BULAWAYO, April 28 (The Source) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) has forecast Zimbabwe’s maize production for the 2014/15 season at 950,000 tonnes, over a third lower than the previous season due to a prolonged dry spell.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s maize output was at 1,456 million tonnes, 82 percent more than the 798,600 tonnes in the 2012/13 season. It also achieved its highest total cereal production in five years at 1,7 million metric tonnes, enough for President Robert Mugabe to claim food self-sufficiency.
But in a maize production report for Southern Africa 2015 released on Tuesday, FAO said nearly 300,000 hectares under maize in the country were a write-off because of the dry spell and the estimated 35 percent decline in maize output was the highest in the region.
“The unfavourable rains in Zimbabwe, particularly impacting the low producing regions in the south, resulted in a write-off of nearly 300,000 hectares, with the 2015 harvest preliminarily forecast at under one million tonnes, about one third down on 2014,” said FAO.
Zimbabwe needs 1,8 million metric tonnes of maize each year and covers the shortfall by importing mainly from the Southern African countries but FAO indicated that output in most of those countries was also seen decreasing.
It said early forecast for Southern Africa of the aggregate 2015 maize production stands at about 21,1 million tonnes, 26 percent below the 2014 output and 15 percent lower than the average.
“The bulk of the decline is mainly due to the significant drop in South Africa, the sub-region’s main producer and exporter.
“Reduced cereal outputs are also forecast in most other countries of the sub-region. The decline is largely on account of erratic weather conditions, characterized by a late start of seasonal rains in November/December, flooding in parts in early 2015 and a severe dry spell during February and early March, a critical month for crop growth,” said FAO.
South Africa and Namibia are forecast to record 33 percent decline, Botswana 29 percent, Zambia 14 percent, Malawi 25 percent, Lesotho 30 percent Swaziland 20 percent while Mozambique and Madagascar have the lowest declines of five and four percent.