GIEWS Country Brief: Botswana 16-December-2019

News and Press Release
Originally published



  • Unfavourable weather forecasts reduce production prospects of 2020 cereal crops

  • Cereal production declined to well below-average level in 2019, driven by significant rainfall deficits

  • As of October 2019, prices of bread and cereals slightly higher on yearly basis

  • Food insecurity worsened in 2019 due to reduced agricultural production

Unfavourable weather forecasts reduce production prospects of 2020 cereal crops

Planting of the 2020 cereal crops started in November and it is anticipated to conclude by the end of December, with crops expected to be ready for harvest from next April. Since the beginning of the rainy season in October, precipitation amounts in the main producing areas have been sufficient to facilitate planting operations and support crop germination. For the coming December 2019-February 2020 period, weather forecasts indicate a higher probability of below-average to average rainfall, diminishing production prospects of the 2020 crop.

Cereal production in 2019 declined to well below-average level

The 2019 summer cereal crops (maize, millet and sorghum) were harvested by June. Overall, cereal production is estimated at a low level of 8 000 tonnes in 2019, about 82 percent below the previous five-year average. The principal factor for the significant decrease was the extreme rainfall deficits that adversely affected the harvested area and yields of the 2019 summer crops.
The dry conditions also had a negative impact on the livestock sector and caused a significant decrease in the availability and quality of grasslands, causing a worsening of livestock body conditions and increasing mortality rates.

Increased requirements for cereal imports in 2019/20

The country is a net importer of cereals, with more than 90 percent of the domestic requirements normally satisfied by imports. In consideration of the 2019 reduced output, import requirements are estimated to have increased in the 2019/20 marketing year (April/March) and are anticipated at an above-average quantity of over 410 000 tonnes. Most of this volume is comprised of maize, with imports forecast at 240 000 tonnes. By the end of November 2019, imports of yellow maize, which is primarily used for animal feed, were estimated to have already surpassed the total quantity imported during the entire previous marketing year, reflecting the deterioration of natural pastures in 2019 and, therefore, an increased need for supplementary feed.

Wheat imports are anticipated to reach 115 000 tonnes, about 10 percent above the five-year average.

Prices of bread and cereals slightly higher on yearly basis as of October 2019

According to the latest Consumer Price Index report from Statistics Botswana, the annual food inflation rate as of October 2019 was estimated at 2.3 percent. Prices of bread and cereals, which have the largest weight in the food inflation index, have been increasing since the beginning of the year and were estimated to be 3.5 percent higher year on year in October, mainly reflecting the higher prices in South Africa, the country’s main supplier of grains.

Reduced agricultural production aggravates food insecurity

According to the Botswana Vulnerability Assessment Committee (BVAC), the number of people in need of food assistance is estimated to have increased slightly to 38 300 people in the April 2019 to March 2020 period, compared to an estimated 35 000 people in the previous year. The increase is due to the reduced 2019 cereal harvest and the deterioration of livestock body conditions, which negatively affected the livelihoods of the households, particularly those of subsistence farmers. The food insecure population is expected to be supported by Government programmes through, for example, the provision of urgent basic food relief packages.

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