels registered in 2017. At the subnational level, the largest maize production decreases are foreseen in the southern and western provinces, which experienced comparatively poorer weather conditions.

Crops were affected by a mid‑season dry spell in January, which caused a reduction in yields, while unfavourable weather conditions at the start of the season also contributed to a small contraction in the area planted. Rains improved from mid‑February and were at above‑average levels in northern provinces, partly reversing the damage caused by earlier water deficits and averting a larger decrease in yields. As of June, only localized areas of Matabeleland South and Mashonaland West provinces continued to show water stress (see Vegetation Health Index).

Production estimates for cash crops also point to favourable outcomes. Tobacco and cotton harvests are forecast to increase by 3 percent compared to the last year’s high levels, and the soybean output is foreseen at about 60 000 tonnes, 67 percent up on a yearly basis and a well‑above average level, reflecting a larger harvested area that more than offset a reduction in yields.

Infestations of Fall Armyworm (FAW) persisted in the country. According to the 2018 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (ZimVAC) annual evaluation, the pest mainly affected the late‑planted maize crops, while the majority of farmers reported to not have had sufficient funds to adequately take control actions. The ZimVAC results also indicate that a larger number of households reported FAW presence in 2018 compared to the previous year, although the data does not quantify the impact on production, it is expected to be minimal at the national level.

The Government continued to support agricultural production through several programmes in 2017/18. The Command Programme supports maize and, from April 2018, wheat production of large‑scale farmers (with more than 200 hectares of arable land) through the delivery of fertilizers and assistance with irrigation facilities. In 2018, about 67 000 hectares are expected to be planted to wheat, which, if favourable weather prevails, could boost production compared to the previous year. The Command Programme also expanded its support to include cotton, soybean, livestock and fishery production.

Imports are forecast to remain low in 2018/19

Total cereal imports are forecast to remain at below‑average levels in the 2018/19 marketing year (April/March), on account of sufficient domestic availabilities, reflecting both the above‑average 2018 harvest and large carryover stocks from the 2017’s bumper output. However, an import ban on maize, the Government stopped issuing import permits in early 2017, is still in place. Wheat import needs are foreseen to remain more or less unchanged on a yearly basis.

Maize meal prices generally stable

Overall, prices of maize meal have remained stable since the beginning of 2018, continuing the previous year’s trend. In April, prices generally declined across the country and were at values below their year‑earlier levels. The major change was registered in Matabeleland South province, with a 21 percent month‑on‑month decrease and a 25 percent year‑on‑year decline. The lower and generally stable prices largely reflected the ample national supplies.

The Grain Marketing Board (GMB), the Government parastatal managing the strategic grain reserves, is procuring maize at a fixed price of USD 390 per tonne in 2018/19, unchanged from the previous year, while the private traders are offering a lower price reported to be around USD 300. The GMB is selling grain to millers at a subsidized price of between USD 240 and 270 per tonne.

Lower agricultural output expected to intensify food insecurity in 2018/19

The results of ZimVAC’s evaluation indicate a year‑on‑year increase in the proportion of food insecure during the peak hunger period (January‑March 2019), when an estimated 2.4 million people, about 28 percent of the rural population, are expected to be in need of food assistance. This marks a deterioration compared to 1.05 million people in the previous year, but is well below the levels of 2015 and 2016, when between, approximately, 3 million and 4 million people where in need of assistance, mostly reflecting the sharply reduced agricultural outputs.

At the subnational level, the provinces with the highest prevalence of food insecurity are Masvingo, Matabeleland South and North provinces, traditionally low cereal producing areas.

The deterioration is mainly reflective of the lower 2018 agricultural output and therefore reduced cereal availability for households. In addition, continuing cash shortages and generally constrained economic growth, weighs negatively on households’ purchasing power, partly offsetting the effect of stable and generally lower year‑on‑year grain prices.

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