Blog: Katy AskewUN warns poor maize harvest likely

Katy Askew | 30 April 2015

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that lower maize harvests in Africa could "trigger food price increases" in the region. 

According to the agency, 2015 maize production is expected to fall by about 15% in the subregion. Declines are lead by South Africa, where production is expected to fall by 26%. Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are all expected to see lower harvests compared to a "bumper" harvest last year.

"Last year, the subregion saw a bumper harvest, which has made this year's harvest prospects look even weaker so we have to be cautious until governments, often with the support of the FAO, have completed all the assessments in the coming days," said David Phiri, the FAO's subregional co-ordinator for southern Africa. "The carry-over stocks from 2014's bumper maize crop is expected to partly offset the impact of lower domestic production and somewhat contribute to stabilising national supplies in some countries."

The fall is mostly due to the impact of erratic weather conditions, the FAO suggested. These have included the late start of seasonal rains in November, followed by heavy rains that caused flooding, and then a long dry spell in the southern areas.

The poor outlook is already having some impact on cereal markets. South Africa recorded significant price increases in February – although the rise eased in March following improved rains.

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