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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 04-October-2019


  1. Weather forecasts indicate favourable rains for last quarter of 2019, with planting operations of 2020 cereal crops underway

  2. Despite production declines in eastern and southern regions, maize production in 2019 estimated at above-average level

  3. Maize import requirements in 2019/20 marketing year forecast to remain above average

  4. Prices of maize meal higher year on year as of August, reflecting increased import costs from South Africa

  5. Food insecurity worsens in 2019

Weather forecasts indicate favourable rainfall amounts during planting of 2020 cereal crops

Planting of the 2020 cereal crops, mainly maize, started in October and crops are expected to be harvested between April and June next year. Preliminary weather forecasts indicate a high likelihood of normal to above‑normal rainfall between October and December throughout most of the country, which are expected to support planting activities and early crop development.

Maize production in 2019 estimated at above‑average level

The 2019 maize crop was harvested in May and production is estimated at 95 000 tonnes, 16 percent below the previous year’s high level, but still 10 percent above the five‑year average. The annual decrease mainly reflects production contractions in some areas of eastern Lubombo and southern Shiselweni regions, where crops were affected by erratic rainfall.

Maize import requirements in 2019/20 forecast to remain above average

Total cereal import requirements in the 2019/20 marketing year (May/April) are forecast at 200 000 tonnes, slightly above the average. Maize imports are estimated at about 120 000 tonnes, mostly sourced from neighbouring South Africa. Imports of rice and wheat, which are not produced in the country, are expected to reach about 40 000 tonnes, respectively.

Prices of maize meal raised in July 2019, reflecting price increases in South Africa

Prices of maize meal, the country’s main staple, were generally stable during the first six months of 2019. This mostly reflects the continued use of domestic market regulations, administered by the National Maize Corporation (NMC), which lessened the effect of increasing prices in South Africa, the country’s main supplier of grains. However, as of mid‑June, the NMC raised the retail price of maize meal, due to the sustained higher year on year prices in South Africa. As of August 2019, the national average price of maize meal was 6 percent above its year earlier value.

Heightened food insecurity in 2019

According to the latest report of the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC), nearly 232 000 people, about 25 percent of the rural population, are projected to be food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance during the October 2019‑March 2020 period. It represents a substantial increase compared to the caseload in the previous year that was estimated at about 122 000 people. Most of the food insecure population in 2019/20 is located in eastern Lubombo and southern Shiselweni regions, where crop production was affected by erratic rains and higher maize meal prices than in the rest of the country.

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