Despite this hopeful start, in December the northern and central regions received at best only one-half of normal rainfall while the southern region received nearly twice as much as normal. It is too early to evaluate the effects of these rainfall patterns on the March/April harvest. If above-normal rainfall continues in the southern region, waterlogging could exacerbate conditions in previously flooded, low-lying cropped zones. Continued below-normal rainfall in the central and northern regions could harm establishment of crops.
At the end of November, cereal stocks had declined to 360,000 MT compared with 460,000 at the end of September. These stocks, combined with expected imports from South Africa and the first crops of the 1999/2000 harvest, will be more than sufficient to meet national needs through the start of the next marketing year in April. November retail maize prices remained stable in Maputo and rose only slightly in most major provincial markets. As maize prices are lower than prices 1 year ago, maize is more accessible to households relying on the market for their supplies. In Nampula Province, where most cashews (an important cash crop that provides 16 percent of Mozambique's foreign exchange earnings) are produced, farmgate prices of cashews have increased substantially compared with prices last year. Strong demand from Tanzania, where supplies are low, accounts for much of these increases. Higher cashew prices will benefit many smallholder farmers and offset rising maize prices.
The National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) and WFP are monitoring food assistance activities in food-insecure districts. WFP is buying local maize for its food-for-work program, which will undertake road improvement, well rehabilitation and drainage construction. INGC and WFP have drawn up a relief plan for responding to waterlogging and flooding in vulnerable areas of Inhambane Province in the southern region.