ANGOLA* (11 February)

Conditions have so far been generally favourable for crops in most parts of the country. Despite a slow start of the season with below normal rains in southern areas until December, widespread rains in January have significantly improved conditions for crops, particularly in cereal growing areas of the centre and the south. However, agricultural activities and the food supply situation continue to be hampered by security constraints in several parts of the country. The early planted crops have reached maturity, and a near normal harvest is expected.

The food supply situation remains tight in several parts of the country, largely due to the continuing tense security situation. Food aid pledges by donors amount so far to 273 000 tonnes, of which 167 000 tonnes have been delivered so far. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country in April/May to review the harvest outcome and estimate the cereal import and food aid requirements for 1998/99.

BOTSWANA (10 February)

Following generally sparse and below normal rains in most parts of the country between October and December, abundant and widespread rains were received in January 1998, becoming heavy in the north and lighter in the south. This led to a sharp increase in area planted and improved conditions for crops now at emergence and vegetative stages. As a result of late planting in several areas, timely and well distributed rains in February and March will be critical for crops. Seed supply is reported to be adequate to meet normal requirements.

The national food supply situation remains generally satisfactory. The level of stocks held by the marketing board and by commercial millers is considered to be adequate to meet needs for the rest of the marketing year which ends in March. However, given the low harvest of the 1996/97 season and the possibility that many farmers took advantage of favourable prices to sell most of their grains to milling companies, farm level stocks is expected to be very low.

LESOTHO (10 February)

Prospects are very poor for the 1997/98 harvest. The crop season has been marked by generally erratic and below normal rainfall between September and December, with high temperature in many areas which further reduced the level of soil moisture. As a result, early planted crops suffered serious water stress and planting was delayed in many areas. Widespread rains in January significantly improved conditions of crops and encouraged some farmers to plant more land. This will increase the size of area planted which was forecast in early January at only a third of the 1996/97 level. Seed and fertilizer supply are considered adequate. However, more rains are needed in February and March for late planted crops to complete their growth cycle. A prolonged dry period associated with El Niño could lead to crop losses from 25 to 50 percent of the 1997 harvest.

Following a below average cereal harvest in 1997, the food supply situation remains tight. Stock levels are relatively low, representing about two month consumption needs in January. Little food aid is expected during the current marketing season as food aid pledges of 13 400 tonnes have already been delivered.

MADAGASCAR (10 February)

Despite a late start of rains which delayed the transplanting of rice in some areas, favourable rains were received in most areas in December, January and the first two dekads of February. The area planted is reported to be normal but may be somewhat reduced as a result of the delayed start of the season. However, the persistence of swarms of African Migratory Locust (Locusta migratoria capito) continue to be the major threat to the 1998 crops to be harvested in March/April. Locust movements are reported in the southern and south-western parts of the country but also in western and central major agricultural areas. Aerial and ground control operations are in progress. However, given the potential impact of locusts on crops, harvest prospects are uncertain.

The national food supply situation is generally satisfactory except in the southern areas where the 1997 production was reduced by the combined impact of locusts and drought. Food aid pledged by donors amounts to 29 500 tonnes, of which 16 000 tonnes have been delivered.

MALAWI (9 February)

The outlook for the 1997/98 cereal crop is generally good. Despite a late start of the season, rainfall in most parts of the country has been so far very favourable this year. The rains have been generally light in the south but heavy in the north, resulting in flooding in some areas with losses of property and lives. Total area planted is expected to be comparable to the 1996/97 level but may be somewhat reduced as a result of the late start of rains. The supply of major agricultural inputs is considered adequate. Harvest prospects are therefore generally favourable for northern and central areas as well as for early planted crops in the south. For late planted crops in the south, much of the outcome will depend on continued rains during the next few weeks of February and March.

The national food supply situation remains tight, following a reduced cereal harvest in 1997. The cereal import requirements is estimated at some 300 000 tonnes of maize and the government has appealed for international assistance to import part of its food needs. Food aid pledges by donors amounting to around 10 000 tonnes of cereals have been delivered.

MOZAMBIQUE* (10 February)

Crops continue to benefit from favourable conditions in most parts of the country despite concerns over a possible El Niño- induced drought. Rains started early in September in the southern areas, gradually reaching central and northern major agricultural provinces. Rainfall in December and January was normal and crops are reported in good vegetative conditions. Seed and fertilizer supply is reported to be adequate. A few areas of concern include the western provinces of Tete and Manica, where dry spells in November and December and floods in January have affected crops in some districts. The wet weather which continued in February with heavy rains could affect yields in northern and central areas with waterlogging of crops and loss of soil nutrients. Initial indications are that area planted this year could be at least similar to the 1996/97 level. A near normal harvest of cereal and other crops is expected provided good weather conditions prevail in the remainder of the season.

Following a good harvest in 1997, the national food supply situation is generally satisfactory and a stable flow of grain is reported from surplus areas in the centre and the north to southern districts. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is scheduled to visit the country in April/May to review the harvest outcome and estimate the cereal import and food aid requirements for 1998/99.

NAMIBIA (10 February)

Weather conditions have so far been favourable in most crop growing areas of the country, reducing concerns over an early drought in January/February. Rainfall since January has been widespread and heavy in some areas, providing substantial improvement in crop growing conditions in the north-east and Caprivi regions. Pastures have also benefited from these favourable conditions. However, rains are still needed in February and March to bring to maturity the crop which was mostly planted in late December and January. A prolonged dry spell in February/March would adversely impact yields for the late planted crops. This could lead to a harvest of some 10 to 20 percent below last year’s bumper crop.

The food supply situation continues to be satisfactory. Following a good cereal crop in 1997, available supply and planned commercial imports should cover consumption requirements until the next harvest in April.

SOUTH AFRICA (12 February)

Rainfall in late December and much of January was abundant, covering most parts of the country. This provided much needed relief for crops, particularly in western and eastern areas which received little rains during the first two decades of December. Crop growing conditions have now improved substantially. However, as a result of the poor December rains and subsequent late planting of crops, especially in Free State, Mpumalanga and Northwest Provinces, maize production is expected to be reduced by about 15 per cent, compared to last year. Furthermore, the first dekad of February was marked by above average temperatures and below average rainfall over much of the country at a time when a large part of the maize is coming into the critical pollination stage. A prolonged dry spell in the coming weeks would seriously affect this portion of the crop.

However, as a result of the recent good rains, dams have been filled and soil moisture raised, and particularly in commercial farming areas, the availability of irrigation will help cushion the impact of a drought. Nonetheless, an extended drought could lead to a crop of up to 20 percent less compared to last year. This would seriously reduce the country’s ability to export maize, particularly to needy countries in the sub-region.

The overall food supply situation continues to be satisfactory. The wheat crop harvested in November 1997 was above-average at about 2.3 million tonnes but much below last year’s good crop. The aggregate 1997 cereal crop is estimated at 11.9 million tonnes, which was also above average but lower than the previous year’s bumper crop.

SWAZILAND (12 February)

Weather conditions have been generally favourable since October with normal to above normal rains falling over most growing areas. In keeping with contingency planting measures suggested by the government, farmers started to plant early, especially in the Low Veld. Fast maturing and drought tolerant maize varieties were used in drought prone areas. Area planted to maize is expected to be slightly lower than last year’s level, largely as a result of crop diversification by some farmers. The early planted crop is now reported at the tasselling to grain-formation stages, while the late planted crop is at the late vegetative stage and in good condition. Harvest prospects are generally good but yields may be somewhat affected by above normal rains in several areas which may cause the leaching of nutrients and weed infestation.

The national food supply situation for the current marketing year (1997/98) is expected to remain satisfactory. Available supply and planned commercial imports are also expected to cover consumption needs for the rest of the season.

ZAMBIA (11 February)

Early prospects for the 1998 cereal crops are generally favourable so far in major growing areas. Following moderate to heavy rains in many areas in November and December, widespread abundant rains were received across the country in January and early February. While the rains have largely benefited crops, waterlogging and loss of soil nutrients are reported in some areas and may negatively affect yields. Initial indications are that planting will be near the 1997 level in the northern highly productive areas and slightly lower elsewhere, with a trend towards diversification from maize to millet/sorghum, but also other crops such as paprika, sunflower, oilseeds, cotton and tobacco. Overall, in southern and western provinces which are generally vulnerable to drought, diversification to non-cereal crops in areas of concern by the impact of El Niño may account for 30 percent of the crop. Area planted by small scale farmers may have also been limited in some areas due to lack of credit and input distribution. The effective demand for fertilizer is reported to be low as prices appear to be out of reach for small farmers.

The national food supply situation for the 1997/98 marketing year remains relatively tight. However, most cereal requirements are expected to be met through commercial channels. Substantial import contracts have been arranged by the Government and private traders, part of which will be placed in a reserve stock and improve the stock levels.

ZIMBABWE* (11 February)

Moderate to heavy showers were received in November and early December over the northern and central areas of the country. Planting in southern districts began in late November while it was reported to be at an advance stage elsewhere with the early planted crops at late vegetative to flowering stages. Widespread rains have continued to benefit crops across most parts of the country. The current rains have especially improved the situation in the southern half of the country where dry conditions had persisted, and some planting and replanting was reported in January. In general, the late arrival of rains, coupled with repeated drought warning, resulted in a reduction of planting compared to 1997.

More rains are needed in February and March for crops to reach maturity, particularly in southern areas. A prolonged dry spell or an early end of rains in February could lead to an overall loss of some 10 to 20 percent of harvest compared to the 1997 level. Meanwhile, the food supply situation is relatively tight. Following the recent food riot in the capital, the Government is striving to reduce the price of maize and has released part of the strategic Grain Reserve on to the market. For the upcoming marketing year, there may be less carryover stock available to help cushion the impact of a drop in output, and the country may become a net importer. Targeted assistance may also be required for vulnerable population groups in regions of the south that will have a poor harvests as a result of erratic rainfall.