As the lean season nears an end in Southern Africa, maize supplies and prices remain mixed across the region, according to the latest FEWS Net alert. In Zambia and Tanzania, maize supplies have improved slightly due to ongoing harvests; in contrast, southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe are seeing below average maize supplies due to poor 2015-2016 production levels. Maize prices are following a similar trend, with price decreases in Zambia, northern and central Mozambique, and northern Malawi and either stable or abnormally increasing prices in southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In both Malawi and Mozambique, prices remain significantly higher than those seen in May 2015, as well as higher than five-year averages.
Poor harvests and mixed prices continue to impact households in the region, particularly in regards to access to cash and in-kind payments typically earned during the harvest period. More well-off households that typically provide labor opportunities have been less able to do so due to decreased production; this has hurt the ability of poor households to earn income and purchase food from markets during the lean season.
FEWS Net also reports that La Niña conditions, which are expected for the start of the 2016/17 agricultural season, typically bring with them above-average rainfall in Southern Africa for December-March.
In Ethiopia, poor Belg harvests at the start of the year significantly reduced harvests and livestock productivity, resulting in more than 10 million people needing emergency food assistance. Farmers in East and West Hararghe were forced to completely skip seasonal planting following the poor Belg rainfall in February and March.
Rainfall increased significantly throughout April and May, but this increased precipitation had both positive and negative impacts. In some areas, the increased rainfall led to improved pasture conditions, Belg cropping prospects, and water availability. However, the rains led to severe flooding and landslides in other regions, including Fafan and Korahe zones in Somali, Gabi zone in Afar, Arsi and East Shewa zones in Oromia Regions, and Dire Dawa. This flooding destroyed crops and displaced as many as 196,000 people; these displaced populations will need both immediate and longer term emergency assistance.
FEWS Net forecasts the 2016 Kiremt season in Ethiopia (from June through September) to see average to above average rainfall, further improving crop and livestock conditions in some areas but posing additional flooding and landslide risk in others.
Finally, in Nigeria, conflict continues to be the main cause of above average food prices and lowered food access, says FEWS Net. In northeast Nigeria, households affected by continued sporadic conflict have seen reduced labor opportunities and regional food flows, as well as significant internal displacement. Staple food prices have also remained above average in the area, limiting households' access to food and leaving many in Phase 3 (Crisis) food insecurity through at least September.
In other regions of Nigeria, FEWS Net reports that most households will rely on markets for food through September, with early green harvests, wild food collection, and livestock sales providing additional food and income sources. Most areas throughout Nigeria, with the exception of the northeast, will remain in Phase 1 and Phase 2 (Minimal and Stressed, respectively) food insecurity levels through September.
Fuel prices remain a concern in Nigeria, with prices increasing by about 67 percent between April and May. This has led to increased transportation costs and staple food prices and has driven the inflation rate to 13.7 percent. The Nigerian Naira also continues to depreciate, further reducing many households’ purchasing power and food access in both urban and rural areas.
By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI