GIEWS Country Brief: Lesotho 16-February-2016

News and Press Release
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  • Poor production prospects for 2016 cereal crops due to El Nino‑associated dry conditions

  • Maize prices up on year-earlier levels, reflecting higher import costs and reduced 2015 output

  • Food security situation expected to worsen in 2015/16, on account of an expected production decline, poor livestock conditions and higher maize prices

Reduced seasonal rains severely weaken 2016 production prospects

Production prospects of the 2016 cereal crops are poor, reflecting the unfavourable weather conditions since the start of the current cropping season in October 2015. This season has been primarily characterized by below-average rains and higher-than-normal temperatures, associated with the prevailing El Niño episode, with some of the main cereal producing districts receiving approximately 50 percent of their normal rainfall volumes between October 2015 and January 2016. The low moisture levels delayed planting and hindered crop development, with most cropped areas exhibiting very poor vegetation conditions at the start of February 2016. In addition, a cold spell in November caused extensive damage to emerging crops in the mountainous areas. Despite some heavier rains in January that provided partial relief to the dryness, forecasts point to a continuation of below-average rains for the remainder of the season. As a result, 2016 cereal production is expected to remain at a below-average level, following last year’s reduced output.

Pasture re-growth has also been adversely affected by the poor rains, negatively impacting livestock conditions.

Slower rate of maize imports in 2015/16, partly reflecting higher South African prices

Between April 2015 and January 2016 approximately 65 000 tonnes of maize were imported, below the level of the previous year over the same period, when close to 90 000 tonnes were imported. The slower import rate partly reflects the higher maize prices in South Africa, which reached record levels at the end of 2015.

Prices of maize meal increasing

Prices of maize meal have been generally increasing since mid‑2015, largely in response to the steep rises and record high prices in South Africa, the main source of imports. In addition, the reduced 2015 output, the unfavourable prospects for 2016’s crop and the depreciation of the Loti has also exerted upward pressure on prices. In December 2015, maize meal prices were 17 percent above their year-earlier values in the capital, Maseru.

Food security situation expected to worsen in 2015/16

Food security conditions are expected to worsen in 2015/16, on account of an expected decline in 2016 cereal production, stressed livestock conditions and higher maize prices. In 2015, the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee (LVAC) already estimated that 463 936 people were food insecure, representing about 30 percent of the rural population and slightly higher than the previous year.