The food baskets of the region are set to fill up thanks to above average rainfall in most parts of member countries of the Southern African Development Community, despite the presence of threatening pests.
According to the latest SADC quarterly food security update, the regional food security situation for the 2017/‘18 marketing year is expected to improve compared to the previous season. This is mainly attributed to increased production by farmers.
The report states that “well above rainfall” – in some parts up to double the normal rainfall – received in summer rainfall regions, led to promising signs for bumper harvests.
Dam levels and soil moisture levels saw significant improvement because of good summer rain. The livestock sector is also recovering with improved pasture conditions and drinking water availability.
Incessant and heavy rainfall due to Cyclone Dineo, however, led to flooding, water logging, the leaching of soil nutrients and extended growth time for crops due to colder temperatures.
These conditions were mostly prevalent in Botswana, the northern half of South Africa, Swaziland, southern and central Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the south-eastern parts of Zambia.
Certain parts of the region are still experiencing drought conditions. According to the report, the western and north-eastern parts of the region recorded below average rainfall. As a consequence Tanzania, western Namibia, western Angola and parts of northern Mozambique are expected to record below average harvests.
THREATS TO FOOD SECURITY
High caution remains for the possible spread of the H5N1 and H5N8 strains into southern Africa. So far, the H5N1 strain has spread into 12 western and central African countries, with the H5N8 strain restricted to Uganda.
The highly invasive, alien fall armyworm made its first appearance in maize on the African continent at the end of 2016 and is an added future risk to food security. An estimated 330 000 ha of staple crops in the region are affected so far.
The tomato leaf miner was reported in all member states except Lesotho, Madagascar and Mauritius and can lead to tomato shortages and high prices if not controlled.