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2020 crop production prospects high

Publishing Date : 07 October, 2019

Author : LAWRENCE PAGANGA

Crop and livestock production prospects in Botswana in 2020 are expected to be most favourable, based on a high likelihood of a positive rain season, the Global Information Early Warning System on food and agriculture (GIEWS) has predicted.


In its country brief on Botswana released last week, the GIEWS said the favourable weather forecast bode well for the country’s 2020 agricultural season. This is a welcome development for farmers and the country’s general populace after cereal production this year declined well below average level, driven by significant rainfall deficits with this year’s national harvest plummeting by a record 82 per cent in five years. As a result, food insecurity worsened this year and this is expected to continue into early 2020 due to reduced agricultural production and poor harvests.

 
“Planting of the 2020 cereal crops is expected to start in November and crops are likely to be ready for harvest in May next year, GIEWs said in its forecast. “Weather predictions indicate a higher probability of average to above average rainfall during the 2019/20 cropping season, which could help instigate a recovery in crop production, as well as an improvement in pasture conditions and water availability for livestock,” it said. The 2019 summer cereal crops – maize, millet and sorghum – had been harvested by June, while the winter wheat crop is expected to be harvested this month.


 However, cereal production was at estimated a low level of 8 000 tonnes in 2019.  This harvest is at least 82 per cent lower than the previous five-year average recorded in the country. “The principal factor for the significant decrease was due to the severe seasonal rainfall deficits that adversely affected the harvested area and yields of the 2019 summer crops, which account for the bulk of the national cereal output,” GIEWS said.


It added; “The dry conditions also had a negative impact on the livestock sector and caused a significant decrease in the availability and quality of grasslands, causing a worsening of livestock body conditions and increasing mortality rates.  Due to the reduced 2019 harvests, import requirements are estimated to increase during the 2019/20 marketing season with over 400 000 tonnes of cereal expected to be imported into the country.


“Most of this volume is comprised of maize, with imports forecast at 230 000 tonnes, while wheat imports are anticipated to reach 115 000 tonnes,” GIEWS said. The impact of drought conditions on domestic and regional food supplies has put pressure on food prices.  As a result, there was a slight uptick in the annual food inflation rate, which was estimated at two per cent in August 2019, compared to a stagnant rate in August 2018.  Most of the price increases in 2019 reflect a rise in bread and cereal, which have the largest weight in the food inflation index.


According to the Botswana Vulnerability Assessment Committee (BVAC), the number of people in need of food assistance is estimated to have increased slightly to 38 300 people between April and March this year. “The small increase is due to the impact of drought conditions on agricultural livelihoods, particularly the losses of crops and livestock that adversely affected households’ food supplies and income levels.  The food insecure population is expected to be supported by Government programmes through, for example, the provision of urgent basic food relief packages,” BVAC said.


The GIEWS continuously monitors food supply and demand and other key indicators for assessing the overall food security in all countries.  It is a department in the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) that leads international efforts to global defeat hunger.

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