Widespread rains occurred in February and March across most of the country, especially in the north. Despite this, crops that survived the extended dry spells in December and January show evidence of reduced yield potential in most areas. Persistent rains are also causing leaching and waterlogging among crops in some parts of the country and limited access to top-dressing fertilizers is causing nutrient deficiency among others. Consumption of the green harvest has started in some areas and this is improving food diversity, consumption patterns, and incomes, especially among poor households.
The heavy rains have worsened road conditions in most parts of the country, affecting marketing activities. Maize grain supplies on most markets are decreasing as the marketing season comes to an end. In comparison to January, maize grain prices for February ($0.35/kg) remained stable and were about 15 percent below the five-year average and the February 2017 prices. The 2018-19 tobacco selling season starts on 21 March and expectations are that tobacco sales could help ease the acute foreign currency shortages.
Most typical surplus-producing areas in the north are expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes due to carry-over stocks from last season, as well as stocks from the 2018 harvests. In the typical grain surplus areas, some poor households will face challenges meeting their livelihood protection needs due to poor livelihood options. Most southern and other typical deficit areas are expected to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in March, and this will extend into April in most areas. Most typical grain deficit areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between May and June as households consume own-produced stocks from the 2018 harvests, which will marginally improve their food security situation.
Between July and September, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across most typical grain deficit districts in the south. In these areas poor households are expected to exhaust their own production food stocks during this period and humanitarian assistance will be required to help households to meet their minimum food needs and protect livelihoods.