FEWS Monthly Country Summaries June 2000: Southern Africa
Unseasonal periods of rain experienced throughout the country in the first and second weeks of May caused large pre- and post-harvest grain losses. In communal areas and resettlement schemes of Chiredzi District in Masvingo Province, maize cob rot losses of 40 percent were reported. Losses in Gutu, Chivi and Zaka Districts (also Masvingo) were less serious, but still high at 15 percent. In large-scale commercial areas, particularly Makonde District in Mashonaland West Province, losses ranged from 15 to 20 percent. In small-scale commercial areas, losses due to cob rot and sprouting were 30 to 40 percent. Parts of Matebeleland South and Mashonaland Central Provinces were also affected.
Maize harvesting in most communal areas and resettlement schemes is now complete, and farmers are threshing and marketing their maize. In the large-scale commercial areas, harvesting is still in progress. In light of the extensive moisture damage, a meeting to discuss a possible revision of an earlier maize harvest estimate of 2.1 million MT was held at the Grain Marketing Board on June 9. Although no new figures have been released yet, the new harvest figure could be as low as 1.8 million MT, still higher than last year’s harvest of 1.5 million MT.
Planting of winter wheat is complete. The Cereal Producers Association estimates that about 45,000 ha of wheat were planted for the 2000 season - a drop of about 22 percent from last year. While still early in the wheat season, the Association estimates that this year’s harvest will be 30 percent lower than last year due to unusually wet conditions, disruptions from farm invasions, fuel shortages, high input (mostly electricity) costs, and unattractive wheat prices. A wheat deficit of 155,000 MT tons is expected.
In early June, the Government conducted a Consumption Workshop in order to develop a consensus food balance for Zimbabwe. Using a revised population growth rate of 2.5 percent (the previous rate was 3.1), annual consumption requirements for the 2000/2001 marketing season are estimated at 2 million MT - about 1.5 MT for human consumption and 500,000 MT for livestock feed. Given the official maize harvest estimate and accounting for post-harvest losses, a national surplus of 180,000 MT is anticipated. Imports of about 300,000 MT will be required to reconstitute the Strategic Grain Reserve to its targeted level of 500,000 MT. At that level, national maize stocks should last until the end of June 2001.
Households in Matabeleland South and North, and in the southern portion of Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces could face difficulties accessing maize this marketing season because they normally rely on surplus areas that have experienced heavy post-harvest losses. Households in Hurungwe, Makonde and Bindura Districts of Mashonaland West; Chipinge District in Manicaland; and Gokwe in Midlands that depend on income from cotton sales for food purchases will also have trouble accessing grains. Excessive rain adversely affected cotton yields and hampered their harvesting. In Makonde District about 53 percent of the crop was damaged. In addition, a rise in cotton input costs coupled with a decline in output prices have adversely affected profits.
Although crop estimates are not yet available, falling grain prices and substantial maize stocks in the markets indicate that the harvest was good and national grain availability will not be a problem this year. Other main foods like pumpkins and beans are also plentiful, and only sweet potato stocks, which were planted late and affected by a pest outbreak, are notably in short supply.
Reports from the Agriculture Market Information Center (AMIC) indicated that in mid-May, maize wholesale prices at public markets were generally low. In Lusaka, small traders are buying maize at a relatively low price of K12,000 (US$3.98) per 50 kg bag and selling it at K17,000 (US$5.64). The price that millers are offering for maize grain has also dropped to about US$ 130 per ton in May from US$ 160 per ton paid in March. According to the Food Reserve Agency, this is the best price commercial farmers are currently receiving, and it is expected to fall in the next few weeks.
Following two months of relative retail price stability despite falling maize grain prices, the price of maize meal has also started dropping, slowly for breakfast meal, and sharply for roller meal, as can be seen in Figure 1. The sharp drop in the price of roller meal at this time is not surprising. Demand for industrially-milled meal from low-income groups falls when the supply of grain increases and small hammer mills begin offering lower-priced meal.
There has been a significant drop in the monthly rate of inflation from 2.6% in April to 0.5% in May. This drop is mainly attributed to the falling prices of major food commodities as supply increases following harvesting. The annual rate of inflation also dropped from 26.2% in April to 25.2% in May. Depreciation of the Kwacha against the US dollar continued and closed at the end of May with interbank foreign exchange trading at an average rate of K3,018 to the US dollar.
Sixteen areas have been identified by the National Early Warning Technical Committee as flood-affected and food needs assessments have been requested. Donor skepticism of the normal needs assessment process has led to the consideration of alternative assessment methodologies. Some relief food has already been sent to Western Province districts identified as requiring food assistance after visits there by teams organized by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the Office of the Vice President. Other districts are currently receiving food aid for populations displaced due to war in Angola.
Seasonably dry conditions prevailed in most parts of Malawi during May. In lakeshore and northern highland areas, there were light rains that provide needed soil moisture for winter crops.
Third round crop production estimates were released in late May. They indicate the country may have a food surplus of close to a 900,000 MT maize equivalent. The total maize production figure is 2.47 million MT, and nearly the same as last years’ final figure. Significant drops in maize production were, however, experienced in Karonga, Mzuzu and Salima Agricultural Development Divisions (ADDs).
One of the more remarkable trends in crop production in Malawi has been the increase in cassava production over the last five years. That trend continued this year with an estimated increase of 15% over last year, from 2,422,000 MT to 2,788,000 MT. All ADDs experienced increases in area planted to cassava, ranging from 2% in Karonga to 31% in Kasungu. The threat of drought early in this season compelled some ADDs to embark on extension campaigns encouraging farmers to grow drought tolerant crops, including cassava - a crop which is becoming increasingly popular for both home consumption and sale.
Among the other important crops, sweet potato production is estimated to have increased by 16% from last year, up to 1,969,000 MT, due to favorable weather and readily available planting materials. Cotton production decreased by 31% to 35,600 MT, as a result of a decrease in area planted due to low cotton prices. Tobacco production dropped by 11% from last year to 88,700 MT, due to dry spells that affected nursery establishment early in the season. Groundnut production, estimated at 126,000 MT, and rice production, estimated at 71,000 MT registered drops from last year of 4% and 23%, respectively.
Regional average maize prices continued to drop in May as harvesting of crops gained momentum. All 3 regions of the country registered falling maize prices between April and May on the order of 25 % (see figure).
A further indication of the good availability of food nationally is the high level of official maize stocks, and field reports of high household stocks from last year’s harvest. Government Security Grain Reserves (SGR), Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) stocks and the EC contribution to the SGR totaled 184,450 MT in late May, compared with 11,411 MT at the same period in 1999.
In spite of a good national harvest, parts of Karonga, Chitipa, Rumphi, North Mzimba, Dowa West, and Phalombe Rural Development Projects experienced poor harvests and may have populations at risk of food insecurity. FEWS will visit those areas to determine if there are food insecure households and to estimate the population at risk and the level of food insecurity.
National food availability for the 2000/2001 marketing year will be sufficient to meet consumption needs despite serious flooding that devastated the country earlier this year. The highly flood-affected Southern Region only accounts for 13 percent of national production, and the maize harvest in major growing areas of the central and northern regions is expected to exceed 1 million MT. The impacts of the excess moisture are nevertheless seen in the 7 percent decline in maize production and 16 percent drop in cassava production from last year’s above-average first-season harvest.
A good second-season harvest (beans, vegetables and maize) in September in the southern region is anticipated as a result of good residual ground moisture from above-normal rainfall in May, and a widespread emergency seed distribution program at the beginning of the season. In addition, several NGOs have supplied farmers with free sweet potato and cassava cuttings.
Pasture conditions are good in the northern and central regions, but in the southern region they have been seriously degraded from flooding. Large parts of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane Provinces are still inundated with water and farmers have had to move their livestock to higher pastures. Incidences of parasitic diseases and foot rot, both linked to the excessive humidity, are rising in flood-affected areas of the central and southern regions.
Food access improved throughout most of the country in May when food prices began to decline with the advent of the harvest. However, maize marketing in the flood-affected parts of the central and southern regions continues to be hampered by a shortage of cash among grain traders. Anticipated maize imports of 60,000 MT should help stabilize prices for urban consumers in deficit areas (Maputo, Xai Xai) of the southern region.
Approximately 70 percent of the population displaced by flooding have been resettled or returned to their places of origin. These people lost nearly all of their production, household stocks, and personal belongings. The number of WFP food aid beneficiaries has dropped from 650,000 to 475,000. These remaining beneficiaries will receive food from May through mid-September, although supplies currently in the pipeline are only enough to last until mid-July.
At a conference in Rome during the first week of May, donors pledged nearly US$ 453 million for rehabilitation for Mozambique. The majority of the funds will be distributed over the next year through small-scale assistance projects. Food-for-work programs are underway in selected districts of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, and Tete Provinces. Program activities include reconstruction and rehabilitation of basic community infrastructure such as schools, health centers and roads.
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