Reference Date: 18-March-2016
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Cereal production in 2016 forecast to fall for second consecutive year, due to El Niño‑related drought conditions
Prices of maize increased sharply at start of 2016, following stable levels in 2015
Food security worsens in 2016 due to impact of drought
Cereal production forecast to decline in 2016
Harvesting of the 2016 cereal crops is expected to begin in April and current production prospects point to a second successive year‑on‑year decline, which would push the national maize output to a well below‑average level. The poor production expectations mainly reflect the impact of El Niño‑associated dry conditions that have adversely affected plantings and crop development since the start of the 2015/16 cropping season in October. The below‑average cumulative seasonal rains have been insufficient to support normal crop growth, resulting in severe drought stress to vegetation in most cropped areas, particularly in the low cereal‑producing regions of Shiswelweni (south) and Lubombo (east). These regions also suffered a poor agricultural season in the previous year on account of prolonged dry conditions. Although official estimates for the 2016 harvest are not yet available, production is expected to be around 50 percent down on the 2015 output, reflecting both an anticipated reduction in yields and a contraction in the harvested area.
Pastures have also been adversely affected by the dry conditions, and resulted in the loss of an estimated 44 000 cattle. With seasonal rains forecast to end in the coming months, livestock conditions are expected to remain stressed until the start of the subsequent rainy season in October 2016. Furthermore, sugarcane production is also expected to decrease, on account of reduced irrigation water levels. A drop in production, given its large contribution GDP, will weigh negatively on the national economy.
Maize prices increase in 2016, following stable period in 2015
With the white maize market regulated by the parastatal National Maize Corporation (NMC), prices of maize meal remained generally stable in 2015 despite upward pressure from the reduced 2015 domestic output and increasing import costs from South Africa. However, at the start of 2016, the NMC announced a 66 percent increase in the sale price of maize to reflect the record high maize grain prices in South Africa, the country’s main source of food.
Food security worsens due to El Niño drought conditions
An expected second consecutive year of a markedly reduced cereal harvest and higher maize prices, have resulted in an upward revision in the number of people requiring food assistance, now estimated at 300 000, about one‑quarter of the population, up from an early estimate of 200 000. With a high dependence on rainfed maize production, especially in marginal producing areas, reduced rains can translate into large production shocks, while the very low income levels of rural small‑holders limit their capacity to respond effectively. In response to the current situation, the Government declared a drought emergency in February 2016 and jointly launched a national response plan. The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and partner organizations are providing food assistance during the current lean period, which is set to end in March.
The Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (VAC) 2016 evaluation is expected to take place in May/June, and will provide updated figures on the number of food insecure in 2016/17.