Lesotho + 8 more

SADC Food Security Ministerial Brief: 28 Mar 2003

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) convened a Regional Dialogue on Agricultural Recovery, Food Security and Trade Policies in Southern Africa from 26-27 March 2003 in Gaborone, Botswana. This regional policy dialogue aimed at identifying and articulating key policy constraints to agricultural recovery, trade and the food security requirements in response to the 2002 food emergency. Longer term perspectives and efforts towards food security were presented and discussed. The Policy Dialogue aimed to build consensus amongst stakeholders and partners on high impact strategies and the next steps needed to ameliorate the food security policy environment in southern Africa. The Dialogue was attended by over 90 policy and other experts from the national, regional and international levels. The major conclusions and recommendations of the dialogue will be presented to senior officials and FANR Ministers in SADC to help stimulate required policy reforms.


According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), good policies alone may not be enough to ensure food security. Appropriate policies must be accompanied by effective investments in agriculture, human capital and related activities aimed at increasing productivity. Current policies and investment levels in smallholder agriculture in the region are inadequate to alleviate the underlying causes of food insecurity, including poverty and malnutrition. To implement good policies and programmes to effect change will require effective public institutions and serious commitment by senior policy makers. Such efforts may require acknowledging food as an essential human right. This raises issues of governance, how food policies are implemented, whether people in need actually have food available to them, and what course of action can be taken for redress, if necessary. The rights-based approach would (or should) facilitate broad-based action for food security involving non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and the private sector, and must empower the poor. Reaching the stage where everyone’s right to food is protected will take a long time and fighting hunger with this vision will not be cheap. But each step taken will go a long way towards achieving the goal. And, as IFPRI concludes, why do we pursue policies for food security if not for ethical reasons? Southern Africa, other developing countries and the larger world must take serious steps along the rights approach: the hungry have little time to wait.


SOURCE: SADC REWU. Excludes Angola, DRC, Mauritius and Seychelles.
*2003/ 04 based on preliminary forecasts and low production scenario.

In most years, through the combination of national maize production and opening stocks, there are adequate maize supplies within SADC to meet the region’s consumption requirements. The graph above shows maize supply and demand in the SADC region since 1996. While actual production levels were adequate to meet consumption requirements in some years, production plus opening stocks consistently exceeded or met requirements prior to this past year.

The country graphs show that Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and normally Swaziland regularly need to import substantial amounts of maize to meet their annual requirements. South Africa is the only SADC country that generally meets its requirements through domestic production. In all other countries the maize gap varies according to the season.

Poor 2000/01 maize production is seen in a number of countries, notably in South Africa which typically produces about half of the total SADC maize. Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia also saw growing maize gaps. Production last year is seen to have increased slightly at the regional level as well as in South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania. Notable drops occurred in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Forecasts for the 2002/03 maize harvest show a slight upward trend, except in Mozambique and Tanzania, and improved regional opening stock levels, especially in South Africa, which can be traded within the region.


Prior to the mid-1980s, most SADC countries had adopted inward development strategies and interventionist/protectionist trade policies. Since then, most countries have undertaken substantial trade policy reforms in line with market liberalization and regional integration initiatives. In Namibia for example, the government has privatized support services such as tractor and seed provision and agricultural boards no longer set prices nor procure agricultural products. Most governments have reduced trade-restricting practices in both tariff and non-tariff areas as part of comprehensive economic reform programmes.

Current trade policies in most SADC countries aim at developing competitive economies with export- led growth, by harmonizing trade policies in line with the SADC Protocol on Trade and other regional and international trade agreements. The table (below) summarizes the evolution of trade policies in the five countries participating in this study, and presents the recent trends in intra- SADC trade.

While substantial steps to liberalize trade have been taken, current policy falls short of the free trade ideal. Many countries within SADC still impose some types of tariff, non-tariff and other technical barriers to agricultural trade. The SADC Protocol on Trade implies policy reforms to dismantle existing protectionist measures. It’s implementation will increase economic growth in the region by directing scarce productive resources to their best uses. It is crucial for every SADC country to understand intra-SADC agricultural trade patterns and policies, and the associated challenges and implications. The development of trade in the SADC region faces many challenges including:

  • Need for freer movement of good & services across borders.

  • Improved competitiveness and quality of standards.

  • Progress towards harmonizing trade policies.

  • Ensuring that SADC trade policies conform to the global economy, as per WTO regulations.

  • Diversification in tradable commodities according to each country’s comparative advantage.

  • Ensuring that membership in multiple trade blocks does not lead to conflicting or contradic- [...]
Trade Policy Evolution and Trends in Intra-SADC Trade
SOUTH AFRICA Substantial liberalization of the economy through reform of the import regime and deregulation of the agricultural sector. Rapid growth of agricultural exports to SADC member states, primarily of high value products.
Much slower growth in imports than exports.
NAMIBIA Namibia has an open economy, with liberalized trade policies in line with WTO commitments. Trade remains dominated by SACU
Angola represents an important potential market.
ZAMBIA Standard trade reforms through SAP during 1990s.
In 2002, introduced a six month ban on imports for 14 Zimbabwean products (most of them agricultural).
Erratic but upward trend in non-traditional ag. exports.
Increased imports especially of primary and high value products primarily from South Africa.
MALAWI Reduced tariff rates to a maximum 25%, eliminated some discriminatory taxes, and broadened tax base.
Import/export licensing has been abolished for most, but not all products. Maize exports require a license.
Declining trade with other SADC countries, including both exports and imports.
TANZANIA Deep economic reforms over the past 15 years with an explicit export oriented development strategy.
Export licenses still required for staple food products. Maize exports may be banned in times of shortage.
Share of exports to SADC in total increased from 3.3% in 1990 to 3.9% in 2000.
Share of imports from SADC (mostly South Africa) increased from 1.2% in 1990 to 12.4% in 2000.
SOURCE: FANRPAN Agricultural Trade Study, 2003


In May 2002, when a number of SADC countries faced the threat of a serious food security crisis, FANRPAN initiated a study to explore the policy and economic dimensions of the food emergency. The study aimed to analyze the policy constraints and opportunities that could affect the humanitarian response and recovery efforts. The study focused on Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, but draws on the experience of other countries facing similar food shortages.

Disaster management, contingency and response plans were either non-existent or inadequate in most countries, and at the regional level, leaving governments ill-prepared to deal with a large humanitarian emergency, despite early warnings from national and regional sources. Early warning systems focused largely on rainfall performance and cereal production, but provided inadequate information and analysis to actually guide emergency response efforts. Much of this information was filled in through joint assessments and monitoring activities, coordinated by the SADC FANR Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee (RVAC). A remarkable degree of consensus amongst government and key partners on the nature, magnitude and location of the problem and the required response greatly facilitated, and helped coordinate humanitarian efforts.

Overall, the humanitarian response by governments, the international community and local partners to the 2002 food emergency was sufficient to avoid a major humanitarian crisis and potential famine in the SADC region. Ad hoc policies on GM food aid resulted in delays in deliveries, increased logistical complexity, higher costs of aid and alternative imports, lower volumes available and increased controls without guarantee of effectiveness. Only Zambia has banned GM food aid in southern Africa.

In those countries with liberal trade and marketing environments, the commercial sector was able to play an important role in helping to fill national food gaps. The capacity and willingness of the private sector decreased as direct government involvement and restrictions increased. Sustainable food security requires agricultural production policies that recognize comparative advantage and liberal trade policies that enable efficient and timely importation of essential food commodities. Countries embracing liberalized trade regimes appear more able to fill national food gaps than those countries where government is directly involved in, or restricts private sector trade. Regional and bilateral free trade agreements can help SADC countries achieve national food security through regional trade integration.

Humanitarian food crises were at least partially averted in Malawi and Zambia this past year because of high volumes of informal cross-border trade, although exact data is not available. Substantial cross-border trade opportunities exist in the SADC region given its large size and diverse agro-ecological and clima-tological variations, which virtually assure good production potential in at least some parts of the region in any given year.

Inappropriate and constraining policies may cause domestic market failures in some countries that perpetuate food insecurity. Within the SADC region there appears to be a direct and positive correlation between the degree of domestic market liberalization for food commodities and the level of national food security. Some SADC countries even use the private sector for targeted safety net programmes.

Subsidies and price controls distort market forces. Untargeted subsidies in particular are costly for governments, have less direct impact on poor households and limit commercial sector participation. In Zimbabwe, price controls on staple commodities resulted in food shortages, high prices in parallel or uncontrolled markets, high profit levels for unscrupulous traders both within and between countries due to price differentials, and serve as a disincentive for food crop production. Pan-territorial pricing serves as a disincentive to traders and producers.

Not all SADC countries hold official strategic grain reserves. Those countries choosing not to hold official reserves are amongst the more food secure countries of the region. Purchasing, transporting, storage and maintenance of strategic resources is costly to government and presents serious logistical and management challenges. Some countries find it difficult to maintain stocks at the desired levels. Strategic reserves may be used strictly as emergency buffers and/or to stabilize market supplies and prices. There are a number of viable alternatives to holding large physical reserves.

The information contained this Ministerial Brief comes from three papers commissioned by FANRPAN. (1) Achieving Long-Term Food Security in Southern Africa: International Perspectives, Investment Strategies and Lessons; (2) Identifying Policy Determinants of Food Security Response and Recovery in the SADC Region: The Case of the 2002 Food Emergency; and (3) Trade Policies and Agricultural Trade in the SADC Region: Challenges and Implications. These papers may be obtained at www.fanrpan.org or by writing Dr. Tobias Takavarasha at TTakavarasha@fanrpan.org.

The SADC Food Security Network Ministerial Brief is a joint product of the FANR, the Regional Early Warning Unit, the Regional Remote Sensing Unit, the Vulnerability Assessment Committee, the Database Project and FANR’s key partners including USAID’s FEWS NET, SC(UK), FAO and the FSRP/Zambia.

For more information, please contact:

PO Box 4046 Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: (263-4) 736051/2 Fax: (263-4) 795283/729196
Email: rewu@fanr-sadc.co.zw Internet: www.sadc-fanr.org.zw