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March 19, 2012

Zambia, Zimbabwe drastically revise maize harvest forecasts downwards

Zambia's production of maize from commercial farmers is this year expected to be as much as 80% less than that of the 2011 harvest, while neighboring Zimbabwe has 'written off' a third of its current maize crop.

Maize is the staple crop of both countries, and its cultivation in both mainly depends on rainfall. The current cropping season's (October-May) rains began late and have been characterized by long dry spells.

Zambia has enjoyed several years of good maize harvests on good rains and an inputs subsidy program for poor farmers. Zimbabwe has been battling for several years to recoup maize self-sufficiency after dramatic declines caused by a radical land reform exercise that started in 2000.

A spokesman for the Zambia National Farmers' Union said maize output by commercial farmers will fall to 60,000 tonnes, compared to 350,000 tonnes reaped in 2011. Projected yield figures for small scale maize farmers are still being complied.

In Zimbabwe, agriculture officials have announced that a third of the 1.689 million hectares put under maize cultivation for the 2011/12 cropping season had been declared a write-off. Production of maize had been rising from its low of 400,000 tonnes in 2007/08, to 1.35 million tonnes in 2010/11, although that was still less than the country's consumption requirement.

With almost all the countries of the sub-region expected to experience reduced harvests and maize deficits in the next several months, the effects of the poor farming season are likely to have wide and deep food security, economic and political consequences.

African Agriculture

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