Reference Date: 17-January-2017
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Production prospects in 2017 favourable, mostly owing to overall beneficial weather and good access to agricultural inputs
Cereal prices eased in last quarter of 2016, but remained higher than previous year
Food security conditions remain stressed due to earlier‑than‑normal depletion of household stocks; nearly 0.6 million people estimated to be food insecure
Production prospects favourable in 2017
Seasonal rains began in November in northern parts, prompting plantings activities and benefitting early crop establishment. Although cumulative rains in November and December have been near normal in most cropping zones, western areas, including the large cereal-producing region of Omusati, have received below-average precipitation, constraining vegetation conditions. However, there is still time to recover, particularly in consideration of the weather forecasts that indicate an enhanced likelihood of above rainfall through to May in the main cropping zones. Availability and access to agricultural inputs were reportedly good, according to a Government assessment carried out in early November. Communal farmers are benefitting from Government subsidy programmes for inputs and services, with seed and fertilizers subsidized by 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively.
Based on the current conditions and weather forecasts, cereal production is expected to increase to near-average levels in 2017.
Livestock conditions still remained poor, with losses continuing to be reported. However, the recent heavy rains have boosted vegetation conditions, leading to an improvement in pastures, and partially replenishing water reserves following two consecutive drought-affected cropping seasons. As a result, livestock conditions are anticipated to improve in the coming months.
Cereal production increased in 2016, but remained below average
Cereal production in 2016 was estimated to be 18 percent up on the drought‑reduced output of 2015. However, the output was still 29 percent below the previous five-year average. The year-on-year increase mainly resulted from a higher millet output and a larger harvest from the commercial irrigated maize crop. In the communal sector, production of maize was estimated to have declined by 16 percent, and is over two‑thirds below the average. Severely suppressed seasonal rains, on account of the 2015/16 El Niño episode, was the main driver behind the poor agricultural performance in 2016 in the communal sector, and particularly affected the regions of Oshana and Zambezi in the north.
Maize prices eased on back of lower import costs
The impact of the regional drought and the reduced domestic harvests in 2015 and 2016 maintained higher year-on-year maize prices; November 2016 prices were up to 40 percent higher than their year earlier values. However, lower prices in South Africa, the main source of imports, have contributed to easing inflationary pressure and resulted in more stable maize prices since September. The annual inflation rate, although higher than the previous year, also remained stable in the last quarter of 2016.
Food security remains stressed
The below average harvest and poor livestock conditions in 2016 were the main drivers of the stressed food security; the drought-affected households reportedly exhausted their food stocks as of August, only two months after the harvest period. Higher food prices are also impinging on food access. To alleviate the situation the Government is supporting an estimated 595 398 food insecure persons through the Drought Relief Food Programme, which is expected to continue until March. With production forecast to increase in 2017, food security conditions are anticipated to improve this year.