Windhoek- The SADC Directorate of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources has revealed that the number of food insecure population in the region for 2018/2019 will be higher, compared to the 2017/18 period.
Currently, the number of food insecure people in the region is 29 million people, representing 14% of the population, according to the State of Food and Nutrition Insecurity and Vulnerability in Southern Africa report.
The report compiled from results of the 2018 vulnerability assessments and analysis of 11 SADC Member States reveals that the number of the food insecure population is 13 percent higher, compared to last year, 2017/18.
Although 70% of SADC population relies on agriculture for a living, only 7% of the regions arable land is irrigated during 2017/2018 financial year.
According to the report the first half of the 2017/18 agricultural season was affected by an extended dry spell from late December 2017 to late January 2018 in central parts of the region, causing a significant negative impact on early-planted crops.
Although the improved rainfall experienced between February and March 2018 aided crop recovery in some areas, permanent wilting occurred in others. In Madagascar, Cyclone Ava and Cyclone Eliakim made landfall and caused fatalities, displacement, damage to infrastructure and flooding; impacting 330,000 people.
Northern Mozambique was also affected by heavy rainfall in January. The report notes that global models run by international climate forecasting institutions predict an El Niño phenomenon during the 2018/2019 season.
According to reports, El Niño has historically been associated with the more frequent occurrence of below average rainfall in central and southern parts of the region, while the northern-eastern parts of the region have historically experienced a more frequent occurrence of above average rainfall during El Niño years.
The Director of Food Agriculture and Natural Resources at SADC Secretariat Domingos Gove, said there are predictions that food insecurity may occur in more vulnerable communities of DRC, Lesotho, South Malawi, South and Central Mozambique, Namibia, South Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Addressing media on Saturday at 38th SADC Summit underway in Windhoek, Gove said although the region has experience normal rainfall during 2017/18 was influenced by La Nina which provoked Normal rainfall conditions, the region has recorded dry spells in January, mainly in Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
He said the situation affected the crop production which reduced compared to the previous crop season (2016/17). For instance maize production in South Africa decreased 23 percent; and 34percent in Zambia.
He said although the market food supplies are stable across the region and carryover stocks from the bumper harvest last season are also helping to stabilize supplies, the low crop prices may increase with shortage of food production.
Currently there are no major trade restrictions across borders, thus maize grain can flow from surplus to deficit areas and countries.
However Gove said due to below-average production in parts of the region, cereal supplies are expected to decline earlier than usual, resulting in increased market demand earlier than usual, and food prices increases above what most poor households can afford.