12 Mar 2014 12:00pm
WINDHOEK, 12 MAR (NAMPA) Tighter maize supplies and strong export demand has sustained upward pressure on maize prices this year, pushing them to record levels in several markets.
In its latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report for March 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) indicated that in southern Africa, tighter maize supplies and high food prices have affected access to food, mainly for vulnerable groups.
Following several years of surplus production, lower domestic maize harvests in 2013 resulted in tighter supplies, and caused an 11 per cent increase in the sub-regions aggregate import requirement for the 2013/14 marketing year (generally May/April), estimated at about 1.37 million tonnes, the report stated.
South Africa is supplying nearly all maize requirements in the sub-region, mainly to Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, following the reduced exportable surplus in Zambia, which is the sub-regions second-largest supplier.
Maize-planting estimates in South Africa - which accounts for more than half of the sub-regions output - show a moderate contraction in the 2013/14 cropping season, but remain above the previous five-year average, while a small increase for the minor sorghum crop is estimated.
However, preliminary estimates indicate a recovery in maize production in 2014.
The FAO is, however, optimistic about southern Africa that has overall satisfactory 2014 crop conditions, but raised concerns that early dry spells are worrisome in some parts.
The harvesting of the 2014 cereal crop is expected to commence in March, with the bulk of the harvest to be completed between April and June.
Cumulative precipitation levels since the start of the rainy season in October 2013 have been near-normal in the main crop-producing zones.
However, water deficits were recorded in some parts of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, as well as areas in northern Mozambique, Malawia and Zambia, which delayed planting activities and impeded early crop growth, limiting potential crop yields.
Rains, however, improved as the season progressed towards the end of 2013 and into the beginning of 2014, and current conditions point to generally satisfactory crop development.
The FAO noted that although estimates are not yet available for most countries, a larger aggregate cereal crop is foreseen in 2014, compared to the below-average production of the previous year.