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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 12-February-2018


  1. Dry conditions lower production prospects for 2018 cereal crop

  2. Prices of maize remained stable in 2017, mostly on account of favourable supplies following bumper harvest

  3. Food security situation improved in 2017/18 compared to previous year, but decrease in agricultural production in 2018 likely to stress conditions

Below-average rains cause water stress and lower production prospects for 2018 cereal crops

Harvesting of the 2018 cereal crops is expected to begin in April. Most of the country received below average rainfall between October 2017 and January 2018. Several provinces recorded aggregate seasonal rainfall volumes of less than 30 percent compared to the average. The only exception is the large maize-producing province of Mashonaland East, where rains have been above average. Water stress has notably affected the early-planted maize crop in Matabeleland North and Mashonaland West provinces (see VHI map for January). However, in late January and early February, heavy rains were observed throughout most of the country partially alleviating the impact of the moisture stress. Moreover, above average rains are forecast for the remainder of February and this could help to partly reverse the damage caused by the water deficits, mainly for the later-planted maize crops.

The infestation of Fall Armyworm, which has spread to all provinces, also poses a further risk to this year’s maize output. Reports indicate that the pest has already affected an estimated 20 percent of the maize crop in the Midlands Province.

The Government has continued to support agricultural production through several initiatives, including the Command Programme, where the Government contracted larger scale farmers to produce maize. As of 17 January, a total of 392 000 hectares of irrigated and rainfed land were registered for maize production, compared to the initial target area of 290 000 hectares. The Command Programme has also been expanded in 2017/18 to include wheat, livestock, soybeans, fisheries and irrigation rehabilitation. In addition, the Government is supporting 1.8 million vulnerable households with subsidized distribution of agricultural inputs.

Overall, maize production in 2018 is expected to decrease compared to the previous year’s well above-average level. This decrease would mostly reflect a reduction in yields and, to a lesser extent, an anticipated decrease in the area harvested. However, the 2018 maize output is still preliminarily forecast to remain above the previous five-year average.

Cereal production reached bumper level in 2017

Maize production in 2017 is officially estimated at a well above-average level of 2.2 million tonnes, significantly higher than the drought-reduced output of 2016. The large year-on-year increase is reflective of an expansion in plantings (estimated at about 1.9 million hectares compared to 1.2 million in 2016) and an upturn in yields, instigated by good rains and extensive input support programmes. On a geographic basis, large increases were estimated in the main-producing Mashonaland provinces in the northeast, while significant annual gains were also estimated in Midlands and Masvingo provinces.

Total cereal production in 2017 is estimated at 2.54 million tonnes, more than double the average.

Imports forecast to fall in 2017/18

Total cereal imports are forecast to fall substantially in the 2017/18 marketing year (April/March), mostly on account of the lower requirements for maize (estimated to be below 10 000 tonnes) from external sources, due to the large domestic harvest gathered in 2017. In the previous marketing year, about 1 million tonnes of maize were imported to cover the supply shortfall following the sharply drought-reduced 2016 output.

Maize meal prices stable

Prices of maize meal were generally stable throughout most of 2017, having seasonally declined between May and September. As of December 2017, maize meal prices across the country were below their year-earlier levels. The lower and stable prices largely reflected favourable national supplies. Maize grain prices have begun to rise seasonally since the end of 2017, but still remain lower on a yearly basis.

For the 2017/18 marketing year (April/March), the Government designated the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), a Government parastatal tasked to manage the strategic grain reserves, as the sole buyer of maize grain, procuring the commodity at a fixed price of USD 390 per tonne. The GMB is then selling maize grain at a subsidised price of USD 240 per tonne. So far, with less than two months of the marketing year remaining, a total of 1.2 million tonnes of maize has been procured by the GMB.

Larger agricultural output improves food security in 2017/18

The results of the 2017 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (ZimVACs) evaluation showed a significant decrease in the number of food insecure. During the current peak of the lean period (January-March 2018), about 1.05 million people are estimated to be in need of food assistance, compared to 4.07 million in the previous year. The year-on-year improvement is primarily on account of the larger 2017 agricultural output and the lower grain prices. The food insecure population is mainly concentrated in Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland North provinces.

With cereal production forecast to fall in 2018, food security conditions are expected to worsen in 2018/19. However, the larger carryover stocks for 2018/19 marketing year will help to partially cushion the impact of a fall in cereal production.

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