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Cereal shortage forecast

Lesotho faces a cereal shortage of over 162,000 mt in the 1999/2000 season, a report by the national early warning unit in the Lesotho Disaster Management Authority said this week.

A spokeswoman for the unit told IRIN on Wednesday that the large shortfall was mostly due to a dry spell which occurred in Lesotho from about mid-January until the end of March this year. “This mini-drought occurred during a very critical stage of the growing process, namely the flowering stage.”

According to the report, major millers in Lesotho have indicated that they would import an estimated 135,000 mt of maize and about 71,000 mt of wheat to help cover the projected shortfall, with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) expecting to receive about 23,000 mt of food aid for distribution. Maize and milled maize meal is the staple food in Lesotho.

The report added that the total domestic cereal supply amounted to 255,000 mt, but that total national requirements were an estimated 416,000 mt.

The spokeswoman for the early warning unit said that despite the projected deficit there had been “quite a good sorghum crop.” She said this was because sorghum is “fairly drought resistant and therefore not as affected by the lack of rain.” She said, however, that although it could be substituted for maize and eaten as a kind of soft porridge, “it is not very popular and people still prefer and want to eat maize.”

According to the report, the government was “seriously considering ways of assisting farmers to prepare for the next season.” But added: “Monies which would otherwise be directed to assisting farmers have been diverted to assisting businessmen” whose property was destroyed in last year’s political instability.

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: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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