Good chance of weak El Niño

Should persist until end of year

22 May 2019 | Agriculture

Forecasts indicate that there is a 70% chance of weak El Niño conditions persisting until July this year.

According to the latest Southern Africa Seasonal Update by the World Food Programme the region is currently seeing a fully-fledged weak El Niño, with both the atmosphere and ocean participating.

It is expected that the El Niño will remain weak until the end of the year, which will mean two consecutive years of weak El Niño conditions.

“Trends are similar to that of 2014, when despite weak signals, parts of the region experienced atypical dryness,” says the report.

Both strong and moderate-to-weak El Niño events tend to dry southern Africa.

According to the report the bulk of Namibia received 50% or less of average seasonal rainfall from October 2018 to March 2019.

“Poor rainfall performance caused a significant delay in cultivation activities, and as grazing conditions deteriorated, farmers were advised to destock or cull their livestock.”

With the exception of the north-eastern regions (Zambezi, Kavango West and Kavango East), poor to critical grazing conditions are being reported throughout the country, says the report.

According to the report a total of 64 000 livestock losses were recorded in the country while a large number of livestock are reported to still be vulnerable.

“In early May, Namibia declared a state of emergency on account of drought in all regions.”

Affecting food security at household levels, the maize production in the communal areas was estimated to reduce by 79% compared to last season's harvest, and is predicted to be 78% below the average production levels.

Total cereal production countrywide is expected to be approximately 71 400 tons for the 2018/19 crop season, representing a 53% reduction from the 2017/18 production.

“The reduction is attributed largely to the general poor rainfall coverage.

“Based on the national cereal balance sheet for the 2018/19 marketing year, Namibia is estimated to have a cereal shortfall of 150 800 tonnes, of which 123 300 tonnes was covered by commercial imports, leaving an uncovered deficit of 27 500 tonnes,” says the report.

It further says that the food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation rate has been rapidly increasing over the past several months, nearly doubling from 3% in October 2018 to 5.8% in March 2019.

“This increase in food prices raises concern for food security in the country.”





ELLANIE SMIT