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Namibia Food Security Pressured By Drought Conditions

01 November 2013

NAMIBIA - Drought pressure has taken its toll on livestock as well as the cereal yields, which have taken a big hit this year.

The World Food and Agriculture Organisation writes that inadequate water supplies led to a government national emergency declaration back in May, with around 331,000 people in need of assistance. 

The FAO adds that government reports expect crop planting to start in December.

Improved Rains Forecast for the 2013/14 Cropping Season

Planting for the 2013/14 cropping season (November-June) is expected to commence at the end of the year. Rains in October were generally below average, however forecasts indicate an increased chance of normal to above normal precipitation from November onwards, with heavier rains predicted between December and February.

Drought Conditions Result in Severe Production Declines in 2013

Following drought conditions during the 2012/13 cropping season, cereal production declined sharply by 42 percent compared to last season to 96 000 tonnes. Although most of the country’s consumption requirements are met through imports, reduced harvests have negatively impacted food availability in the subsistence sector.

In addition, pasture and water availability for livestock worsened significantly. As a result, livestock conditions deteriorated, resulting in distress sales of livestock at relatively low prices and a fall in milk production. Nationally, the number of cattle marketed more than doubled in the second quarter of 2013 on an annual basis. The quantity sold was the highest level recorded in the preceding ten years. Similarly, marketing of small stock in the second quarter of 2013 recorded a year-on-year increase of 18 percent.

Larger Maize Imports in 2013/14

The sharp drop in domestic cereal production has resulted in increased import requirements for the 2013/14 marketing year (May/April), estimated at 115 000 tonnes for maize. The weekly maize import rate from South Africa, between May and October 2013, averaged nearly 3 000 tonnes, far in excess of the 500 tonnes per week recorded over the same period in 2012.

Currently, about half-way into the 2013/14 marketing year, about 75 000 tonnes of maize were imported, satisfying approximately 65 percent of the country’s estimated annual import requirement.

Food Security Conditions Deteriorate

An estimated 780 000 people are food insecure, of whom about 331 000 persons are in need of assistance. The northern regions have been worst affected by the drought, with the largest number of food insecure assessed to be in northern region of Kavango.

Many households have employed several coping strategies to mitigate the impact of the drought, including reducing the number of meals and increasing their consumption of wild foods. In response, the government declared a national emergency and initiated several short and long-term interventions.

Emergency food aid is being distributed, with an estimated 39 600 tonnes of food (cereals and pulses) required to cover the needs of the food insecure population. Although the country has the capacity to import sufficient quantities of cereals, households’ access to market supplies are expected to be negatively impacted due to reduced livestock prices and limited sales of crops.

TheCropSite News Desk

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