Heavy rains, fertiliser shortage threaten yields

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THE Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) says widespread heavy rainfall and fertiliser shortages across the country will likely contribute to a reduction in national crop yields.
Heavy rains, coupled with the occurrences of Tropical Storm Chalane and Tropical Cyclone Eloise, have led to average to above-average rainfall from October to January. This has resulted in favourable water availability and fair to good crop, pasture, and livestock conditions currently, according to Fewsnet.

“However, the heavy rainfall is causing extensive soil leaching, waterlogging, poor weed control in some areas, a high risk of flooding along riverine areas, and extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

“Farmers also have difficulty accessing fertilisers due to high prices and market shortages, the latter notably with respect to top dressing fertilisers. These factors could have some impact on potential crop yields,” Fewsnet said in its report for January.

Pests and diseases also remain a threat to the country’s crop plant life, Fewsnet added. This comes at a time prices of most goods and services, driven by parallel market exchange rates which are at least 25 percent higher than official rates, continue to be beyond the reach of many. The official exchange rates remain stable at around $82/US$.

Despite a progressive decline since mid-2020 in the annual inflation rate, annual inflation increased to 363 percent in January from 349 percent in December. The year-on-year inflation rate for the month of January 2021 as measured by the all-items blended Consumer Price Index stood at 191,52 percent.

In early January, the government reinstated restriction measures to nonessential activities for 30 days as the confirmed cases of Covid-19 and associated deaths significantly increased. The measures which have been extended to February 15, include limitations on public transport and population movement, and border closures.

Key economic sectors, agriculture, mining, and manufacturing were, however, not affected by the restrictions, but most formal and informal livelihood activities impacting urban livelihoods were restricted. This is expected to create a food security crisis for some urban households.

Most areas of Matabeleland North and South, Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland and the extreme northern parts of the Mashonaland provinces are also expected to continue in the lean food season until at least March.

In the meantime, Southern Africa has been hit by a second, more severe wave of Covid-19, as most countries were just getting back on their feet economically.

The most affected countries are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Malawi, where restriction measures limiting people movement and closing of borders were reintroduced. This led to a reduction in access to income among some households; however, agricultural activities are generally continuing.

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