Dry weather hits Southern Africa.

Author:Rusinga, Andrew

SuthernAfrica will face food shortages again this year, owing to erratic rains throughout much of the region. Rains started normally in October, bringing hope for bumper harvests in a region still recovering from the severe drought of 1991/92. But long dry spells in midseason affected maize crops in many countries in the region, and authorities have downgraded earlier forecasts of healthy yields.

SADC unit

The Food Security Unit of the ten-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) indicates that wartorn Angola is the worst affected. The country received favourable rains, but the resumption of civil war has curtailed agricultural activity Only 221,000 tonnes of grain is expected, an 80% decline on last year. The unit estimates that the expected output will cover only 28% of needs and adds that deaths from starvation will continue "unabated". Imports of maize will be needed to feed more than 1m people in Mozambique, while harvests in Tanzania, Malawi and Swaziland have been slashed. Malawi and Tanzania have already put out an internationalappeal for food aid to avert famine.

Malawi was hit by late and erratic rains and by prolonged spells of dry conditions throughout the country, and output is expected to decline by 40% on last year, a shortfall of 300,000t. The country's Finance Minister has warned that the food shortage will play havoc with the budget (see also this month's Country Briefing on Malawi).

Botswana needed more rains than it got to ensure good harvests. But it has comfortable food-security stocks.

Zambia forecasts that yields will be slightly below average, owing to prolonged dry spells in the main grain-producing areas.

Zimbabwe, traditionally the region's breadbasket, suffered from persistent dry conditions during the season. But it has enough reserves to feed the more than 1m people who are likely to need food aid this year.

The country even has a surplus of the staple, maize, to export to other Southern African countries. The government recently authorised the export of 400,000t of maize.

Zimbabwe expects to harvest 2.3m t in the 1994 marketing season, which runs from I April 1994 to 31 March...

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