• Maize production varies widely from year to year, given Zambia’s heavy dependence on rainfed cultivation. Thus consumers face wide swings in availability of their primary food staple. • Typical public responses include increased food aid inflows, government commercial imports and stock releases, and tight controls on private sector trade. While intended to improve domestic supply, these public responses can inadvertently exacerbate price instability and food insecurity for Zambian consumers. • Two key private sector responses – private cross-border maize trade and consumer substitution of alternate food staples (such as cassava) for maize - can also help to moderate food consumption volatility. • Together, private imports and increased cassava consumption could fill roughly two-thirds of the maize consumption shortfall facing vulnerable households during drought years. • But policy changes – including more open borders and greater transparency in public import and pricing decisions – will be required to induce the private sector to expand imports, storage and production of key staples and, in turn, improve food security for the poor consumers in Zambia.