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Reference Date: 10-December-2019


  1. Early seasonal weather in main producing areas favours planting of 2020 cereal crops

  2. Cyclones caused crop losses resulting in production downturn in 2019

  3. Aggregate cereal import requirements estimated slightly above average in 2019/20

  4. Prices of maize continued to increase in recent months and were well above year‑earlier values

  5. Food security conditions worsen significantly in 2019, with nearly 2 million people estimated food insecure

Early seasonal weather in main producing areas favours planting of 2020 cereal crops

Planting of the 2020 cereal crops, to be harvested from next April, started in October and it is expected to conclude around the end of December. Precipitation levels have been mostly adequate to facilitate planting activities and support early crop growth in the main producing areas, located in central and northern provinces. In parts of the minor producing southern provinces, rain amounts have been below average and have resulted in drier‑than‑normal conditions.

The weather outlook for the December 2019‑April 2020 period indicates a higher probability of continued below‑average rains in southern parts, which could impede normal crop development and may constrain yields. By contrast, in most central and northern regions of the country, where the bulk of the cereal crops are cultivated, increased rainfall amounts are expected during the same period, boosting production prospects.

Cyclones caused crop losses resulting in production downturn in 2019

Harvesting of the 2019 main season cereal crops was concluded in July and, based on the results from an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), cereal production is estimated at 2.84 million tonnes (rice in paddy terms). This level is about 16 percent lower than the previous year’s bumper output, but still above the average of the previous five years. The year on year production decrease was mainly due to the impact of intense tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which made landfall in March and April, causing extensive losses of standing crops in the highly productive central provinces.

Cereal imports expected slightly above average in 2019/20

Aggregate cereal import requirements in the 2019/20 marketing year (April/March) are estimated at 1.4 million tonnes, slightly above the five‑year average. The increase in import requirements, following the reduced 2019 output, have been limited by an expected drawdown of existing cereal stocks.

Import requirements of rice and maize in 2019/20 are estimated at an above‑average level of 680 000 tonnes and 205 000 tonnes, respectively. By contrast, import requirements of wheat, which is only produced in negligible quantities, are estimated at 575 000 tonnes, 17 percent below the five‑year average, mainly reflecting adequate market availabilities from large national stocks due to high volumes imported in the previous year.

Prices of maize continued to rise

Prices of white maize grain continued to rise in October, although to a lesser extent than in the previous two months, and on average were about 50 percent above their year‑earlier levels. The higher prices mainly reflect the tight cereal supply situation, due to the impact of extreme weather events on agricultural production. In addition, higher year‑on‑year prices of maize grains in South Africa, a key supplier for southern provinces, have exerted additional upward pressure.

Extreme weather events in 2019 worsen food insecurity

According to the latest Government-led food security evaluation, nearly 2 million people are assessed to be food insecure in the October 2019‑February 2020 period, more than double the level of the previous year. The deterioration of the food insecurity conditions mainly reflects the negative impact of the extreme weather events that reduced the agricultural output and disrupted the livelihood systems, as well as triggered food price rises.

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