Reference Date: 24-July-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Poor rains in 2014/15 result in sharply reduced 2015 cereal harvest, with significant declines recorded in southern provinces
Larger maize import requirement estimated in 2015/16, reflecting lower domestic production
Food insecurity increases acutely in southern provinces
Sharp fall in 2015 cereal production
The 2015 maize crop, harvested in June, is estimated at 742 226 tonnes, about 50 percent below the bumper 2014 output and approximately one-third lower than the five-year average. The steep decline is mostly the result of an extended dry period in the first quarter of 2015 that resulted in crop losses, mainly affecting southern areas and a reduction in yields; the national average 2015 yield was one-third below last year’s good level. The less productive southern and western provinces of Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, were the worst-hit areas, with harvests decreasing between 66 and 84 percent compared with the 2014 outputs. In main producing northern provinces, production decreases were less severe on account of more favourable weather conditions.
Sorghum and millet production in 2015 are estimated to have decreased by 71 and 69 percent, respectively. Production of all other food crops also declined, except Irish potatoes which registered a small 5 percent increase owing to a minor expansion in plantings and similar yields to the previous year.
Overall, national cereal production in 2015 is estimated at about 870 000 tonnes, a significant 40 percent below the average and about half the level of the bumper 2014 crop.
Cash crop production in 2015 was also estimated at lower levels compared to the previous year. Production of tobacco and cotton, the two main cash crops, decreased by 26 and 41 percent, respectively. Most cash crops also registered production declines this year, mainly on account of the erratic weather conditions. However, sugar cane production was estimated to have increased marginally.
Maize imports in 2015/16 forecast to increase significantly
For the 2015/16 marketing year (April/March), the maize import requirement, which on average accounts for about two-thirds of the country’s cereal import needs, is estimated at approximately 700 000 tonnes (assuming an unchanged per caput consumption rate), well above the reduced level of last year. This year’s high estimate is a result of the sharply reduced 2015 maize harvest and consequently larger national deficit. With exports forecast to decline in the subregion’s main supplier, South Africa, it is expected that Zimbabwe will mainly import from Zambia, where maize exports are forecast to reach close to 800 000 tonnes in 2015/16.
Stable maize meal prices, but increasing grain prices
Prices of maize meal were generally below their year-earlier levels as of April 2015 and had remained stable since January, with minimal disparities between regions.
In southern provinces, maize grain prices increased between April and July, most notably in Matabeleland South where prices doubled over this period. The poor cereal output in 2015 and tighter supply outlook is expected to exert strong upward pressure on prices in 2015/16 compared to the previous year. Furthermore, with households likely to increase their reliance on market supplies, further upward pressure is expected to be applied to maize prices.
Food insecurity worsens in 2015/16 due to the poor maize harvest
Following a strong improvement in 2014/15, the poor performance of the 2015 cereal crops resulted in a deterioration in food security conditions. The recently-released results from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s 2015 evaluation indicate that 16 percent (1.49 million people) of the rural population will be food insecure during the peak hunger period between January and March 2016, compared to 6 percent (564 599 people) in the first quarter of 2015. The higher prevalence this year mostly reflects the poor cereal harvest and consequently lower households stocks, with the highest rates of food insecurity in the Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, corresponding to the provinces that registered the largest maize production decreases. Compounding the situation are the increasing maize grain prices in southern provinces, while the reduced cash crop production is expected to constrain income levels, further restraining food access.