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August 04, 2011

Summary of Mozambique agriculture situation

The joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), conducted in May, estimated that national maize production declined in 2010 by 3 percent from last year’s record level, to 1.878 million tonnes, but remained well above the average of the previous five years. The southern provinces experienced the largest decline, but at the national level this was partly compensated by the good production in three northern regions.

Rice production fell by more than 30 percent compared with last year, as a result of extensive losses and yield reduction in central coastal areas, due to the long dry-spell early in the season.

Both sorghum and millet registered a slight increase in production over last year’s level, primarily attributed to an expansion in the area planted.

Other major crops - beans, groundnuts and cassava - performed satisfactorily, also showing some increase in the area planted.

The mid-season dry spell that affected large areas in the South, forced many farmers to replant their maize crops. However, support provided to farmers through the Government’s Food Production Action Plan (PAPA) for the main season, assisted in preventing a more significant decline in cereal production, particularly in southern provinces. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG) provided farmers in vulnerable areas with increased quantities of seed (compared to previous years) for the second season, which aimed to compensate for the expected shortfall in the main-season harvest.

Prices of maize grain began to fall in March across most of the country, but in Maputo, following a stable period between March and June, prices only started to decline in July. A large disparity in maize prices between north and south remains, reflecting the regional differences in production, high transport costs – despite recent improvements in infrastructure – and the burgeoning demand from the poultry industry. In August, the price of maize in Maputo (MZN 11.43/kg) was approximately twice as high as the price in Nampula (MZN 6.58/kg). Rice (the most consumed cereal in Maputo) prices have also risen by 33 percent between August 2009 and August 2010 in Maputo.

Forty-five percent of Mozambique’s total land area is suitable for agriculture, but only 11 percent, around 4 million hectares, is estimated to be cultivated. Farming is conducted by some 3 million peasant families, a small number of commercial farmers cultivating a total of less than 60 000 hectares, and refurbished agro-industrial units growing about 40 000 hectares of sugar-cane. Agriculture occupies 81 percent of the country’s population of 21.7 million. Production of food staples is dominated by smallholders, with an average of 1.2 hectares of cultivated land. Use of purchased inputs is very limited; according to a national survey conducted in 2007, only 4 percent use fertilizers.

Mozambique’s diverse soils and climatic conditions, influenced by latitude, altitude, topography and proximity to the coast, offer a wide range of production opportunities. However, as agricultural systems are predominantly rainfed, production can fluctuate widely from year to year. According to MINAG, the existing potential for irrigation, where basic infrastructural requirements are already in place, is 120 000 hectares. However, only 55 000 hectares are used at present; about 35 000 are under sugarcane and most of the remaining 20 000 are under rice and vegetables.

Tree crops, especially coconut and cashew, grown by small farmers are an important source of foreign exchange earnings, and contribute to household food security. Tree numbers are particularly significant in the heavily populated littorals of Inhambane and Gaza, where the contribution to the household food economy of such crops is substantial as individual farm families may own from 100 to 200 trees.

Other major cash crops grown by small farmers include cotton and tobacco, which generally occupy between 150 000 and 180 000 hectares and between 30 000 and 35 000 hectares respectively. These cash crops, along with oilseeds, tea, citrus and horticultural crops (particularly tomatoes), offer alternative sources of income to the small farmers in inland districts, where coconuts and cashews are not grown.

On a larger scale, about 40 000 hectares of industrial plantations of sugarcane (35 000 under irrigation) are grown at four operational sites surrounding sugar mills in Maputo (2) and Sofala (2) provinces. Sugarcane production has increased rapidly from 386 000 tonnes in 1998 to approximately 3 million tonnes by 2010 as a result of improved production practices and increased area planted.

Maize and cassava are the major staples; other food crops of significance include sorghum, beans, groundnuts, millet and rice. Cassava is grown mainly in the north where it is the main food staple, and it is being introduced, along with sweet potatoes, under a Government initiative in drought-prone areas throughout the country. The area under sweet potatoes is also increasing.

The use of purchased agricultural inputs, (improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) is limited to a small number of modern farm enterprises growing cash crops and vegetables and to out-growers of tobacco and cotton, producing crops on contract. The yields of cereals in the peasant sector are generally low, and losses in the field and stores are high.

Cattle, goats, sheep are reared in extensive grass-based systems and at such low stocking rates, that body conditions are generally excellent. Tsetse fly precludes the keeping of cattle in some parts, mostly in the central and northern regions. At household level, pigs and poultry are kept mainly under back-yard, scavenger systems. There is, however, a fast-growing modern poultry industry which has almost replaced the importation of chickens from Brazil.

In regards to agriculture, following strong growth of the industrial sector, the share of agriculture in national GDP has been falling since the early 1990s, but has maintained a steady rate of 28 percent since 2002. Despite this decline it still remains the largest sector of the economy with approximately 80 percent of the population dependent on agricultural for their livelihood2. Government support to the agricultural sector has focused on three main strategies, the Green Revolution (2007), the Food Production Action Plan (Plano de Acção da Produção Agrícola, PAPA, 2008-2011) and the Strategic Plan for Development of the Agricultural Sector (Plano Estratégico de Desenvolvimento do Sector Agrário, PEDSA, 2009-2019).

One objective of PAPA’s strategy is to enhance the country’s storage capacity, which is cited as a key obstacle preventing small scale farmers participating in the commercial maize market as well as restricting an increase in inter-regional trade. Currently, national capacity (silos and warehouses) both private and public is estimated at 560 735 tonnes, however, there is still a need for the construction of small scale rural silos to incorporate farmers into market system, in addition this will allow farmers to store maize until prices rise. The Government is planning to increase storage capacity by 143 000 tonnes by 2012.

Average maize yields, at about 1.19 tonnes/ha nationally, were close to those of last year (1.20 tonnes/ha), indicating that reduction in harvested area, rather than yield reduction, was the main contributor to this year’s lower production. It is notable that last year’s average yields were not considerably higher, compared to this season, given the fact that rainfall last year was good.

The use of purchased inputs in Mozambican agriculture is very limited. According to a national survey conducted in 2007, only 4 percent of farmers use any fertilizers. However, the Government this year distributed, through PAPA, 1 600 tonnes of maize seed to all provinces, 2 000 tonnes of rice seed to all provinces except Tete and Manica, and 150 tonnes of soya seed to the provinces of Sofala, Manica, Tete, Zambezia and Nampula. In an effort to increase crop production in the second season and compensate for the relatively poor season in the South and parts of the Centre, the Government also distributed 497 tonnes of maize seed, 1 412 tonnes of wheat seed, 2 125 tonnes of seed potatoes, 107 tonnes of bean seed and 1.7 tonnes of assorted vegetable seed. Ninety tractors and various other pieces of agricultural equipment, including hand-held cultivators and irrigation pumps, were also distributed. These efforts were further supplemented by FAO and various NGOs which provided large numbers of farmers with seed.

Coconut plantations, especially in Sofala Province but also in Nampula Province, have, since about 2005, suffered increasingly from lethal yellowing. The virus has taken a severe toll on very large numbers of palms to the evident detriment of many livelihoods. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is reported to be supporting the multiplication of replacement planting material in the form of short-stature lethal-yellowing-tolerant palms, but producers are reluctant to expend the energy required to grub out the dead palms and wait for eight or nine years for the new palms to start producing. The disease has not yet spread to Inhambane Province.

Commercial citrus and mango plantations were infested by fruit fly in the second half of 2009, to the extent that exports to South Africa were halted by MINAG in November. However, exports of these food items resumed in March 2010.

full report...Globserver

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