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Informal cross border food trade in Southern Africa

July - September 2004

SARPN acknowledges permission from WFP and FEWS NET to post this analysis.
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Informal cross border trade played a significant role in averting widespread food insecurity in Southern Africa during the major regional drought of 2002 and 2003. However, information on informal trade has been mainly anecdotal and its contribution toward redressing supply/demand imbalances has not been adequately quantified in Southern Africa. In the absence of this data, decision making by governments, aid agencies and traders about appropriate levels of commercial imports and food aid is difficult.

Since the volume and direction of trade can change from year to year, monitoring systems are necessary, rather than one-off studies which provide background information or snap shot views of the trade at a given period. In order to address this information gap, WFP and FEWSNET, in collaboration with other partners, have established a monitoring system for capturing informal cross border trade. The monitoring system began operations in June 2004, and currently covers 24 borders shared by six countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s borders with South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana and additional borders between Zambia and the DRC are being assessed for inclusion in the system.

This is the first report on informal cross border trade on food among the selected countries in southern Africa. As the monitoring system is still in its initial stages, we welcome comments and suggestions from our partners and readers so that we can further improve it.

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