The latest regional food security report paints a mixed picture for Southern Africa's staple maize harvest.
The Southern Africa Food Security Brief, posted on the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) website, noted that "the first half of the [growing] season was marked by a late onset [of] ... poor, erratic rains, resulting in the loss of early-planted crops due to extended dry spells", but "while crop growing conditions improved in the second half of the season, heavy downpours led to flooding and inundation, with the loss of crop fields in areas that lie along the main river basins".
"In some parts, (e.g. southern Malawi), mid-March ushered in another dry spell, once more adversely affecting the late-planted crop (January/February), which had been developing well," the report commented. Given the erratic rains in the first part of the season, which necessitated multiple plantings, and the flooding that occurred in the second half, "overall prospects are not very good".
Without restocking strategic grain reserves, the region would have a small surplus of 704,000 mt of maize.
"However, many countries will need to replenish their strategic grain reserves [including Malawi and Zimbabwe], which have been drawn down considerably over the past few months in response to increasing food insecurity and rising staple food prices among vulnerable populations during the [pre-harvest] lean season. A full replenishment of stocks would wipe out the projected surplus and result in an overall regional deficit of some 875,000 mt," the brief warned.
On an individual country basis, only South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia had projected exportable maize surpluses.
It was therefore anticipated that formal and informal trade would play "a crucial role in closing part of the projected food gaps in the affected countries".
"South Africa's exportable surplus (estimated at about 2 million mt) will be sufficient to cover the import requirements of Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia, estimated at 500,000 mt, while serving the needs of other neighbouring states, easing pressure on available supplies and stabilising prices," the brief said.
For more details: www.fews.net