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Poor rains delay planting

[Zimbabwe] Crops withered in the field IRIN
Withered crops, like these in Zimbabwe, contributed to the regional food disaster
Rainfall in much of Southern Africa has been "very low" to date, leading to delayed planting in Lesotho, Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique, the UN Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office (RIACSO) said. Farmers who planted despite the less then optimal conditions could face a reduced yield, while the window for re-planting is closing, RIACSO's Southern African Humanitarian Crisis update for 22 December warned. The situation in Lesotho "is particularly problematic" given a current 30-day weather forecast of dry conditions, the update said. It noted that Lesotho received insufficient rains during the last summer season and the winter season failed as well. Lack of inputs have reduced the area planted, and yields are expected to be well below average. The humanitarian update said the situation in Swaziland's lowveld was equally worrisome, as was the situation for non-irrigated crops in the western and northeastern interior of South Africa. Agence France-Presse reported on Monday that according to harvest forecasts, Swaziland will need to import some 86,000 mt of maize next year - more than half of the national demand of 148,900 mt. "This has been necessitated by the ongoing drought which has affected maize production and affected other cereal crops in the kingdom," the agriculture ministry said in a statement. By January, when this year's harvest has been exhausted, the World Food Programme will be feeding an estimated 245,000 people, or about a quarter of the Swazi population. Zimbabwe, which is facing a huge humanitarian crisis, also experienced below normal rainfall in November, but the situation seems to be improving, the update said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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