Food security status report (April – June, 2019)

By Alefa Banda and Antony Chapoto

Despite the drop in expected maize production in Zambia due to poor rainfall in the 2018/2019 agricultural season, some Provinces such as Central, Copperbelt, Eastern, and Northern are expected to have a good harvest. Most parts of these Provinces are likely to be food secure as the new harvest characterized by a variety of food crops will be available on the market.

Households who managed to produce a market surplus will have income from crop sales, and this will facilitate access to other food items only accessible on the market as well as help them meet other basic needs. Hence, food security in Provinces that received good rainfall will remain favorable and stable, going into the next lean period.

The general food security status in some parts of the Southern and Western regions of the country is threatened. This is because of the prolonged dry spells during the agricultural season, which resulted in crop failure and reduced water and pasture availability for livestock. This means more relief food may be required earlier than usual.

Unofficial exports of maize grain and mealie meal in border towns are intensifying as producers and traders explore lucrative alternative markets. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, and Zimbabwe will be the major destination markets owing to the reduced agricultural production in these countries in the last agricultural season. Such trading activity though
unofficial ways will contribute towards improved incomes for farming households and traders engaged in such trade due to the high price differential with the neighboring countries. For example, a 50kg bag of maize grain in Kasumbalesa on the Zambian side is about ZMW 200 compared to ZMW 350 in the DRC. The economic distress in Zimbabwe have affected agricultural production, with the country usually experiencing a maize deficit. This year Zimbabwe requires more than 1 million metric tons (MT) of maize
grain to meet its domestic requirements.

The outbreak of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) has compounded the unfavorable effects of the crop failure experienced in the southern half of the country, more especially the Southern Province. Apart from losing out on the expected income from crop sales, districts affected by the FMD are likely to experience a reduction in livestock income sales due to the current restrictions on livestock movements intended to contain the spread of the disease. As a result of limited alternative income streams, livestock farmers and traders may be forced to try and move their animals for business without proper permits increasing the risk of the spread of FMD to other areas.

Some farmers in dambo areas are enhancing their horticultural production to close the income gap created by crop failure and livestock movement restrictions as a result of the FMD outbreak. These factors are creating uncertainty concerning food security in affected areas. In the worst cases, the need to explore and employ social protection measures, such as emergency social cash transfers may arise.

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