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Prices of maize rise steeply and at levels well above those a year earlier

09/10/2019

Prices of maize continued to rise steeply in some countries in the past few months, pressured by the impact of weather-reduced 2019 harvests and consequently diminished domestic supplies, while in other countries prices remained generally unchanged. The sharpest price rises were registered in Zimbabwe, where monthly price increases of maize meal products were as high as 50 percent in August. On a yearly basis, prices of all cereal products were more than five times higher than the corresponding month last year. The sharp depreciation of the national currency and a significant decline in the domestic cereal output were the primary drivers of the extremely elevated price levels. In neighbouring Zambia, a decrease in cereal production caused by dry weather conditions and inflationary pressure stemming from a weaker currency, underpinned the abrupt price increases of maize meal, which reached record highs in September. In an effort to contain further price gains, the Government, in agreement with millers, retailers and grain traders, introduced a cap on maize grain prices at ZWK 2600 per tonne in late August. Similarly, in Mozambique, prices of maize were up to 75 percent higher on a yearly basis, as monthly increases persisted in September. The primary driver behind the price growth was the extensive crop losses and consequently, tighter supplies caused by two cyclones that crossed the main cereal-producing regions. Prices of maize in Malawi remained mostly stable in September, largely reflecting this year’s production rebound, with the 2019 harvest estimated at an above-average level. However, heightened demand from importing countries following generally poor harvests across the subregion and institutional purchases for the strategic grain reserves countered some of the downward supply pressure and kept prices higher year on year. In South Africa, prices of maize declined for the third consecutive month in September. The decrease reflects an additional upward revision to the national maize production estimate, reduced prices in the international market and a slight appreciation of the national currency. However, in spite of the raised production estimate, this year’s output and overall maize supplies are below the previous year’s levels, sustaining higher year on year prices. In import dependent Eswatini and Namibia, prices of maize meal remained broadly unchanged in August reflecting the well-supplied markets on account of increased imports from South Africa. In Madagascar, prices of rice were also unchanged month on month, mostly on account of ample supplies from this year’s above-average output.