Global Information and Early Warning System Country Brief: Lesotho

Reference Date: 23-March-2020

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  • Improved rainfall since December 2019 boosted production prospects of 2020 cereal crops, following earlier unfavourable weather conditions
  • Cereal imports estimated below-average in 2019/20, as drawdown of stocks limited import needs
  • Cereal prices strengthened in 2019, on account of increased import costs
  • Food insecurity worsened as result of reduced harvest and estimated 433 410 people need food assistance until end-March 2020

Improved rainfall since December 2019 boosted production prospects of 2020 cereal crops

The 2020 cereal crops, mainly maize and sorghum, will be harvested from April and, based on remote sensing data, vegetation conditions are favourable in most cropped areas.

Rainfall deficits were recorded at the start of the season during October and November 2019. The poor rains are expected to have delayed planting operations and spurred a contraction in sowings. As a result, the planted area with cereals is estimated at a level close to the previous five‑year average or slightly below. The late‑planted crops, which are likely to be harvested from June onwards, face an increased risk of frost damage during the coming winter months, particularly in the mountainous regions.

Increased precipitation since December 2019 boosted soil moisture reserves and resulted in an improvement of vegetation conditions across most of the main producing areas in the west and northwest (see the Agricultural Stress Index map). As a result, the 2020 cereal production is forecast at a near‑average level, compared to the sharply reduced output obtained in 2019.

Cereal imports estimated below average in 2019/20

In the 2019/20 marketing year (April/March), cereal import requirements are estimated at 183 000 tonnes. The import requirements for maize are estimated at about 70 000 tonnes, 14 percent above the previous year’s volume, reflecting the reduced 2019 harvest. A drawdown of stocks of maize is estimated to have limited a higher requirement of imports. Imports of wheat are expected to remain stable at an average level of 80 000 tonnes.

Cereal prices continued to strengthen in January 2020

According to the Bureau of Statistics (BOS), the rising trend of prices of bread and cereals registered throughout 2019, continued in January 2020, with prices standing at levels about 10 percent higher on a yearly basis. The growth in prices reflects the impact of higher year on year prices in South Africa, the country’s main supplier of grains, and lower domestic output.

Estimated 433 000 people in need of food assistance until March 2020

According to the latest IPC acute food insecurity analysis, about 433 000 people in rural areas were estimated to face severe acute food insecurity and were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance between October 2019 and March 2020. This figure was nearly 60 percent higher than the number of food insecure in the same period in 2018/19, reflecting the impact of the low harvest and higher food prices.

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