New GIEWS Country Briefs Released

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FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) has recently released several new country briefs for the Africa South of the Sahara Food Security Portal’s prioritized countries. The country brief series provides information regarding countries’ current agricultural season and harvest prospects for main staple food crops, as well as estimates and forecasts of cereal production, cereal imports, and food prices and policy developments. This latest round of updates includes new information for Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique.

In Tanzania, planting of the “msimu” crops, which typically takes place between November and December, was delayed until January due to poor rainfall. While precipitation picked up in key growing regions in the southern part of the country in February, conditions remain poor in most of the central areas of the country. This has led to uncertain prospects for the 2017 msimu harvest, which typically takes place starting in May. By contrast, the 2016 msimu harvest was favorable, putting overall 2016 cereal production in Tanzania at about 10 million tonnes, or 9 percent above the average for the previous five years. Despite this above-average production, however, maize prices continue to soar to near-record levels in many areas of the country. In March, prices in all of the markets monitored by GIEWS were 55 percent higher than the average seen in March 2016; these increases are being driven by the unfavorable msimu harvest prospects, combined with below-average harvests of the secondary “vuli” harvests in February (which normally contribute 30 percent of Tanzania’s total annual crop production).

Malawi’s 2017 cereal production is expected to recover to near-average levels after drought severely reduced 2016 harvests. The 2017 maize harvest is forecast to reach about 3.2 million tonnes. However, continuing dry conditions in the north and an ongoing army fallworm infestation will likely prevent larger production gains in 2017.  The reduced 2016 maize harvest also means higher maize imports in the 2016-2017 marketing year; official imports are estimated to have increased to 0.7 million tonnes, and informal imports are reported to be above average. Maize prices have fallen in recent months, due to increased formal imports as well as humanitarian aid. This decline in prices, combined with favorable 2017 harvest prospects, will likely improve food security throughout much of the country once the 2017 harvests begin.

Overall crop production in Mozambique is also expected to increase in 2017 due to increased precipitation. However, flooding in some areas of the country and continuing dry conditions in other areas will lead to some localized production deficits. Following a reduced 2016 harvest, Mozambique’s cereal import needs have also increased for the 2016-2017 marketing year. These tight domestic cereal supplies, coupled with depreciation of the national currency, have kept maize prices high. Despite these higher prices, however, GIEWS estimates that Mozambique’s food security will generally improve in 2017 based on the forecasted favorable harvest. 

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

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Cecilia Schubert