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  Zambia

Reference Date: 25-January-2022

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Late onset and reduced seasonal rains, particularly in eastern parts, dampen production prospects for 2022 cereal crops

  2. Domestic cereal supplies in 2021/22 marketing year (May/April) are satisfactory; national maize stocks and exports foreseen to increase

  3. Prices of maize generally stable and slightly lower year on year at end of 2021

  4. Lower prevalence of food insecurity in first quarter of 2022 compared to 2021, but still estimated 1.6 million people need assistance

Poor rains impair 2022 crop prospects

Planting of the 2022 cereal crops has concluded. Early cropping conditions across the country have been mixed and cereal production in 2022 is forecast to decline to a level close to the average, which would be substantially below the near‑record output of the previous year, largely reflecting expected year‑on‑year output reductions in eastern areas.

In the eastern part of the country, monthly rainfall amounts in November and December 2021 were below average and, in combination with multiple days with above-average temperatures, contributed to reducing soil moisture levels that affected planting and crop germination. Remote sensing data in mid‑January depicted low values of vegetation indicators, inferring delays in planting and stunted crop growth in areas where planting had taken place. Conditions are of particular concern in Eastern and Northern provinces that, combined, produce about 30 percent of the national maize output.

In central and western areas, although cumulative rainfall has also been below average, the temporal distribution of precipitation has been comparatively even and consequently vegetation conditions in cropped areas were closer to the average values in early January 2022.

Although most parts of the country received substantial rains in the first half of January 2022, helping to reduce seasonal rainfall deficits and instigate an improvement in vegetation conditions in cropped areas, weather forecasts for February and March 2022 indicate a higher‑than‑normal likelihood of below‑average rainfall amounts. These months are a critical period for the development of cereal grains and water stress may cause large yield reductions. The heavy rains in early January also caused some localized flooding and damage in the Southern Province, while Tropical Cyclone Ana, which made landfall in Mozambique on 24 January, could bring more heavy rains to southern areas.

Bumper 2021 harvest shores up stocks and increases export availabilities

Cereal supplies in the 2021/22 marketing year (May/April) are estimated to exceed the five‑year average on account of the near-record harvest in 2021. As a result, domestic supplies of maize, the primary staple food, are more than sufficient to satisfy domestic utilization and to allow the country to build stocks and increase exports. Maize stocks are foreseen to increase to more than 600 000 tonnes, a well above‑average level. Maize exports are also forecast at an above‑average quantity, and between April and October 2021 (the latest available data), about 60 000 tonnes had already been exported, nearly twice the quantity of the same period in 2020.

Lower maize prices in 2021

Nominal retail prices of maize grain in December 2021 were 8 percent lower on a yearly basis, principally as a result of the effects of the large domestic supplies. Prices of maize grain throughout 2021 were also relatively stable and prices of maize meal products were similarly lower year on year in December.

In the coming months, the impact of the removal of a price cap on petrol at the end of 2021 is expected to put pressure on cereal prices and could amplify seasonal upward trends that typically persist until the harvest period in April. In addition, if rainfall for the remainder of the cropping season continues to be unfavourable, as forecasted, the negative impact on this year’s harvest could add pressure on staple food prices in 2022.

Lower prevalence of food insecurity

About 1.58 million people are estimated to face acute severe food insecurity, IPC Phase 3 (Crisis), until at least March 2022, according to the latest IPC analysis . The current population in need of assistance is, however, about 150 000 people below the figure in the same period in 2021 and importantly, there are no people assessed to be in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). The improvement in conditions is mostly due to the bumper 2021 harvest, which boosted households’ food availability and increased income-earning opportunities through larger crop sales.

Although the total number of food insecure people is lower year on year, food insecurity is still affecting about 9 percent of the national population. Localized shortfalls in crop production in 2021, due to periods of excessive rainfall and the impact of pests, are the key drivers of the current food insecurity situation, whilst structural impediments and high rates of poverty continued to render rural households highly vulnerable to weather shocks. The impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, primarily due to constraints on incomes and consequently economic access to food, has also been a factor contributing to food insecurity.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.