Favourable conditions for crops predicted

21 October 2019 | Agriculture

Weather forecasts indicate favourable rains for the last two months of this year, which will benefit the planting of cereal crops in 2020.

According to a country brief for Namibia issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, cereal production in 2019 was well below average due to extreme drought.

The report says while the price of maize meal was generally stable this year, the food security of communal farming households worsened due to the drought.

“However, forecasts for rain tend to be favourable during the last months of 2019, benefitting the planting of next year's cereal crops,” it says. According to the report, land preparation and planting of the 2020 cereal crops, mainly maize and millet, are expected to start from November. Harvesting of these crops is done in May and June.

“Current weather forecasts indicate a high likelihood of average to above-average precipitation between November and December in the main cereal-producing areas of the country, located in the north and north-central areas.

“If these weather conditions occur, it could lead to an expansion in the total area planted with 2020 cereal crops and benefit early crop growth.” According to the report, dry weather conditions severely affected cereal production this year.

The 2019 cereal crops were harvested in June and the total crop production is estimated at a below-average level of 60 000 metric tonnes.

Erratic and well below-average rainfall amounts were the main cause of the production decline.

“The unfavourable weather conditions affected the entire country, but especially the important cereal-producing northern regions of Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto, where cumulative seasonal rainfall volumes were between 60 and 70% below the average.”

The report further says, reflecting on the steep production decline in 2019, the cereal import requirement for the 2019/2020 marketing year (May/April) is estimated to rise to 300 000 tonnes, an increase of about 8% compared to the five-year average.

Import requirements of maize, mostly sourced from South Africa, are estimated at 180 000 tonnes, 20% higher compared to the five-year average. Imports of wheat are estimated at 95 000 tonnes, 20% above the reduced quantity imported in 2018, but still slightly below the average.

The report says prices of maize meal have been generally stable in 2019, mostly reflecting well-supplied markets by increased imports from South Africa, which has sufficiently compensated for the reduced harvest this year.

According to the report, the poor season and consequently severe water shortages also affected rangeland conditions, resulting in a deterioration of livestock body conditions and an increase in mortality rates. According to recent estimates from the agriculture ministry, over 60 000 livestock perished in 2019, with the north-western and southern areas the most affected.

According to earlier reports from the national Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC), about 290 000 people are estimated to be food insecure and in need of food assistance during the October 2019 to March 2020 period.

This number represents a 12% year-on-year increase. The heightened food insecurity situation is mainly the result of the reduced agricultural output in 2019.

Communal farming households located in the Zambezi, Kavango East and Kavango West regions are among the most affected, as their food supplies for income generation and own consumption were sharply reduced by the dry weather conditions.

As a result of the extreme rainfall deficits, a state of emergency as a result of the drought was declared in May 2019.

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ELLANIE SMIT