…as Bureau of Statistics forecasts decline in harvest
LESOTHO faces another period of food insecurity due to a marked decline in both the area planted and yields, a Bureau of Statistics (BOS) report has revealed.
In its Crop Forecasting Report for the 2014/2015 season, which was released on Thursday, BOS expects a grain deficit of 179 808 metric tonnes for the 2014-15 agricultural season.
BOS is a department under the Ministry of Development Planning mandated with providing national economic and social statistics for purposes of planning and research.
The statistics are also meant to inform policymakers and the private sector about the expected crop-production to make timely preparations in the event of food shortage.
The report, which was compiled in conjunction with the Agricultural and Food Security Statistics (AFSD), mainly focused on the production of three major crops, namely maize, sorghum and wheat.
It was informed by such factors as the area planted, yield, weather-pattern, arable-land, soil-fertility, inputs used and general household food security status.
According to the report, the area planted for maize in 2014/2015 of 115 813 hectares (ha) was a 23.8 percent decrease compared to the 151 930ha of the previous agricultural year.
Maize yield is estimated at 0.21 metric-tonnes per hectare (mt/ha), a decrease of 47.5 percent compared to 2013/2014.
“Expected total (maize) production is 78 246mt. Leribe is expected to have the highest production (22 211mt), while the lowest production is expected in Qacha’s Nek (528ha),” notes the report.
The expected maize production decreased by 13.6 percent from 2013/2014’s 90 628mt.
The area planted for wheat, 8 992ha, was a 37.1 percent decrease compared to last year’s 14 292ha, added the report, with the area the crop was planted the most being Mokhotlong with 2 511ha.
Wheat’s yield per hectare is forecast at 0.79mt/ha, a decrease of 10.2 percent from last year’s 0.88mt/ha.
“From 2012/2013 to 2013/2014, wheat-production decreased by six percent, and further decreased by 43.8 percent in 2014/15,” the BOS report indicated.
Wheat production is expected to be 7 069mt, a 43.8 percent decrease compared to 2013/2014’s 12 582mt.
The area planted for sorghum in 2014/2015 of 17 605ha was 27.7 percent less compared to 24 356ha of the previous agricultural year.
Sorghum’s yield in 2014/2015 is forecast at 0.21mt/ha—a decrease of 53.3 percent from the previous year’s 0.45mt/ha.
“The expected sorghum production in the country is 3 634mt. It has decreased by 63.1 percent compared to production in the previous year (9 844mt),” reads the report.
Maseru is expected to have the highest sorghum production with 927mt.
The area planted for all the crops was 173 316ha, the report notes—a 18.8 percent decrease from the 213 339ha of the previous year.
Meanwhile, the fallow area is estimated at 46 605ha, which is a decrease of 31.8 percent from 68 329ha of the previous year.
“The findings revealed that the availability of maize cereal when compared to the previous year had decreased by 37.2 percent, while utilisation increased by 304.7 percent. Consumption decreased by 41.0 percent in the same period,” the report further notes.
Utilisation refers to the quantity of cereals used by households inclusive of the stock available in a marketing year, while consumption refers to the quantity of cereals consumed as food.
“The balance sheet shows a domestic requirement of 351,175mt yet the domestic availability is only 171,287mt. This leaves a domestic deficit or shortfall of 179 808mt of all the cereals.”
According to the report, of the total planned imports of 320 703mt, only 15 718mt had been received while the expected imports of 304 985mt leave an uncovered shortfall of 19 911mt.
Speaking following the release of the report on Thursday, BOS Director of Statistics Liengoane Lefosa said government needed to put measures in place to address the perennial food insecurity in the country.
The statistics, she noted, reflected regression in food production which would result in more dependence on imports.
“A look at the statistics of previous years reveals that our agricultural production has been regressing. This means we are becoming even more dependent on imports for our sustenance and not from what we have grown,” said Ms Lefosa.
“Our duty, as the BOS, is to collect data and make an analysis of the situation which we then present to the policymakers who we urge to take drastic approaches to combat the crisis.
“There is an urgent need for an in-depth discussion with farmers on how to apply their skills more effectively.”
She added while weather conditions and pests were the usual scapegoats for failure to meet crop production targets, attention should also be given to farmers’ failure to fully utilise resources at their disposal.
“The subsidies government provides cannot achieve the intended purposes if our farmers do not comply,” Ms Lefosa said.
Lesotho’s looming food insecurity comes amid a forecast by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of a shrinking of maize harvests in the whole of southern Africa for the 2015 season.
FAO said in a report that the sub-regional maize import requirements are forecast to increase sharply in 2015/16, while maize prices rose in South Africa, the major sub-regional exporter, by nearly 30 percent since the beginning of the year.
“In southern Africa, the early forecast of the aggregate 2015 maize production stands at about 21.1 million tonnes, 26 percent below the bumper output in 2014, and 15 percent lower than the average. The bulk of the decline is mainly due to the significant drop in South Africa, the sub region’s main producer and exporter,” states the report.
The UN agency noted that reduced cereal outputs are also forecast in most other countries of the sub-region. The decline is largely on account of erratic weather conditions, characterised by a late start of seasonal rains in November/December, flooding in parts in early 2015 and a severe dry spell during February and early March, a critical month for crop growth.
Comments are closed.