Home » General » FAO GIEWS Country Brief on Zimbabwe (18-July-2016)

Reference Date: 18-July-2016


  1. El Niño-related drought causes sharp reduction in 2016 cereal output

  2. Increased cereal import requirements in 2016/17

  3. Approximately half of rural population in southern provinces are food insecure on account of drought impact

Sharply lower crop production in 2016, driven by El Niño drought conditions

Harvesting of the 2016 cereal crop was recently concluded in June. Total cereal production is estimated at about 636 000 tonnes, 27 percent down from the already drought‑reduced 2015 harvest and approximately half of the previous five‑year average. The bulk of the decrease reflects a reduced maize harvest, forecast at 512 000 tonnes, 31 percent below 2015’s level. Aggregate small grains (millet and sorghum) production is also estimated to be at a well below‑average level, although only slightly down from the previous year’s output. The poor 2016 production was largely driven by El Niño‑induced drought conditions that particularly affected southern and western provinces. Higher‑than‑normal temperatures compounded the impact of the supressed seasonal rainfall, resulting in crop failures, lower yields and a reduction in the area harvested.

Similarly, the drought resulted in the loss of 23 000 cattle in the most affected districts, while the low water supplies also affected power generation and potable water availability from boreholes for human consumption.

Cereal import requirements in 2016/17 forecast to rise significantly, on account of two consecutive well below‑average harvests

On account of the reduced 2016 cereal harvest and minimal carryover stocks, the cereal import requirement for the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March) is estimated to be close to 1 million tonnes (assuming an unchanged per caput consumption rate). Given the tight supply situation and limited exportable availabilities within the region, the bulk of the maze import requirement is expected to be sourced from outside of southern Africa, while some quantities will also be procured from South Africa and Zambia; approximately 45 000 tonnes of maize, mostly white, were imported from South Africa since May.

Although the strong US dollar (the country’s main currency) against neighbouring countries’ currencies has helped to lessen imported inflation, particularly from South Africa, recent shortages of US dollars in the domestic market is constraining economic performance. This prompted the Government and the Reserve Bank to implement a number of measures to address the low currency supplies and with the objective to boost domestic production, including restricting foreign currency withdrawals and the introduction of import licences for a number of food items, including some cereal products. Increased tobacco sales in 2016, up 6 percent compared to 2015, are expected to moderately boost US dollar supplies.

Maize meal prices remain stable but at high levels

Maize meal prices, particularly when compared to neighbouring countries, have been stable and declining during much of 2016. In May 2016, prices levelled off and were between 15 and 35 percent lower than their year‑earlier values. The strength of the US dollar has contributed to the stable trend in 2016, however, prices of maize meal are generally higher than in neighbouring Zambia.

Food insecurity worsen significantly in 2016 due to drought

The overall food security situation has deteriorated significantly in 2016, driven principally by the drought‑reduced agricultural production. This follows an already poor 2015 agricultural campaign. The consecutive poor harvests have severely eroded households’ productive capacity, increasing their vulnerability to further shocks.

The recent evaluation by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) projected that during the peak of the lean period, between January and March 2017, an estimated 4.07 million people (44 percent of the rural population) would be food insecure. This is approximately 44 percent higher than the 2.83 million people estimated in the first quarter of 2016. During the current July‑September period, 20 percent of the rural population are estimated to be food insecure. The highest rates of food insecurity are in the provinces of Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland North, corresponding to the areas that were most affected by seasonal dryness; these provinces also had the highest levels of food insecurity in 2015/16.

Government and partner organizations are targeting the entire food insecure population for assistance. Approximately USD 723 million are required to address the food security and agriculture needs, however, only 5 percent of the total financial requirements have been secured.