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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 28-August-2020


  1. Cereal production in 2020 estimated at bumper level

  2. Reflecting improved supply situation, cereal import requirements in 2020/21 estimated at average level and below large volume imported in 2019/20

  3. Prices of maize meal declined in May and June and were near or slightly below year‑earlier values

  4. Food insecurity conditions in 2020 aggravated by effects of COVID‑19 pandemic

Cereal production rebounds in 2020

Harvesting of the 2020 main season cereal crops, predominantly maize and millet, concluded in June and production is estimated at 175 000 tonnes, a well above‑average outturn and a significant recovery compared to the drought‑affected harvest in 2019.

In the main cereal‑producing areas in the north and northeast regions, following precipitation deficits at the start of the season, higher rainfall amounts were observed between December 2019 to April 2020. The conducive weather conditions in the second half of the cropping season supported an upturn in yields compared to the reduced levels of the previous year. Localized outbreaks of Fall Armyworm, mainly concentrated in parts of the northeastern Zambezi Region, were reported to have caused some localized damage to the main season cereal crops but, at the national level, crop losses were minimal. Outbreaks of Red Locust and African Migratory Locust were also reported during the cropping season in parts of northern Otjozondjupa, Zambezi, Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Kunene, Kavango East and Kavango West regions. Estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform indicates that a total area of approximately 150 000 hectares of grazing land and 300 hectares of maize and pearl millet (less than 1 percent of the total area planted with cereals) had been affected. The locust outbreaks also pose a risk to the minor winter cereal crops, mainly wheat and barley, which are expected to be harvested from September.

In the western and southern parts of the country, well below‑average seasonal rainfall totals were estimated. The resulting moisture deficits negatively impacted the availability and quality of pasture conditions, mostly affecting the regions of Kunene, Erongo, Hardap and Kharas, and causing a reduction in livestock production. The dry conditions in 2020 in these regions are set against a context of recurrent droughts that these parts of country have experienced in recent years, limiting aquifer recharge rates and increasing water insecurity, which poses a serious risk to agricultural production and domestic water consumption.

Cereal import requirements estimated at average level in 2020/21

Reflecting the recovery in the cereal production in 2020, cereal import requirements for the 2020/21 marketing year (May/April) are estimated at a near‑average level of 260 000 tonnes, a decrease of approximately 25 percent compared to the large quantities imported in 2019/20, when domestic cereal production was severely affected by drought conditions.

Import requirements of maize, mostly sourced from South Africa, are estimated at 130 000 tonnes, near the five‑year average and 40 percent below the high level in the previous year. The import requirement of wheat is estimated at 105 000 tonnes, slightly above the average level.

Prices of maize meal declined following small uptick triggered by COVID‑19 pandemic

Prices of maize increased in March and April due to an uptick in demand triggered by the implementation of the COVID‑19 lockdown measures. Subsequently, prices decreased or remained stable in May and June 2020, reflecting an improved supply situation following the harvest and adequate imports. As of June 2020, prices of maize meal were generally close to or slightly below their year‑earlier values.

Prevalence of food insecurity expected to increase in 2020

Prior to the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the last IPC analysis from 2019 projected that about 354 000 people between April and September 2020 would be in need of food assistance. This number accounts for about 30 percent of the rural population but is nearly 20 percent below the estimated food insecure population for the October 2019‑March 2020 period. The projection for 2020 was based on favourable production prospects of the 2020 cereal crops and consequently expectations that there would be an improvement in access to and availability of staple foods. However, these estimates do not capture the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic and, therefore, the number of food insecure is expected to be higher than the current figures. There are particular concerns for the urban populations, as job losses and reduced remittances associated with the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic are expected to be concentrated among these households, resulting in a reduction in households’ purchasing power and constraining access to food. An updated assessment of the food insecurity situation, incorporating the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic is expected to be made available in the coming months.

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