GIEWS Country Brief: Swaziland 06-January-2012

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  • Mixed rains during the start of the 2011/12 season impact planting activities

  • Slow down in monthly cereal imports

Irregular rains received at the start of the 2011/12 agricultural season

Despite a normal start of the 2011/12 rainy season (October-March), precipitation levels have so far been erratic. Average rainfall in October was followed by a period of below normal rains in November and the start of December. This has resulted in some early seasonal deficits, particularly in eastern areas, impacting planting activities that normally take place between October and November. However, maize crops are relatively tolerant to water deficits during the earlier stages of development, and therefore an improvement in rains during the second half of the season (as is forecast for January-March) could offset any negative effects resulting from the insufficient rains.

Furthermore, the economic downturn as well as a reduction in revenue from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) and consequent fiscal tightening in 2011, has led to the temporary cancellation of the government’s agriculture input support programme. This may impact farmers’ access to seeds and fertilisers, which in turn will have a bearing on both the area planted and the potential yield performance. As yet however, there is no indication of the size of the planted area. Lower maize imports in 2011/12 marketing year

Monthly maize imports from South Africa (the country’s main trading partner) during the current 2011/12 marketing year (May/April) are below the rate recorded last year, reflecting, in part, the lower national maize import requirement and high prices in South Africa. On average approximately 4 600 tonnes of maize were imported each month between May and November 2011, compared to 6 400 tonnes in 2010. By November, just over half way through the marketing year, imports received from South Africa have satisfied about 50 percent of the country’s estimated import requirement.

The rate of wheat imports in 2011/12 is similarly lower compared to 2010/11, partly in response to the high prices recorded in South Africa. Import requirements for wheat are estimated at 42 000 tonnes. Lower number of food insecure, but poor crop performance in 2011/12 could worsen food insecurity conditions

The Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) estimated that 88 511 people (about 7 percent of the national population and 50 percent below last year’s level) will not be able to meet their basic food requirements and as a result require assistance during 2011/12. The majority of the food insecure are located in the eastern Lubombo region. However, given that most households are dependent on subsistence farming, a potential drop in cereal production resulting from the early poor rains and input access constraints, may combine to aggravate the current food insecurity situation in 2012.