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FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to Swaziland, 24 July 2015

FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to Swaziland, 24 July 2015
Jul 2015

Highlights

  • Despite favourable rains at the start of the 2014/15 cropping season, an extended dry period between January and March 2015, a critical maize crop development stage, resulted in widespread crop losses and reduced yields, mainly affecting the less productive agro-ecological zones.
  • Reflecting mostly the impact of rainfall deficits, national maize production in 2015 is estimated at 81 623 tonnes, 31 percent below the bumper 2014 output and 6 percent lower than the five-year average.
  • At the subnational level, maize harvests in the agro-ecological zones of the Lowveld and Lubombo Plateau are about half of their average levels. However, average harvests in the more productive Highveld and Middleveld regions averted a steeper production decline at the national level.
  • A worsening of pasture conditions is expected in the second half of 2015, despite some respite from improved rains in April and May. As a result, there is a concern for livestock conditions until the normal seasonal start of rains in October 2015.
  • The total cereal import requirement in the 2015/16 marketing year (May/April) is estimated at 137 701 tonnes, comprising of 43 000 tonnes of white maize (for human consumption), 45 000 tonnes of yellow maize (for feed), about 26 000 tonnes of wheat and approximately 24 000 tonnes of rice. Although maize imports by the National Maize Corporation are expected to meet the estimated requirements, tighter regional maize supplies and rising prices in South Africa, the country’s main source of grains, could put upward pressure on domestic maize prices.
  • The poor rainfall season of 2014/15 has negatively impacted on the food security situation of a large number of vulnerable people. Overall, the high dependence on rainfed maize production in marginal areas, the very low income levels of rural small holders, poorly integrated food markets, and high import prices of food and agricultural inputs, together with the pervasive effects of high rates of HIV-AIDS among wage earners, are the main drivers of food insecurity and exacerbate households’ vulnerability.
  • Therefore, the poor cropping season of 2014/2015, though not particularly remarkable at the national level, had a clear impact on food security and disrupted five consecutive years of declining rates of food insecurity.
  • An estimated 50 000 people (5.5 percent of the population) are now severely food insecure and in need of assistance, with another 18 percent moderately food insecure. This 23.5 percent overall food insecurity is in sharp contrast with the very low 3 percent registered in 2014.
  • The Lubombo region has the highest rates of food insecurity. About 11.3 percent of the population is classified as severely food insecure and a further 28.2 percent were assessed to be moderately food insecure. Furthermore, the duration of households’ maize stocks registered sharp decreases, notably in the Lubombo Plateau region, where stocks for human consumption declined from five to two months. The Shiselweni region is also affected by low maize stocks, but to a lesser degree, while household stock levels in the remaining two regions remained more or less unchanged.
  • Markets play a major role in the supply of maize to households and nearly one-third of the rural population has high or very high expenditure on food, particularly in the Lubombo and Shiselweni regions. Accordingly, households have little capacity to respond to the combined effects of production shortfalls and increased market prices, and can quickly fall further into food insecurity.
  • Chronic malnutrition remains a grave concern in Swaziland, affecting one out of four children under five years, and is more pronounced in rural areas and among orphans and vulnerable children.
  • The near certainty of a moderate to strong El Niño event during the end of 2015, likely to extend into 2016, and current seasonal forecast information, raises concerns that the 2015/2016 cropping season may also be characterized by poor seasonal rains. The Government needs to give this scenario serious consideration in view of the potential impact on food security.