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from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – THE dry conditions prevailing in Mozambique and Zimbabwe are projected to result in a rise of grain prices, including the staple maize.
Erratic rainfall and dry conditions persist across Zimbabwe where parts of every province have received below-average and poorly distributed rainfall.
According to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), the abnormal dryness has resulted in severe moisture stress for most crops.
In parts of the southern and northern regions some farmers are close to completely writing off the season.
There has been little ground water recharge and surface water collection in most areas, resulting in poor water availability and access.
The poor rainfall performance is also expected to affect the availability of seasonal green crops for consumption, as well as on-farm casual labour opportunities, rates, and other livelihood sources.
“High likelihood of below-average rains for the remainder of the season is likely to significantly reduce crop yields and harvests across most parts of the country,” FEWS NET stated.
In December the average price for maize grain ($0,31/kg) across FEWS NET sentinel markets remained relatively stable.
In comparison to last year’s price, maize grain was 27 percent lower, and 21 percent below the five-year average.
“However, as abnormally dry conditions continue, local farmers and traders are more likely to withhold grain, forcing traders to source maize from relatively distant supply areas,” the agency stated.
It stated that increases in grain prices were already recorded during the first half of January 2018 with possibilities of further increases in the following months.
Still, factors like the influence of the national liquidity challenges and poor demand due to constrained livelihoods for poor households will contribute to below-average grain prices during the peak lean season (February-March).
Successive droughts and land reforms have led to a decline in farming productivity in this country of 16 million people (Zimbabwe) previously hailed as Africa’s breadbasket.
Meanwhile, significantly below-average rainfall in the south, particularly in Gaza Province, and parts of central Mozambique has continued, which has already led to crop failure in some southern areas.
Gaza, Manica, Nampula, Sofala and Tete Provinces are among the regions worst affected.
However, this has not affected current food availability and access due to last year’s above-average harvest and relatively low staple food prices.
Staple food prices, particularly of maize grain, have been atypical as they have not seasonally increased.
Maize grain prices have generally remained consistently stable since July/August and are on average well below last year’s prices by 61 percent and below the five-year average by 28 percent.
“Given the prospects of a poor harvest from the current cropping season in the south, maize grain prices in southern markets may increase through March,” according to FEWS NET’s forecast for the country of 28 million people.
In South Africa, rainfall challenges has seen the coastal city of Cape Town rationing drinking water with many residents in high density suburbs of the Western Cape province going without drinking water.
Already Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has started providing Cape Town residents with donated bottled water.
Founder Imtiaz Solliman said Gift of the Givers received bottled water from across South Africa and would set up collection points in Cape Town.
– CAJ News