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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

6 December 2005

Southern Africa update

In southern Africa, late seasonal rains have disrupted sowing of the main season crops in most countries. Food insecurity in the region is of serious concern as the lean period has commenced and is affecting nearly 12 million people who are in need of emergency food assistance in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia. Food shortages are generally reflected in rising staple food prices, especially in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Of the total maize import requirement of 2.7 million tonnes for the subregion, excluding South Africa, for the current marketing year, so far an estimated 1.6 million tonnes have been received (1.1 million tonnes as commercial imports and 515 000 tonnes as food aid). In Zimbabwe, farm inputs are in short supply and very expensive. Access to food in many areas is severely hampered by scarcity of grain on markets, transport problems and fuel shortages. For the same reasons, agricultural prospects for 2006 are unfavourable, regardless of rainfall conditions. In Malawi, fertilizer distribution is reportedly underway under the Government’s subsidy programme. Significant amounts of food aid have been pledged (around 200 000 tonnes), but the bulk of it is yet to arrive in the country. On a brighter note, due to a bumper maize harvest in South Africa, there is an exportable surplus of this staple grain estimated at a record level of 4.66 million tonnes. The World Food Programme will be appealing for an additional US$ 211 million dollars (equivalent to 446 000 tonnes of food) under its regional Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation for 2005/07, to bring the total to US$ 622 million.

Food supply/demand situation for the 2005/06 marketing year (November/October)

In October 2004, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Assessment Mission (CFSAM) estimated total cereal production, including rice, maize, wheat, and other cereals, but excluding potatoes, at some 3.6 million tonnes. There was no such mission this year, but analysis by FAO/GIEWS of factors such as rainfall during the main growing season, satellite imagery (NDVI) interpretation, various field reports, fertilizer and seed provisions, and the addition of labour to agriculture, suggest a favourable harvest this year. Total 2005 cereal production is expected to reach some 3.9 million tonnes, the largest crop since 1995.

For 2004/05 (November/October), the country’s total cereal imports are estimated to have been 1.26 million tonnes, of which about 510 000 tonnes were commercial imports. Total food aid received is estimated to have been 750 000 tonnes, comprising 400 000 tonnes of concessional imports from the Republic of Korea, and 350 000 tonnes of food aid from other sources.

Based on the anticipation of relatively high production this year, the cereal deficit for the 2005/06 marketing year is expected to fall to 890 000 tonnes. Assuming that commercial imports could feasibly amount to 450 000 tonnes, and with concessional imports anticipated at 500 000 tonnes, mostly from the Republic of Korea but also some from China, the country is likely to maintain national food consumption level as before. However, this is low, at some 160 kg per caput (some 180 kg including potatoes), and well below the nutritional requirement based on international standards.

A large proportion of the population will remain food insecure

In spite of relatively good production overall, chronic food insecurity is likely to remain widespread. Last year’s CFSAM estimated that as many as 6.44 million, or 27 percent of the whole population, were at risk of food shortages during the year. Many of them were children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the under-employed, following factory closures or work-reduction programmes. Improving food access for vulnerable groups thus remains a major challenge, and will require national safety-net and/or food assistance program for the neediest.

A new food rationing system was reportedly introduced in urban areas on 10 October. The new system will provide various food rations according to recipient, such as 900 grams of food per day (equivalent to 329 kg/yr) for those performing dangerous or heavy labour, and 300 grams (equivalent to 110 kg/yr) for family members staying at home. This policy is likely to have critical implications for people not in the workplace.