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Southern Africa faces reduced harvest

Bad weather has affected harvest prospects in southern Africa, says a special report from FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System. A prolonged dry spell in January hit parts of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and subsequent heavy rains caused flooding in low-lying areas of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.

In Mozambique -- which had not yet fully recovered from last year's floods -- new floods have affected some 400 000 persons, and in Malawi, 200 000 people have been displaced.

Besides displacing people, the floods have ruined crops in the affected areas, endangering the food security of large numbers of families who now urgently need humanitarian assistance. However, so far the impact of the floods is not a significant threat to national food security, according to the FAO report.

In Mozambique, the inundated area is estimated at about 22 000 hectares, against 167 000 hectares lost to last year's devastating floods. But if the heavy rains continue in coming weeks, harvest prospects in Malawi and Mozambique could deteriorate.

Overall, the sub-region's 2001 total cereal harvest is forecast to decline substantially from last year's above-average level because of reduced plantings and lower yields.

Maize accounts for three-quarters of the total cereal production in the sub-region, and FAO tentatively forecasts the sub-region's maize harvest to come in at about 13.8 million tonnes. This would be 24 percent below last year's production and 15 percent below the average over the last five years.

The forecast predicts that the carryover stocks in several countries of the sub-region -- including the largest maize producer and exporter South Africa -- will only be able to partially cover the decline in output. Importing maize from outside the sub-region could be necessary.

The food supply situation is anticipated to be particularly tight in Angola, because of the persistent civil conflict, and in Zimbabwe where production is forecast to decrease sharply. Food difficulties are also anticipated for households in areas affected by floods in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.

12 March 2001

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