Harvesting of the 2011/12 main season cereal crops is underway across Southern Africa and is expected to continue until June/July. Current crop prospects point to a slight decrease in maize production (the main food staple) compared to 2011, following a contraction in the area planted and a protracted dry spell in early 2012.
Irregular rains during 2011/12 cropping season
The first three months of the 2011/12 cropping season (October-December 2011) were largely characterised by erratic precipitation, both spatially and temporally, resulting in localised early season water deficits, particularly in eastern areas. While the start of the following quarter (January-March 2012) was marked by an intense period of torrential rains, associated with the passing of successive tropical cyclones in the Mozambique Channel, a protracted dry period in February impacted southern Zimbabwe, southern and central Mozambique and central areas of Botswana in particular, intensifying water deficits and resulting in permanent crop wilting in some of the affected areas.
The water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI) for maize (Figure 1) illustrates the poor vegetation conditions in southern parts of Mozambique, Botswana, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe, as well as western areas of South Africa’s maize triangle. Although these areas do not constitute the main maize growing regions in their respective country (with the exception of South Africa’s maize triangle), production shortfalls may impact localized food supplies