Season Progress and Harvest Forecasts
Cereal Availability and Demand Projections
Regional Price Movements and Trade Flows
Summary and Implications
Preliminary estimates at the end of May indicate that a number of countries in Southern Africa are expecting improved cereal harvests this season, but that regional cereal production will decline due largely to a significant reduction in area planted to maize in South Africa, the regionís largest maize producer.
As a result of better crop growing conditions this season, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, which faced large production shortfalls last season due to poor rainfall performance, estimate cereal production levels above both last seasonís and the 5-year average. Angola, Tanzania, and Swaziland expect cereal harvests that are below last yearís and the average, due to insufficient and poorly distributed rains as well as other factors including poor access to adequate inputs. In Zimbabwe, mostly favorable rains contributed to improved maize production this season, although estimates still lag behind the five-year average, due mainly to poor access to inputs. Although crop conditions were generally favorable in South Africa, the area planted to maize declined considerably this season, in response to the record harvest last season and subsequent large carryover stocks and low maize prices. South Africaís maize production is now estimated to have declined 46% compared to last season. With domestic availability (production plus opening stocks) now projected to be just sufficient to cover domestic requirements, there will be a much smaller exportable surplus than last year that will not cover all the regionís maize import requirements.
National vulnerability assessments (NVAs) are being conducted in most countries including Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. A joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission is being completed in Angola in response to a government request, following the severe dry spell that decimated cereal crops in the main production areas of the central and southern provinces. The results of these NVAs are expected towards the end of June and will provide further information on national and sub-national food supply and access issues expected over the 2006/07 consumption year. Where necessary (as in Angola, Tanzania and perhaps Zimbabwe), this information will form the basis for any required targeted interventions aimed at responding to the needs of the most vulnerable and the food insecure.
The prospect of improved harvests in countries where production has been inadequate in recent years suggests that overall food aid requirements should decline. However, targeted food and non-food assistance will still be required for the poorest and most vulnerable households, especially if prices escalate later in the marketing year in response to the reduced supply of South African maize this year.