2016 cereal crop harvest unfavourable: FAO

10 Feb 2016 11:00am
WINDHOEK, 10 FEB (NAMPA) - Conditions of the 2016 cereal crop in Namibia to be harvested from May this year, are generally unfavourable, a United Nations agency warned on Monday.
A recent report from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) raised the concern that the unfavourable conditions in Namibia reflect insufficient rains during the 2015/2016 crop season (November 2015/June 2016) that have compounded the impact of the dry conditions of the previous season.
“However, more detailed estimates regarding the sown area are expected to be available in April 2016 following the Government’s second crop assessment. Overall, current conditions point to a second consecutive below-average cereal harvest in 2016,” it warned.
Although improved precipitation was recorded in late December 2015 and January 2016, partly alleviating moisture deficits, the delayed onset of seasonal rains and erratic levels thereafter have resulted in below-average vegetation conditions in most cropped areas. This is an indication of an increased likelihood of lower cereal yields for the 2016 crop, particularly in the rain-fed communal farming sector.
The Namibian Government continued to provide subsidised seeds and fertilisers in the 2015/2016 season to farmers, which was sufficient to cover an area of three hectares per farmer. In addition, subsidies were also provided for ploughing and weeding operations.
Despite sufficient input availability, the dry conditions are likely to have resulted in a contraction in planting, according to the FAO.
The poor seasonal rains have also negatively impacted on pasture growth and water availability, resulting in a deterioration of livestock body conditions. Many farmers in north central, northwest, central and the southern parts have reported increased livestock mortality rates on account of the dryness. The outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), detected in mid-2015 in north central regions, is now under control, following a large-scale vaccination programme.
In the meantime, the price of maize increased in 2015, largely reflecting the reduced domestic 2015 cereal harvest and higher import costs owing to the record high prices in South Africa, which is Namibia’s main grain supplier.
With nearly 80 per cent of the total national maize utilization forecast to be met with imports in the 2015/16 marketing year (from May 2015 to April 2016), compared to a five-year average of 65 per cent, import costs have a significant influence on domestic prices.
The main national grain miller, Namib Mills, announced price increases both in January and February 2016. The depreciation of the Namibian dollar has also applied pressure to import costs from outside the southern African region as the Namibian dollar is pegged to the South Africa Rand.
Meanwhile, food security conditions continue to deteriorate in the northern parts of the country. The FAO made reference to a recent assessment carried out by the government, which indicated that food security conditions have weakened significantly in northern communal areas.
Many households in northern regions are largely dependent on market supplies and the government’s Drought Relief Food Programme, which was extended until March 2016 to cover all drought affected households.
Based on the Namibian Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (NVAC) 2015 evaluation, an estimated 370 316 persons are food insecure in 2015/16, up from approximately 118 000 people in 2014/15.