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Southern Africa

Prices of maize generally continued to increase in April

10/05/2019

In most countries of the subregion, tight supplies and unfavourable weather conditions, which have severely dented production prospects, exacerbated the seasonal price increases of maize and kept them significantly higher on a yearly basis. However, in the largest subregional maize-producing country, South Africa, prices of maize declined in the past month on account of a small uptick in the value of the national currency and a softening of international quotations. Compared to their year-earlier levels, prices remained higher on account of the likely reduction in maize production this year. In Zambia, reduced domestic availabilities continued to intensify the seasonal price increases of maize grain and meal products, resulting in record or near-record levels in April. Significant seasonal rainfall deficits in some of the main cereal-producing regions, which have sharply cut production expectations for the 2019 maize crop (GIEWS Country Brief), also added further upward pressure on prices. In Malawi, prices of maize grain continued to rise, notably in the south, where the impact of floods triggered by Cyclone Idai impeded the distribution of food supplies, causing price spikes in March. In Mozambique, Cyclone Idai and, more recently, Cyclone Kenneth had large-scale impacts and reportedly caused steep hikes in food prices in the most affected central provinces, as supplies were sharply curtailed. In Zimbabwe, despite a slowdown in price increases and in some cases declines, prices of most food products were considerably higher year on year, predominantly driven by currency weakness. Furthermore, the expected decline in cereal production in 2019 is likely to put further upward pressure on prices. In an effort to temper the high inflation rates, the Government annulled an increase in fuel duties introduced at the start of the year. In Namibia, prices of maize and wheat rose in March, as drought conditions have significantly dampened the agricultural production outlook (GIEWS Country Brief). Domestic prices are expected to come under further pressure from the higher prices in South Africa, the country’s main source of grains. By contrast, prices of maize in Eswatini remained relatively unchanged in March and were generally down from a year earlier as a result of market controls. Prices of rice in Madagascar remained generally under downward pressure in April from the overall good prospects for the main harvest and an estimated increase in the minor rice harvest, completed earlier in the year.