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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 25-July-2016


  1. Production of cereals decreased steeply in 2016 on account of El Niño‑related drought conditions

  2. Food prices continued to rise reflecting impact of drought on domestic and regional food supplies

  3. Reduced harvest and higher food prices caused 53 percent increase in number of food insecure in 2016/17

Crop production declined significantly in 2016

Harvesting of the 2016 cereal crop is complete. Total cereal production in 2016 is estimated at approximately 30 000 tonnes, two‑thirds lower than last year’s below‑average level. The bulk of this year’s decline is on account of a sharply lower maize harvest, estimated at 25 000 tonnes, 68 percent down on last year, while sorghum production is estimated to be less than half of last’s year output. The 2016 wheat crop, which will be harvested from November, is forecast to decline by over 40 percent to 4 400 tonnes.

The El Niño‑induced drought was the main driver behind the steep production decline, with the 2015/16 cropping season primarily characterized by well below‑average rainfall and higher‑than‑normal temperatures resulting in delayed plantings, reduced yields and widespread crop failures. Although heavier rains fell between January and March 2016, the increased moisture levels could not reverse the impact of the severe early seasonal dryness.

The suppressed rainfall also adversely affected pastures and water availability for animals. This resulted in worsening livestock conditions and caused the loss of cattle; about one‑third of rural households reported the loss of two to three cattle each.

Import requirements rise in 2016/17 marketing year

To maintain a stable per capita consumption rate, imports of maize in the 2016/17 marketing year (April/March) are forecast at approximately 160 000 tonnes. As of mid‑July, about 24 000 tonnes of maize were imported from South Africa since April, slightly below the volume procured in the corresponding period of the previous year. The high maize price in South Africa, Lesotho’s main source of cereal grain, is a contributing factor to tempering the importation rate this year.

Maize and food prices continued to rise

The drought has adversely affected domestic and regional food supplies, contributing to inflationary pressure and pushing up food prices. Imports of maize, on average, satisfy about half of Lesotho’s domestic consumption requirement and, therefore, South African price trends tend to have a significant influence on domestic maize meal prices. As of April 2016, prices of maize meal were up to 60 percent higher than their year earlier values, mainly reflecting the high prices in South Africa.

Food security worsens in 2016/17

As a result of the reduced crop production and high food prices, the number of food insecure people in 2016/17 has increased by 53 percent to 709 394 persons, according to the latest Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (LVAC) evaluation.

Although markets are expected to bridge the supply shortfall, the higher prices are negatively impacting on households’ food access with approximately 40 percent of rural households allocating 50 percent of their expenditure to food purchases. In response, the Government of Lesotho announced the implementation of a subsidy for maize meal, beans and pulses, reducing the retail prices for consumers by 30 percent for a period of one year starting from 1 June 2016.