South Africa, a regional food-basket has recorded a 31 per cent decline in output this year, a situation that is likely to cause a ripple effect across importers: Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho.
The current maize harvest in South Africa, NaijaAgroNet reports, is "the lowest yield since 2007," the country’s agriculture department said, adding that the country will have to import around 600,000 tonnes of maize to cover the deficit and meet its contractual export obligations. The prolonged dry spells in parts of the region have also reduced grazing land and feed for livestock, and are likely to push up the prices of red meat, milk, chickens and egg.
This was the background as leaders of 15 southern African countries gather for an annual summit from Monday to Tuesday as the region grapples with serious food shortages that have left a record number of people hungry. A toxic mix of erratic rains, abnormally high temperatures and floods have wreaked havoc on farming, writing off the bulk of this year’s crop.
As the region hungrily awaits the outcome of the meeting, NaijaAgroNet gathered, an estimated 27.4-million people out of the region’s combined population of 292-million — or nearly one in 10 people — would be depending on food handouts by the end of the year. Yields of the staple corn have shrunk by up to 90 per cent in some countries of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), a June report by the group said.
The World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman, David Orr said Zimbabwe and Malawi were facing their "worst food security crisis" in a decade. Zimbabwe, with a shortfall of 49 per cent, will need to import 700,000 tonnes of the staple corn to feed 1.5-million people.
In Malawi, NaijaAgroNet learnt, floods earlier this year ravaged fields, killing 176 people. Traditionally the third largest producer of maize in the region, this year it is being forced to import from neighbour Zambia. According to official estimates, up to 2.8-million Malawians will need food relief from year end when the food shortages peak.
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Pix: David Orr