The 2015/16 agriculture season is delayed in most high producing regions and that acute food insecurity outcomes are expected across the country, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has warned.
In its latest report, FEWSNET also noted that the cost of food and other basic items is higher than normal in rural and urban areas due to the depreciation of the Kwacha.
It says acute food insecurity in southern and western provinces will remain through March and that retail prices for maize and Mealie meal remain above 2014 prices and the five-year average.
‘Maize prices are expected to be high until the next harvest in 2016. The combination of higher than normal input prices and a slow start to the first half of the rainy season is likely to result in later and possibly reduced planting,’ it read.
It added that the prevailing El Niño conditions for the second half of the season is expected to result in a fall in seasonal production below recent five-year average levels.
In its projected outlook through March 2016, FEWSNET says acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue for most parts of the country.
‘The combination of high agricultural input prices, and expected poor rainfall due to El Niño conditions will make it increasingly difficult for both urban and rural poorer households to adequately manage to meet their basic food needs. Green food availability is expected to be reduced which could prolong the lean period.’
‘It is becoming increasingly difficult for households to afford food and basic items because prices continue to rise due to the depreciation of the local currency. Also of concern is the increased number of job losses in the mining towns of the Copperbelt Province,’ it read.
It stated that as the international price of copper falls, mines are beginning to cut back production.
FEWSNET observes that Maize and meal retail prices remain higher than normal, and this is eroding consumer purchasing power.
‘The season is slow to start in most high producing such as Eastern, Central, and Southern Provinces and some low producing areas like Lusaka, Western, North Eastern Provinces with many areas experiencing a 10-30 day delayed onset of rains. Similar to most recent seasons, this rainy season is starting from the west and moving east,’ it read.
‘Planting rains have been received in parts of, North Western, Luapula, western parts of Northern, and parts of Copperbelt Provinces. In areas where the rains have not yet started, farmers are continuing land preparation activities.’
It added that since the price of fertilizer has doubled, there is concern about whether or not most small sale farmers will be able to afford to make this purchase this season.