Food Security Improves

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK This year’s food security situation looks better due to an improved harvest, although the country will still have to import food to cover for the shortfall. With an expected total harvest of 109 500 tonnes, the harvest is projected to improve by 10 percent compared to the last season, when 94 400 tonnes were harvested. The latest Food Security Bulletin produced by the Early Warning and Food Information Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry says due to the substantial rainfall experienced during the past crop season, crop production forecast at the end of May 2006 indicates an improvement in the harvest. The country recorded a general increase in production in Caprivi, Omusati, Oshana regions and the commercial areas with the exception of Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Kavango, where cereal harvests are low because of reduction in areas planted and other factors caused by excessive rainfall such as flooding, water logging, nutrient leaching, discouraged weeding and minor outbreaks of armyworm. It also indicates that the household food sufficiency, an indication of a number of months the harvest will sustain an average household in each region, only exists in two regions, namely Omusati and Oshikoto. The analysis of the early warning unit says that while the cereal harvests in Caprivi, Ohangwena and Oshana regions will sustain the households halfway, Kavango is of great concern because the cereal harvest may only last five months from July to November this year. Caprivi’s harvest, which is expected to reach 4 200 tonnes is 50 percent higher than that of last season due to above normal rainfall. Kavango recorded the same total production of 2 500 tonnes during this season as well as the 2004/5 growing season. Ohangwena recorded a harvest of 12 400 tonnes, which is less compared to the 18 700 tonnes in the 2004/5 cropping season. Oshikoto also experienced a lower harvest this year at 10 100 tonnes compared to 11 500 tonnes last cropping season. Although the food situation has improved with the final cereal harvest for the year forecast at 109 500 tonnes, the country still falls short by 82 000 tonnes of cereal, which it will need to import. The total shortfall, considering that the country has produced 109 500 tonnes while it needs 305 700 tonnes, is 162 500 tonnes. Of this, commercial millers plan to import 82 000 tonnes of cereal leaving an after trade deficit of about 80 500 tonnes. The food security bulletin incorporates the availability of water, food production, livestock marketing, commodity prices, consumer price index and household access to food, as well as coping mechanisms. The bulletin says natural resources exploited to offset adverse situations are becoming scarce, because they have been used intensively for many years as a means of survival. “With lack of other income options, forest resources including wood, fish and wild animals are being extracted beyond sustainable levels following consecutive crop production failures,” says the bulletin, adding that consumption patterns have changed dramatically with the quantities and quality of food consumed said to have intensified. Families are reported to be consuming two to three meals a day, whose composition includes cereal, wild spinach, fish and meat. In addition, the strength of producer prices of cattle, sheep and goats has increased further in 2006. According to the bulletin, the prices are likely to retain the current momentum in the long term, especially with the high demand arising from South Africa as well as the impact of the ban on Brazilian meat on international markets due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.