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The severe drought which ravaged much of southern Africa during the 1991/92 cropping season has been described as the worst in living memory. Record rainfall deficits of up to 90 per cent below normal recorded in most SADC countries, particularly in Southern Zimbabwe, south-eastern Zambia, central and southern Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia, devastated cereal production across the region, as crops were laid to waste, necessitating the importation of an unprecedented 7.73 million tonnes of cereals. Member States of SADC are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Most of the economies of the region have assumed crisis proportions as their meagre resources have had tobediverted from normal development efforts to the provision of drought relief food to head off starvation among an estimated 18 million within the SADC region threatened with starvation.
Information complied by the SADC Regional Early Waming Systems (REWS) at the end of October shows the impact of the drought on SADC food supplies; REWS assessments indicate that total domestic cereal supply for all 10 SADC countries combined during the 1992/93 marketing year amount to 7.73 million tonnes.
Following a massive cereal import campaign by individual SADC governments and international donors, SADC member States had between them imported a total of 2.60 million tonnes of cereals by the end of October, comprising 1.79 million tonnes of commercial imports already delivered and 813,000 million tonnes in food aid pledges received. A further 3.60 million tonnes is expected to be delivered over the remaining months of the current marketing year, including 1.49 million tonnes in confirmed commercial import commitments and 2.11 million tonnes for food aid pledges.
Imports already delivered (2.60 million tonnes), and still expected to be delivered (3,60 million tonnes), give a total SADC import tally of 6.20 million tonnes for the current marketing year which, compared with perceived import requirements of 7.73 million tonnes, leaves a substantial uncovered import gap of 1.53 million tonnes which remains unfilled; equivalent to almost a quarter of the region's total import needs the current marketing year. Uncovered import gaps remain large in several countries. Perhaps there is a case for SADC to plead for more international assistance in order to make good this shortfall.