The main 2002/03 rainy season has come to an end in most of the country. The season has been marked by erratic rains, with long dry spells and periods of intense rainfall brought by tropical storms. For the season as a whole, rainfall totals have been above normal in the north, normal to below normal in the center, and well-below normal in the south.
The Ministry of Agriculture has not yet released its preliminary harvest estimates, but yield forecasts indicate production may be above normal in north, below normal in the center and well below normal in south. Because the most productive regions of the country will have a good harvest, total national maize production figures may mask severe regional disparities. A lack of markets for surpluses in the north and a growing number of people requiring emergency food aid in the south are both likely in the coming months. As usual, maize is not expected to move from the north to the south because of the high transport costs.
The World Food Program has extended its Emergency Operations in Mozambique through June 2003 and has increased its number of target beneficiaries to 650,000 people. Food distributions to date have not reached targeted levels, mainly due to resource constraints and lack of capacity among implementing partners. Most of the food aid has been distributed through Food-for-Work programs, but more free food distributions are likely as the food security picture worsens in the south, where the production has been extremely poor. Tete and Gaza provinces had the largest number of beneficiaries in March.
The WFP/FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission has begun. The Mission will verify production estimates and evaluate the food supply. The National Vulnerability Assessment Committee will begin the next round of assessments in mid-May. It will carry out a household survey in 27 districts most seriously affected by the emergency, examining the nutritional status of children and the short-term food security outlook.
Retail maize prices have continued to decline in major urban centers. Producer prices have declined very sharply in recent weeks in the main production zones, a trend that is likely to continue as the harvest gets underway. While declining maize prices will help consumers in urban areas and near production zones, similar price drops are not expected in most drought-affected zones in the south where marketing networks and purchasing power remain very weak. Food aid distributions should be monitored closely in the central regions, nearer the productive zones, to avoid creating disincentives for producers.
Review of the 2002/03 rainy season
As the main rainy season comes to an end, it is useful to review the performance of the rains and assess the likely impact on crop production. In general, the cropping season 2002/03 has been characterized by above normal rainfall in north, normal to below normal rains in center and below normal rains in south. The two images on the left show the first half of the season was fairly normal in most of the country, but the second half of the season was below average in the south and part of the central region. For the season as a whole, two major features emerge:
Insufficient rains since December in the southern region and some of the central region led to a severe drought and negative impacts on agricultural production.
Two tropical storms brought excessive rains during the season. Tropical depression Delfina dumped huge amounts of rain on the north and caused severe flooding in January. The central and southern regions were severely affected by cyclone Japhet in March.
Rains brought by the cyclone improved soil moisture for new planting and brought relief for standing crops such as cassava but came too late for most first season crops. Beira city and its outskirts have been affected repeatedly by low pressure systems. One such system brought more than 470mm of rain between 26-28 March, causing at least three deaths and leaving about 15,000 people homeless.
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