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Reference Date: 26-July-2016


  1. Cereal production in 2016 estimated at well below average level as a result of El Niño‑related drought

  2. Prices of maize meal at high levels, mainly due to increased import costs

  3. Food security worsens in 2016 due to impact of drought

Cereal production well below average in 2016

Harvesting of the 2016 cereal crops is complete. Cereal production in 2016, which is almost entirely comprised of maize, is estimated to be at a well below average level of 33 000 tonnes, 60 percent down from the previous year’s output. The sharply lower production is on account of the El Niño‑related drought that caused a contraction in the area planted and lower yields. The low cereal‑producing regions of Shiswelweni (south) and Lubombo (east), which also experienced a poor agricultural campaign in 2015, were most affected by the prolonged dryness.

Pastures and water resources for animals were also adversely affected by the dry conditions; an estimated 67 000 cattle were lost. With the next rainy season only forecast to begin from October 2016, livestock conditions are expected to remain stressed.

Sugarcane production is also estimated to have decreased on account of reduced irrigation water levels. The drop in production, given the large contribution of sugarcane to the country’s GDP, is expected to weigh negatively on the national economy, while the reduced rainfall has also affected hydro‑electric power generation.

Maize prices at elevated levels

The white maize market, including prices, is regulated by the National Maize Corporation (NMC) parastatal. In response to the record high maize prices in South Africa (the country’s main source of imported grain) earlier in the year, prices of maize were revised upwards by 66 percent in February. Since the sharp increase, maize meal prices have since remained generally stable, but at elevated levels.

Food security worsens due to El Niño drought conditions

With a high dependence on rainfed maize production, especially in marginal producing areas, suppressed seasonal rainfall tends to translate into large negative production shocks, while the very low income levels of rural smallholders limit their capacity to respond effectively to these shocks. With the country experiencing a second consecutive poor agricultural output in 2016, food security conditions and vulnerabilities have been severely stressed. According to the national Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (VAC) 2016 evaluation, the number of food insecure has doubled to about 638 000 people in 2016/17, compared to the previous year.

Furthermore, the weak economic performance, due to a combination of the impact of the drought, a slowdown in regional economic growth and declining revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which constitute a significant proportion of the country’s income, is also weighing negatively on the food security situation.

Relevant links:
 As of Jun 2016, included in the list of "Countries Requiring External Assistance for Food"
 Cereal Supply/Demand Balance Sheet
 Food Price Data and Analysis Tool
 Earth Observation Indicators
 Seasonal Indicators
 Vegetation Indicators
 Precipitation Indicators
 Graphs & Data
 NDVI & Precipitation
 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) Reports & Special Alerts: 2015, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001
From FAO:
 FAO Country Profiles

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