Zimbabwe + 11 more

Southern African Food and Nutrition Security Working Group (FSNWG): Issue 2, June 2015



Regional crop production, especially for cereal is expected to decrease as a result of the uncharacteristic and erratic 2014/15 rainfall season that reduced the productive capacity of affected populations. While in some countries crop production was mainly affected by prolonged dry spells (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, the maize belt of South Africa, southern Angola and Southern Zimbabwe), others felt the negative impact of both floods and prolonged dry spells (Madagascar,
Malawi and Mozambique). Significant decreases are expected in southern parts of Zimbabwe,
Malawi, Madagascar, Lesotho and South Africa.

Production figures for all cereals are being compiled and will be reflected in the next update.
Meanwhile, Table 1 shows the 2015 maize production estimates, the staple food in the region, in comparison with the 2014 and five-year (2010 to 2014) average production figures. All the countries that have submitted data have registered a maize production decline in comparison with the fiveyear average except for Swaziland and Tanzania. The largest maize production fall was recorded in Zimbabwe (37 percent), Namibia (39 percent), South Africa (22 percent) and Malawi (22 percent).

Maize decline in South Africa (largest maize supplier for the region) poses a serious cause for concern as it might trigger higher food prices in the short term in the deficit markets in surrounding countries as grain is (apart from human consumption) a basic input for the production of red meat, poultry, eggs and milk.

Zambia is the second biggest exportable maize producer in the region and for this season, may have produced just enough to cover domestic requirements and marginally cover the demand from neighbouring countries. This adds to the concerns about the likely increase in the regional market price for maize.

Despite the estimated below-average maize harvests across the region, regional cereal supplies are likely to remain stable from April to September due to significant carryover stock from 2014 particularly in South Africa and Zambia. Production in Zambia is estimated to have dropped by 22 percent below last year production and by 10 percent from the five-year average, but the country will still export a surplus of 876,000 metric tonnes (including carry-over stock). Grain SA, the largest representative of cereal crop farmers in South Africa, expects the country to have a surplus of at least 100,000 metric tonnes of white corn, which may not be enough to meet the needs of neighbouring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland until the next harvesting commences around May 2016.

Besides the negative cropping season, countries in the region may see their situation aggravated by lack of capacity to quickly import the right amount of maize to fill the gap. While it is still uncertain how vulnerable poor populations will adapt to the increased cost of the basic food basket in countries with relatively weak economies (Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe), the current price trend gives indications that the lean season might start early in most countries.

Poor rains have also affected availability of water in some areas. This will affect livestock production in the upcoming months due to loss of grazing land and related animal diseases, particularly in the south of Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. The prevalence of malnutrition points to unacceptably high rates of stunting indicating chronic poverty and food and nutrition security in the region. As shown in Figure 1, all countries have stunting rates above 20 percent, the level deemed unacceptable by the World Health Organization (WHO).