The start of the harvest season in the SADC region is likely to result in a drop of grain prices as most countries expect average to above average yields this year.
This is contained in an analysis released this week by the Famine Early Warning System Network.
Most countries received normal to above normal rains in the 2020-2021 summer cropping season which increased prospects for good harvests, especially maize, which is a staple to the majority in the region.
According to FEWSNET, household access to cash income is expected to improve between May and August as households across most parts of the region where production improved, improved engagement in harvesting labour.
In addition, poor households are also expected to benefit from in-kind payments as better-off households are likely to seasonally increase payment to labourers.
“With the average to above-average water availability enhanced by above-average rainfall and production, gardening activities are also expected to start soon and provide additional income to poor households for other livelihood expenditures,” reads a summary of the analysis.
“Regional staple supplies are expected to be above-average across much of Southern Africa. Average to above-average production in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, and South Africa will likely drive the decline in staple food prices with prices likely to be lower than in 2020 across the region.
“In Malawi, March maize grain prices were up to 50 percent below last year and up to 30 percent below the five-year average. Similar trends are observed in non-conflict affected areas of Mozambique, where maize grain prices decreased by 11 to 46 percent lower than their respective 2020 prices. This is expected to improve household access to staple foods on the market.”
However, some countries are expected to require aid due to effects of droughts and armed conflict.
In Southern Madagascar, due to the consecutive droughts and poor early harvests crisis outcomes are ongoing due to a severe extended 2020/21 lean season.
“Conflict in Carbo Delgado in Mozambique and Ituri, Tanganyika, and Kassai Provinces of DRC continues to affect households’ access to food and disrupt livelihood activities. In these areas, agricultural activities are limited, with many activities affected by banditry, driving a low harvest for many displaced households.
“According to UNHCR, over 700,000 people have been displaced to Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Niassa, Sofala, and Zambezia. This does not account for those who fled to Tanzania and are now being systematically returned to Mozambique. Households that are displaced and affected by conflict in these areas are expected to continue to experience crisis outcomes.”
Meanwhile, the Zambia National Farmers Union and the Grain Traders Association are urging the government to lift a ban on maize exports. They say this will allow farmers to make a return on sales of grain to other countries and will avoid wastage as many of them have insufficient storage capacity for their bumper harvests.
Zambia projects a harvest of 3.6 million tonnes of maize, resulting in a surplus of 1.5 million tonnes, and farmers and grain traders say they can sell some of this to the DRC, for instance. The country also expects to harvest 411,115 tonnes of soya beans compared to 296,686 tonnes the previous season.
In a statement, Zambia National Farmers president Mr Jervis Zimba said, “The government should revoke the statutory instrument that deters maize export by slapping a 10 percent export tax on maize grain exports, otherwise, the country will not tap into the regional markets in an optimal way because we are not sending a signal that we are open for maize export business.
“The marketing arrangements for this huge crop will require timely policy decisions so that the private sector can capture niche export market opportunities before the domestic market gets saturated and prices crash.”
Grain Traders Association director Mr Chambuleni Simwinga weighed in saying the government should allow Zambian farmers to tap into export markets for maize and soya beans.
Reporting by David Muchagoneyi in Harare & Jeff Kapembwa in Lusaka