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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 12-January-2021


  1. Mixed early conditions for 2021 cereal crops

  2. Cereal production in 2020 estimated above five‑year average

  3. Cereal import requirements in 2020/21 estimated slightly higher than average

  4. Prices of maize mostly stable in second half of 2020

  5. Pandemic and insecurity aggravate food insecurity

Mixed early conditions for 2021 cereal crops

Planting of the 2021 cereal crops was completed in southern and central regions in December and sowings in northern regions are expected to be finalized in January.

The rainy season started in October 2020 and precipitation amounts were generally near average, helping to replenish soil moisture levels following the dry season. A period of below‑average rains was recorded in November in central and northern provinces that led to the development of moderate moisture deficits and caused planting delays. Rainfall levels increased in December across most of the country, except for coastal areas of northern provinces, which led to large seasonal rainfall deficits and resulted in poor vegetation conditions. The formation of Tropical storm Chalane in late December brought significant rainfall in Sofala and Manica provinces, which was previously impacted by Cyclone Idai in 2019. However, the storm is reported to have caused only minimal damage to the agriculture sector.

For the January‑March 2021 period, near‑average rainfall amounts are forecast for most of the country, which augurs well for yield prospects of the 2021 cereal crops. However, there is a higher‑than‑normal probability of increased cyclone activity between January and April 2021 in the southwest Indian Ocean. In addition, the prevailing oceanic and atmospheric conditions also favour a westward trajectory for cyclones, raising the likelihood of landfalls. Such weather events could cause the loss of standing crops and food stocks as well as damage to agricultural infrastructure. Additionally, considering the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, in terms of income and job losses, and consequently a reduced resilience of the population, increased support should be provided to farmers to help improve their preparedness for such weather shocks (please see here for further information).

Cereal production in 2020 estimated above five‑year average

Aggregate cereal production is estimated at 3 million tonnes in 2020, 12 percent above the five‑year average and 5 percent more than the previous year’s outturn. The larger output in 2020 was largely the result of an increase in the area harvested, following substantial crop losses in 2019 due to the effects of two cyclones.

Cereal import requirements in 2020/21 estimated slightly above average

Aggregate cereal import requirements are estimated at nearly 1.5 million tonnes in the 2020/21 marketing year (April/March), slightly above the previous year and 6 percent above the five‑year average. Most of the import needs are related to rice and wheat, quantities of which are forecast at near‑average levels of 615 000 and 650 000 tonnes, respectively. The remaining amount is maize, which is likely to be sourced from neighbouring South Africa. Although supplies of these cereals are estimated to be ample in international markets, the depreciation of the national currency during 2020 has had a detrimental impact on the country’s import capacity and could exert upward pressure on domestic prices during the next months, when supplies from local production dwindle and imports cover an increasing share of domestic consumption.

Prices of maize mostly stable in second half of 2020

Retail prices of white maize increased moderately since June 2020 and, as of November, they were lower on a yearly basis. The generally stable prices are attributed to the adequate national supply situation following the production upturn in 2020. In addition, food markets and internal trade of staple foods were reported to have been functioning relatively normally during the pandemic, limiting localized supply shortfalls and preventing price spikes. However, the depreciation of the national currency throughout 2020 is likely to exert upward pressure on prices in early 2021.

Pandemic and insecurity aggravate food insecurity

Pending the results from an ongoing IPC analysis, food insecurity numbers are not yet available for 2021. In 2020, the number of food insecure peaked at 1.7 million people in the January‑February 2020 period. The number for 2021 is likely to be similar or higher on account of the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, localized shortfalls in cereal production in southern provinces in 2020 and the effects of insecurity in northern regions, where over 550 000 people have been displaced, almost entirely from areas in Cabo Delgado.

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