The 2017/2018 Dry Spells: Should Zambia Panic?

By IAPRI

The dry spell experienced in January 2018, mostly in the southern parts of the country, is generating anxiety in the country and raising fears that Zambia might be food insecure in 2018. These concerns are largely directed towards the southern regions of the country, that is, Western, Southern, Lusaka and some parts of Eastern and Central Provinces. Some stakeholders contend that there will significant reductions in maize availability in the 2018 marketing season, and argue in this regard, that Zambia is headed for a disaster. Yet there is a high likelihood that the northern parts of Zambia are poised for a good harvest. The uncertainty about the upcoming harvest may lead to decisions that are not backed by empirical evidence or at best based on partial information leading to negative agricultural and economic outcomes.

Against this background, IAPRI has continued to assess the situation taking into account various factors including current maize stocks vis-à-vis consumption requirements, the rainfall patterns, and the regional situation in order to provide relevant evidence-based recommendations. However, it is important to note that the Crop Forecast Survey (CFS) conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in conjunction with the Central Statistical Office (CSO) around March of every year, after most rain fed crops have achieved physiological maturity, will provide a more accurate position on expected maize production in the country.

Outside the CFS, IAPRI produced indicative maize crop production scenarios for the 2018 marketing season using rainfall forecasts from the Meteorological Department and past CFS maize production data. Results generated provide more empirically grounded information to guide policy discussions to avoid knee-jerk policy decisions. Our conclusion based on this comprehensive analysis suggests that, there is no need to panic because the country is likely to remain food secure given the current maize stocks, and that national maize production is projected to only marginally reduce. However, areas hardest hit by the dry spell, may require some buffer maize stocks to improve accessibility and that some households may need to be assisted through cash transfers due to crop failure.

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