Blog Post

Southern Africa to Face High Food Prices, Reduced Purchasing Power through 2025

The current El Niño phenomenon is expected to result in rainfall deficits and below-average harvests throughout Southern Africa in 2024, according to a recent alert from FEWS Net. Poor households throughout the region will likely face reduction in livelihoods and income and difficulty purchasing adequate food.

The latest El Niño event is slated to peak at the end of 2023 and decline by mid-2024. During this time, countries that typically see a production surplus, such as South Africa and Zambia, will experience below-average harvests. Food availability and access in areas that typically have production deficits, including southern Malawi, Zimbabwe, southern and central Mozambique, and southern Madagascar, are of even more concern. Many of these countries already experienced reduced harvests in 2023, as well as economic and food security shocks that limited labor opportunities and increased food prices.

During the lean season (January-March), FEWS Net estimates that more than 20 million people throughout Southern Africa will be in need of food assistance. The situation is expected to become even more dire as stores from the reduced 2024 harvests are exhausted earlier than usual. The lack of domestic cereal supplies means many areas will increase their exports of maize and other staple foods; FEWS Net expects staple food prices in Southern Africa to be above the five-year average throughout 2024-2025. Reduced livelihoods from agriculture, and to some extent livestock production, coupled with rising prices will reduce purchasing power for many households in the region.

The combination of all these factors will likely lead to even higher humanitarian needs in the 2025 lean season. A strong response will be needed from national governments and the international community to meet these challenges.