Windhoek-Based on the current conditions after the recent heavy rains in most parts of all crop regions, cereal production is expected to increase to near-average levels in 2017, according to an early report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
While livestock conditions remained poor by the end of last year with losses reported, the rains since the start of the new year, and the late rains in March and April, have boosted vegetation conditions, leading to an improvement in pastures.
Water reserves have partially been replenished following two consecutive drought-affected cropping seasons. As a result, livestock conditions are anticipated to improve in coming months.
Seasonal rains began in November in the northern parts, prompting plantings activities and benefitting early crop establishment. Although cumulative rains in November and December were near normal in most cropping zones, western areas, including the large cereal-producing region of Omusati received below-average precipitation, constraining vegetation conditions.
However, late rains provided moisture and there is still time to recover, particularly in consideration of weather forecasts that indicate an enhanced likelihood of above-rainfall through to May in the main cropping zones.
Availability and access to agricultural inputs were reportedly good, according to a government assessment in early November. Communal farmers are benefitting from government subsidy programmes for inputs and services, with seed and fertilisers subsidised by 50 percent and 60 percent, respectively.
Cereal production rose in 2016, but remained below average
Cereal production in 2016 was estimated to be 18 percent up on the drought reduced output of 2015. However, the output was still 29 percent below the previous five-year average. The year-on-year increase mainly resulted from a higher millet output and a larger harvest from the commercial irrigated maize crop.
In the communal sector, production of maize was estimated to have declined by 16 percent, and is over two-thirds below the average. Severely suppressed seasonal rains, on account of the 2015/16 El Niño episode, was the main driver behind the poor agricultural performance in 2016 in the communal sector, and particularly affected the regions of Oshana and Zambezi in the north.
This year, Namibia is expected to produce some 69,000 tonnes of white maize, around 30 percent more than last season.
Maize prices eased on back of lower import costs
The impact of the regional drought and the reduced domestic harvests in 2015 and 2016 maintained higher year-on-year maize prices. November 2016 prices were up to 40 percent higher than their values a year earlier. However, lower prices in South Africa, the main source of imports, have contributed to easing inflationary pressure and resulted in more stable maize prices since September 2016. The annual inflation rate, although higher than the previous year, also remained stable in the last quarter of 2016.
Food security remains stressed
The below-average harvest and poor livestock conditions in 2016 were the main drivers of the stressed food security; the drought-affected households reportedly exhausted their food stocks as of August, only two months after the harvest period. Higher food prices are also impinging on food access.
To alleviate the situation the government has been supporting about 595,398 people who are food insecure through the Drought Relief Food Programme, which ran until March. With production forecast to rise in 2017, food security conditions are expected to improve this year.