The Climate Prediction Centre is predicting El Niño climatic conditions during the main 2018-19 growing season with 70-75% probability while IRI has increased the probability to more than 85%. Furthermore, the forecasts suggest a likelihood of a weak to moderate El Niño event. Historically El Niño climatic conditions have resulted in reduced rainfall across the southern part of Southern Africa.
• The 2017-18 rainfall season was characterized by a late start, an extended mid-season dry spell (December-January) and heavy rains from February into April. The dry spell caused moisture stress and wilting of the early planted crops in many areas in Botswana, south-western Madagascar, southern Malawi, southern and some central parts of Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Cereal production during the upcoming harvest season in Southern Africa is expected to be below average, despite the heavy late rains, which benefitted the late planted crops. This is due to a late start of the rainy season, minimal to no rains during the critical planting season (December -January), high temperatures and the prevalence of Fall Armyworm (FAW).
In Eastern Africa, staple commodity prices generally followed seasonal trends in Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia, but atypical price trends were observed in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania (FEWS NET Price Watch, March 2018). Prices are expected to follow seasonal trends through June 2018, remaining below last year and five year USD prices due to a combination of currency depreciation, better production than 2017, and regional imports.
- White maize grain was as usual, the most regionally traded commodity between October and December 2017 because of increasing supply from the previous June-to-July, and ongoing November-to-January harvests (see Figure 1). Recurrent conflict-related trade disruptions from southern to northern markets in South Sudan encouraged alternative imports from Sudan in the north.