A sharp drop in South Africa’s maize crop is expected‚ due to poor rainfall and a voracious pest.
The Food and Agriculture Organization said on Friday that Southern Africa as a region was being affected by prolonged dry spells‚ erratic rainfall‚ high temperatures and the presence of the fall armyworm‚ which have significantly dampened the current agricultural season’s cereal production prospects.
“Early action in the form of consolidating information through assessments and anticipatory measures that reduce the impact of threats are crucial for an effective response‚” the United Nations agency said.
Fall Armyworm‚ which first emerged last season‚ is spreading‚ it said. The pest is now present across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) except Mauritius and Lesotho. Partial fall armyworm monitoring has pointed to Malawi as the hotspot in the 2017/18 season‚ and the country has since declared a national disaster.
“FAO concludes that the damage may already have been done. Whether the dry spells continue‚ or a lot of rainfall is received within a short period‚ crop production is likely to be negatively affected and consequently‚ water supplies for humans and livestock‚” said David Phiri‚ the FAO sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa.
A Special Alert issued by the Food Nutrition and Security Working Group for Southern Africa this week noted that many farmers from the region planted late while in some areas of Botswana‚ southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe did not plant at all.
According to the Alert‚ South Africa — the largest producer of white maize in the region — has reported a 22% decline in area planted this season.
The poor rains and the presence of the fall armyworm‚ Special Alert says‚ have far reaching consequences on access to adequate food and nutrition during the 2018/19-consumption year.
Phiri said it was imperative that stakeholders including the UN‚ SADC‚ funding partners‚ non-governmental organisations and the private sector come together to attain a “convergence of thought on the evolving situation”.
“There is an urgent need to determine the scale and possible impact of the prolonged dry spell on the season and intervene immediately. It is equally important to draw lessons from previous experiences and implement proven resilience-building interventions such as prepositioning water infrastructure‚ supplementary feeds and disease surveillance for livestock‚” said Phiri.