El Nino-induced drought likely to force southern Africa to import grain: UN-Xinhua

El Nino-induced drought likely to force southern Africa to import grain: UN

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-03-23 16:00:45

HARARE, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Much of southern Africa is expected to grapple with large-scale food shortages this year following an El Nino-induced drought that has ravaged crops and affected other critical food security resources for most rural communities.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), dryness across the sub-region is expected to have an extensive negative impact on acute food insecurity in the 2024-25 agricultural season.

"Concerns mostly relate to a likely downturn in agricultural production and its implications for food availability and access, due to losses of income for rural households and potential upturns in prices driven by supply pressures," FAO said in its recent crop prospects and food situation report for southern Africa.

It noted that cumulative rainfall amounts across large portions of the sub-region have been well below average, which is expected to lower 2024 cereal production.

The weather outlook pointed to continued below-average rainfall amounts in March and April 2024, so there was a low likelihood of any recovery in cereal crop conditions. Yields in southern Africa were expected at average to below-average levels in 2024.

Thirty-three African countries, including Zimbabwe and Zambia, will require external food assistance until March 2024 and South Africa is not among them.

If the 2024 production declines in South Africa and Zambia, two key maize exporting countries of the sub-region, export availability in the sub-region would be low, which could necessitate the importation of maize from outside southern Africa, FAO said.

Meanwhile, the Washington, D.C.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network noted that over the last two months, large rainfall deficits have led to severe drought in eastern Angola, western and central Zambia, northeastern Namibia, northern Botswana, much of Zimbabwe, central Mozambique, central and eastern South Africa, and Lesotho.

In its food security outlook report for southern Africa from October 2023 to May 2024, the early warning systems added: "The below-normal rainfall will likely negatively impact the remainder of the 2023/24 agricultural season, with below-average green and dry harvests most likely in affected areas."

It further noted that food and non-food prices continue to rise seasonally across much of southern Africa due to depleted stocks, increased demand, deteriorating macroeconomic conditions in some countries, and inflationary pressures.