Southern Africa: Food security update

JOHANNESBURG, 29 August (IRIN) - The food security unit of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) reported in its latest update that while this year's floods had negatively affected the cereal production of many of the region's countries, other crops had benefited from the above average rainfall, resulting in increased agricultural output.
The SADC's Regional Early Warning Unit (REWU) said Zimbabwe - despite floods damage in parts of the eastern and southern areas - was projected to have a maize surplus of 48,000 mt for the 2000-2001 marketing year. It said Zimbabwe had 2.56 million mt of maize available for this period, which it said was sufficient to meet the country's total requirements. They are estimated at 2.51 million mt. REWU said this amount included 500,000 mt of maize for replenishing its strategic grain reserve stocks.

Zimbabwe's national maize output for the 1999-2000 was forecast at 2.15 million mt - equivalent to a 41 percent increase compared with the 1998-99 harvest of 1.52 million mt. It added that production was also above the five-year average of 1.72 million mt. "Accounting for the improved production prospects is a combination of significantly increased area planted and the above average rainfall, particularly during the January-March period," it said.

Production of sorghum/millet had, according to REWU, dropped slightly to 146,000 mt from the previous year's output of 156,000 mt as a result of flood damage. "The 2000 winter wheat crop is forecast to decline to 224,000 mt, down by 96,000 mt from last year's output owing to problems related to invasions of large-scale commercial farms which have adversely affected agricultural activities," said REWU. It added that increased wheat imports of about 155,000 mt were likely during the months leading to the harvest in October.

Namibia, according to REWU, had forecast overall cereal production of 139,000 mt for the 1999-2000 crop season, an increase of 85 percent over last year's harvest of 75,000 mt. The country's production of sorghum/millet - the main grain crop in the northern areas - was forecast to have risen by 79 percent to 86,000 mt against last year's 48,000 mt, while the maize crop has more than doubled from 22,000 mt to 49,000 mt, said REWU.

"Despite the much improved cereal output, Namibia faces a cereal deficit of 140,000 mt for the 2000-2001 marketing year since total domestic cereal supply of 158,000 mt remains insufficient to cover total requirements estimated at 298,000 mt." REWU said the deficits included 56,000 mt of wheat and 84,000 mt of maize which was expected to be fully covered through further commercial imports - mostly from South Africa - as the marketing year progresses.

Swaziland's forecast, on the other hand, had shown a severely reduced maize harvest of only 71,000 mt compared to the 1998-99 season's above average harvest of 112,000 mt, said REWU. It said this year's harvest had been affected by a 10 percent fall in planted area compared to last year and a late start of the rains. "Excessive rains in December followed by flooding in February, which led to water-logging and leaching of soil nutrients, exacerbated the situation," said REWU.

Swaziland, had an estimated total cereal requirement of 213,000 mt while its total domestic cereal availability was estimated at 103,000 mt, including 32,000 mt of opening stock. "Following the poor 2000 harvest, the cereal supply situation is expected to be tight during the 2000-2001 marketing year. A cereal deficit amounting to 109,000 mt - including 66,000 mt of maize - is assessed for the year," the port said.

It said current food security/vulnerability assessments had identified about 1,937 vulnerable homesteads - comprising 13,556 people - as requiring immediate food aid assistance until the next harvest in May next year. "Food aid from the donor community will be needed to cover the unmet import requirement currently forecast at 29,000 mt," it said.


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