AT least 27 million people in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) are in need of food aid following poor harvests in some countries in the region, an official has said.
Sadc Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources director, Margaret Nyirenda, told journalists in Gaborone on the sidelines of the just ended Sadc summit that the 2014/15 farming season was marred by poor rainfall patterns across the region.
Nyirenda said Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa had experienced both floods and prolonged dry spells, worsening the food security situation in the region.
“During the 2015/16 marketing year the number of vulnerable people swelled from 24,28 million to 27,41 million, representing a 13 percent increase,” she said.
“The poor rainfall has led to an unsatisfactory overall regional food security situation for the 2015/16 marketing year with an overall cereal (maize, wheat, rice, millet and sorghum) deficit of 6. 33 million tonnes compared to a surplus of 1.21 million tonnes in the 2014/15 marketing year.”
She said the region produced an estimated 40.23 million tonnes of cereal down from 45.
62 million tonnes last year.
Nyirenda said maize production alone declined to 31.73 million tonnes compared to 36. 79 million tonnes produced last year.
“The total requirement for the region this year is estimated at 32.93 million tonnes, reflecting an overall maize deficit of 1,20 million tonnes,” she said.
Only Zambia, South Africa and Tanzania recorded surplus maize production in the Sadc region. Wheat production also declined resulting in a deficit of 3.25 million tonnes while the region also had a shortfall of 0,57 million tonnes of rice.
Nyirenda, however, said the Sadc bloc was instituting various measures, centred on its Regional Agricultural Policy to improve production, competitiveness and trade in the agricultural sector.
“Further, the region keeps taking necessary measures to provide food and non-food relief supplies to the 27,41 million vulnerable people and support them to recover from the disaster and promote and scale up appropriate climate smart technologies on agriculture, energy, water and other relevant areas which mitigate against the impact of climate change and improve food security in the region,” she said. — New Ziana