The effects of the disruption of the pigeon pea export market on household food security and well-being in Mozambique

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Pigeon pea production in the countryside of Central and Northern Mozambique has grown exponentially over the past decade, on the back of rising demand from India. The high prices, combined with favorable agronomic characteristics, ensured that the number of farmers cultivating this pulse surpassed 1 million by 2016. However, an additional push by the Indian Government to encourage domestic production through increased minimum support prices, combined with good monsoon rains, resulted in a bumper harvest in 2017. Consequently, the price fell significantly and India decided to impose an import quota in August 2017. The reduced access to the only significant export market for pigeon peas precipitated a price collapse to the Mozambican farmer, from up to MZN 50/kg in 2016 to around MZN 5/kg in 2017.

This study surveyed 447 farmers in two districts of Zambézia Province (Milange and Mocuba) and two districts of Nampula Province (Monapo and Mecuburi), to assess the impact of the price collapse on household food security and well-being. The results confirm the importance of the crop, as nearly all farmers (97%) had cultivated it in the 2016-17 season. However, the specific role and importance of pigeon pea differs substantially between the two provinces. Zambézia´s farming communities suffered tremendously because of the price collapse, with actual income from the sale of pigeon peas, per household, coming in at MZN 11,000 less than what they would have expected. Although the survey found the food security situation to be acceptable, it was found that many households, particularly in Zambézia, had to resort to negative coping strategies involving the depletion of livelihood assets. The survey results show that farmers in Nampula have a much more diversified cash crop portfolio, and were therefore much less exposed to the negative effects of the pigeon pea price collapse.

A major recommendation, therefore, is that a coordinated effort should be launched to promote diversification to other crops, particularly in those districts that depended most on income from pigeon pea. The survey also confirms that most farmers are continuing with pigeon pea production. Given its importance, the crop should receive increased attention, on a systematic basis, from various stakeholders, to guarantee its effective inclusion in production statistics and price information systems. Finally, it would be important to promote the domestic consumption of this highly nutritious legume, as it would stimulate food security and at the same time reduce dependence on the volatile Indian market.