Namibia has once again been identified as one of 45 countries in need of external assistance with food, as the impact of El Niño raises concerns about food prices and people’s livelihoods.
According to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report for July, an estimated 390 000 people faced acute food insecurity during the period from January to March 2023.
The report highlights that several areas in Southern Africa, including the northern parts of Madagascar, Mozambique, and Namibia, as well as the southern areas of Angola and Zimbabwe, have been affected by rainfall deficits and high temperatures, which are curtailing yield prospects.
“Following a slow start of seasonal rains in Angola and Namibia, precipitation amounts increased since December 2022, fostering an upturn in vegetation conditions in January. The heavy rains also caused localised inundation in northern Namibia when crops were at germination and emergence stages, a period when they are particularly susceptible to flood damage.”
El Niño alarm bells
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), meanwhile, warned that alarm bells have been raised about the return of El Niño.
However, it also emphasised that Southern Africa is in a much stronger position to deal with the effects of El Niño compared to seven years ago.
“With early warning and early action in the region, preparations are underway to ensure that the lessons learned minimise the risks ahead,” the FAO said.
It said it is vital to support the governments of high-risk countries in strengthening their drought preparedness and response capacity.
Sufficient drought-resistant agricultural inputs must be integrated into existing supply chains to keep smallholder farmers and agro-pastoralists productive and communities nourished. It is equally vital to continue investing in drought monitoring structures that provide decision-makers with the necessary, timely information to safeguard lives and livelihoods.
In the 2015/16 rainfall season, El Niño wreaked havoc across Southern Africa, inducing the worst drought in over 35 years.
The El Niño-induced drought hugely impacted people’s livelihoods. Food prices skyrocketed as a result, with countries relying on expensive imports to make up for local and national food deficits.
Meanwhile, the FAO said the benchmark index of international food commodity prices declined again in June, led by price decreases for all major cereals and most types of vegetable oils.
The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly traded food commodities, averaged 122.3 points in June, down 1.4% from May and 23.4% from its peak in March 2022.
“High food prices, economic downturns, conflict, droughts and the impending risk of El Niño weather patterns in several regions are aggravating food security concerns in many parts of the world,” it said.
“The international community must prepare to support the anticipatory actions and response efforts with the looming El Niño event. Southern Africa is already burdened, with 57.5 million people experiencing food and nutrition insecurity in 2023/24. We cannot let that number grow,” said the FAO’s Lewis Ho.
The FAO Cereal Price Index declined 2.% from May. International coarse grain quotations in June decreased by 3.4%.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index declined by 2.4% from May as lower global prices of palm and sunflower oils more than offset increases in quotations for soy and rapeseed oil, influenced by weather conditions in major growing regions.
The FAO Dairy Price Index declined by 0.8% in June, led by lower international cheese prices, even as world butter prices rose, driven by active demand for spot supplies, mainly from the Middle East.
The FAO Sugar Price Index declined by 3.2%, its first drop after four consecutive monthly increases, mainly triggered by the good progress of the sugarcane harvest in Brazil and sluggish global import demand, particularly from China.
The FAO Meat Price Index was virtually unchanged in June, with poultry meat prices rising on the back of high import demand from East Asia amid ongoing supply challenges linked to the widespread avian influenza outbreaks. International pork prices also rose, while those of bovine and ovine meats dipped due to increased exportable availabilities from Oceania.
[Source – Republikein]