Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Food situation worstening in several S African countries

Leave the internet for 3 weeks and everything falls apart. Ok, maybe not everything but the food situation in several Southern African countries certainly seems to have taken a dip from the quick skim I'm had time to manage.

Swaziland used to be a net exporter of food, once upon a time in the 1970s. By 2010, 1 in 10 people in the country depended on food aid. Now, rainfall failures in the October 2011 planting season predict poor harvests in 2011/2012. Two thirds of the population rely on subsistence farming. This within a context of government flailing and rapidly running out of the one loan it eventually managed to procure.

In Malawi, it's the urban population that is taking strain. Devaluation, fuel shortages and other economic and political disruptions in December pushed staple prices to what are being termed "alarming levels". Maize prices rose 22 percent in September and a further 15 percent in October in the southern part of the country. This (again) in a context where the government has imposed a 16.5 percent VAT rate to try and fill the 40 percent budget gap left by withdrawn donor funding and is therefore unlikely to be able to activate widespread support.

The UN is also already warning that 1.4 million are likely to face food shortages in Zimbabwe this year. Mozambique is also expected to face localised food shortages during the first quarter of 2012.

Update: Oh, and Malawi's government has also suspended exports to try and boost reserves and/or force suppliers to sell at prices lower than they would like

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