Zambia's staple crop production hard hit by El Niño - international assistance required

In 1997/98, Zambia's production of maize - the staple food crop - fell by 43 percent over the previous year. According to the report of an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country in April/May, "Of all the countries of southern Africa, Zambia appears to have suffered the most from El Niño-related weather anomalies." The northern part of the land-locked country was flooded by abnormally high and incessant rainfall during the growing season, while the southern part experienced near-drought conditions.

In addition to the impact of the weather on food security, a serious cattle disease -thileriosis, or "corridor disease" - caused widespread livestock losses in the Southern Province. The oxen population - a major source of draft power for the small-scale farmers - has been drastically reduced.

Cereal imports for the 1998/99 marketing year (May to April) are estimated at 660 000 tonnes. With commercial cereal imports anticipated at 364 000 tonnes, the uncovered deficit, including emergency food aid estimated at 45 000 tonnes, amounts to 296 000 tonnes.

The Special Report issued by the mission warns that, "Current import capacity of the country is extremely low, with foreign exchange reserves enough to cover only about six weeks of imports of goods and services. International assistance, in the form of grants, concessionary imports and targeted food aid, will therefore be required."

24 June 1998 

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