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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 08-March-2017


  1. Maize production forecast to recover in 2017 on account of improved weather conditions

  2. Imports of maize forecast to expand in 2016/17 marketing year in response to 2016 drought-reduced harvest

  3. Prices of maize meal stable but at high levels

  4. Food security conditions expected to improve in 2017/18, following deterioration in 2016

Maize production in 2017 expected to rebound due to conducive weather conditions

Harvesting of the 2017 cereal crops is expected to start from April/May. Production prospects point to a recovery in the maize output from the drought-reduced level of 2016. The expected increase would mainly reflect improved weather conditions this season, which are forecast to result in higher yields and a larger area harvested. However, drier conditions in parts of the low-producing regions of Lubombo (east) and Shiselweni (south), the impact of heavy rains in February and an outbreak of fall army worms, are likely to constrain yields in the affected areas, but with a limited impact at the national level. FAO supported about 12 500 households with agricultural inputs and an additional 7 500 households with supplementary water supply and livestock feed following the impact of the 2016 El Niño-related drought.

Imports forecast to rise to bolster supplies, following drought-reduced 2016 output

As a result of the reduced maize production in 2016, imports of maize are forecast to increase by about 20 percent on an annual basis in the current 2016/17 marketing year (May/April). As of February, maize imports had reached about 105 000 tonnes, already slightly above the total of the previous marketing year.

Maize meal prices stable but at high levels

Maize meal prices have remained stable and fallen moderately since April 2016, mainly on account of the declining prices in South Africa (the country’s main source of imported grain) that have helped to reduce imported inflation. In January 2017, the national average maize meal price was still 41 percent above its year earlier level. Prices of wheat, which is entirely imported, had remained mostly stable in 2016 and were virtually unchanged on a yearly basis as of January 2017, reflecting trends in the international market.

Food security expected to improve, following deterioration in 2016

According to the national Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (VAC) 2016 evaluation, the number of food insecure was estimated at 638 000 people in 2016/17, nearly double the level compared to the previous year. The regions with the highest prevalence of food insecurity are Lubombo and Shiswelweni, reflecting the areas that were most affected by the drought in 2016. Conditions are expected to improve in 2017/18, which would mostly be on account of an expected improvement in agricultural production (both crop and livestock), while the lower prices will also enhance food access.