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Food prices expected to shoot up in SADC

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  • April/May 2016 harvests from the region getting depleted quickly
  • Countries contemplating expensive global imports to mitigate food shortage

TSHIAMO TABANE

Food prices in the SADC region will likely rise and remain high until March 2017 due to a demand for staple food which outstrips supply. This is according to SADC humanitarian appeal report released last week. In the report, SADC says 40 million people in the region face acute food shortage, and this will not be helped by the meager April/May 2016 harvest which is said to be getting depleted so quick that food will have to start being imported into the region starting this month (August).
The SADC region has in the May 2016 harvest season produced a total of 38 million tons of cereals against a demand of about 46 million tons, according to the report. While the harvest is improving access to food in the short term, supply of staple foods (maize and wheat) in SADC countries started declining last month (July 2016) and the trend is expected to reach its peak phase around October 2016 and lasting through March 2017, according to SADC.
In the report, SADC Executive Secretary Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax indicated that due to the expected further decline in the supply of maize and other cereals in households, prices of staple foods are likely to increase. “The meager harvests of 2016 are being quickly depleted and with South Africa, usually the main provider of maize to the region facing a massive cereal deficit, it means that other SADC member states that rely on the country are forced to import food elsewhere at a significantly higher costs at a time of weakening local currencies when compared to the US dollar,” he said.
Following drought seasons and declining harvests in the last two consecutive planting seasons, maize prices have been increasing and are currently above five-year monthly average levels. Recent data from SADC shows that compared to five-year average levels, the price of maize in Botswana has increased by 60 percent, Malawi (79.4 percent), Mozambique (94.8 percent), South Africa (65.8 percent), Swaziland (54.5 percent), Tanzania (34.7 percent), Zambia (27.1 percent), Lesotho (24.8 percent) and Zimbabwe (19 percent).
The prices are expected to increase further as SADC countries start to source global maize and other food imports from as far as Ukraine, Brazil, Australian, Mexico, Colombia and US. Global imports are prized on US dollar and therefore importing from the global market will accrue high interests on prizes. “This will lead to additional food basket cost increases and further increase food inflation,” Tax said.
“Thus while food may be available on the market, its price will be simply unaffordable to most. This will force more people to reduce the diversity, quality and quantity of the food they consume and this is likely to drive acute food insecurity in many households in the region,” warned SADC.
SADC region is expected to import around 7.8 million tons of cereals from the global market. The region recorded decline in cereal production with biggest declines reported in Lesotho (70 percent) and Swaziland (59 percent).

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