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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch

25 April 2006

Crop Prospects and Food Situation in Southern Africa

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In Southern Africa, rainfall, especially during the critical months of January and February, for the main season crops planted in November-December was very favourable. More specifically, central parts of the region has received significant amount of precipitation through out this season, except during April so far. However, erratic rains including some dry spells were experienced on the southern periphery of the region (namely in parts of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland), on the northern periphery (in areas such as northern Malawi, northern Zambia and northern Mozambique) and on the western edge (namely in south west Angola). Estimated cumulative rainfall during the first half and the second half of the season is shown in the satellite images (Figure 1a and 1b) below and the resulting NDVI for the most recent dekad for the region is shown in Figure 2. In much of the central part of the region, good rains not withstanding the yields will also depend on other factors as availability of key inputs (fertilizer, chemicals and/or labour for weeding, etc.). Leaching of nutrients due to excessive rains and waterlogging conditions, at certain times, has been a problem in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola among other areas.

Figure 1: Seasonal Rainfall, Percentage of normal (1961-90)

1a: 1 October 2005 – 31 December 2005 and 1b: 1 January – 31 March 2006
Data source: NOAA, FAO; by FAO-SDRN, Agrometeorology Group

Figure 2: Southern Africa: NDVI April 2006, dekad 2 – difference with long term average


If normal weather conditions prevail for the rest of the season, the outlook for the region’s (excluding South Africa) aggregate 2006 maize crop, to be harvested in April-May, is favourable, and output is forecast preliminarily at 6.9 million tonnes, the largest crop since 2000, about 27 percent over the last year’s drought affected output and 21 percent over the past five year average (see Table 1). This mainly reflects a substantial recovery in maize and cereal production from the drought affected previous year in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique. In addition, this early forecast suggests that Madagascar, Lesotho, and Swaziland are likely to achieve more or less similar outputs as 2005. However, Angola due to dry spells and South Africa due to reduction in maize planted area, caused primarily by low maize prices in 2005, are forecast to experience reduced cereal harvests this year. Maize production in South Africa is forecast to decline by over 5 million tonnes from the year before. However, with current stocks at a record level of over 4.5 million tonnes (end of March 2006), immediate food availability at national and regional level is not likely to be affected drastically. Southwest and central parts of Angola, the main cereal growing areas in the country, have been experiencing drought since October 2005. More precise evaluation of the situation would be available later since the Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAMs) are planned for Angola to be carried out from the beginning of May 2006.

In Southern Africa, prospects for planting of the 2006 winter season crops from May are favourable, reflecting upward trend in the domestic and international prices of wheat since the beginning of the year and improved residual soil moisture. FAO’s final estimate of the 2005 wheat crop, harvested last November, is put at 2.1 million tonnes, about 10 percent better than the previous year’s drought-affected production. About 90 percent of the total was accounted for by South Africa, where output increased by nearly 12 percent over previous year’s production, although it still remained below the average of the past five years.

Table 1: Southern Africa, maize production: Early 2006 forecast and comparison with 2005 estimates and 2001-05 average

('000 t)
('000 t)
('000 t)
2006 over
2006 over
Increase in production anticipated:          
Botswana 7 4 10 150% 43%
Zimbabwe 844 550 950 73% 13%
Malawi 1623 1253 1950 56% 20%
Zambia 906 866 1200 39% 32%
Namibia 33 41 45 10% 36%
Mozambique 1252 1403 1500 7% 20%
No significant changes expected:          
Lesotho 103 92 92 0% -11%
Madagascar 274 350 350 0% 28%
Swaziland 76 82 82 0% 8%
Decrease in production anticipated:          
Angola 549 768 700 -9% 28%
South Africa 9796 11716 6377 -46% -35%
Southern Africa including South Africa 15463 17125 13256 -23% -14%
Southern Africa excluding South Africa 5667 5409 6879 27% 21%
Source: FAO/GIEWS          
* Assuming normal climatology for the remainder of the season.      

Food Security Situation – The hunger season has reached its peak, with household food stocks nearly exhausted. However, early harvest or use of green maize is expected to provide some relief until the main harvest becomes available shortly. Nearly 12 million people were affected by food insecurity during the 2005/06 (marketing year which ended in March for most countries), large number of them in chronic situation, and require emergency assistance until the next harvest becomes available in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia. Food shortages are reflected in rising staple food prices, especially in Zimbabwe and Malawi. In Zimbabwe, maize price in parallel market was Z$600 000/20kg in first week of March up from about Z$400 000 from the month before. Prices of most cereal based goods went up by about one-third in about one month keeping in track with the national inflation rate. Recent figures show that annual inflation in March reached an unprecedented level of 914 percent. Food aid distributions in February reached 54 000 tonnes and the same levels are planned for March and April. In Malawi, total cereal imports for the 2005/06 marketing year (April/March) have been estimated at 238 000 tonnes at commercial level, including about 165 000 tonnes through informal cross-border trade. Confirmed food aid pledges as early as mid-November were at around 223 000 tonnes, although the bulk of this food has been very slow to arrive in the country. Due to the start of early harvest, maize prices in most markets have either stabilized or began to fall in April.

Regional Balance - The overall cereal import requirement of the sub-region, excluding South Africa, for the 2005/06 marketing year (April-March), was estimated at about 4.4 million tonnes, comprising 700 000 tonnes of food aid. Virtually all the food aid requirements have been covered by pledges and on-going distributions are contributing to improve the food situation of the most vulnerable households. However, commercial imports of cereals, estimated at some 3.5 million tonnes by the end of March, fall short of requirements, especially that of wheat and rice. Due to slow pace of commercial and food aid imports, prices of maize have been on the raise in several countries in past months.

Prospects for the regional food supply in 2006/07 marketing year also look relatively favourable. Total maize supply (2006 production plus the carry over stocks) in the Republic of South Africa is forecast to be about 10 million tonnes. Given the estimated utilization of about 8.4 million tonnes (including about 600 000 tonnes of strategic reserves) in that country, the potential exportable surplus is likely to be around 1.6 million tonnes. This surplus would be almost sufficient to cover the aggregate maize import requirements of other countries of the region which are estimated at about 1.7 million tonnes based on the preliminary forecast of maize production for 2006 and the historical utilization in the region. In anticipation of the reduction in the domestic maize production in South Africa, contrary to the usual post-harvest trend, the SAFEX futures price of white maize is expected to firm up by moving from R1099/t in April to R1163/t in December 2006.

Further information on specific countries can be found on the GIEWS Workstation at: