Southern Africa expects a below normal crop harvest this season as a result of the poor crop growing conditions experienced in the first half of the rainy season. The start of season was delayed, with erratic and spotty rainfall characterized by long dry spells that resulted in crop failures in many parts of the region. Although first round forecast figures have not been released, preliminary indications are that the regional maize (the region's main staple food) shortfall in 2004/05 could range between range between 851,000 MT (without stock replenishment) and 2.4 million MT (with stock replenishment). The worst affected countries include Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Prospects of improved harvests in Angola are diminishing mainly because of extensive flood damage in Huambo Province, while Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia could see slightly improved outcomes. Acute household food insecurity is likely to rise even further in the affected countries as many of them are going through a third consecutive year of food shortages. With another poor harvest in prospect, food shortages will intensify, prices will continue to rise, and vulnerable households will be forced to intensify already stretched coping capacities. Continuous close monitoring of vulnerability indicators will be necessary to signal the areas, periods and types of interventions that will be required.