Monday, July 22, 2024

Scores of Batswana face hunger in pandemic despite bumper crop

Batswana farmers this year had the largest crop in five years and some of the best grazing pastures, however pockets of fellow citizens facing hunger due to Covid-19 still persist. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)s  Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS), Botswana’s “harvesting of the 2021 cereal crops, mainly sorghum and maize, was completed in June and production is estimated at 110 000 tonnes, more than double the five-year average, reflecting an expansion in the planted area and above-average yields due to conducive seasonal rainfall. The favourable rainfall also benefitted vegetation conditions in rangelands and resulted in good pasture conditions across the country, which are expected to support an upturn in livestock production in 2021.|

 

“Planting of the 2022 cereal crops is anticipated to begin in November 2021 and early weather forecasts point to a higher-than-normal likelihood of above-average rains throughout most of the cropping season. This bodes well for production prospects next year, but also increases the risk of flooding and possible damage to crops.” Botswana is a net importer of cereals, with more than 90 percent of the domestic requirements normally bought from outside the country.

In the 2021/22 marketing year (April/March), cereal import requirements are estimated to have decreased to a below-average level on account of the large 2021 harvest and a high level of carryover stocks. Reflecting the reduced import needs, the pace of maize imports in the 2021/22 marketing year has been slower than the previous year.

According to the latest data by Statistics Botswana, the annual food inflation rate in July 2021 was estimated at 6.5 percent. Rises in the price of bread and cereals, which have the largest weight in the food price index, were a primary contributor to the yearly increase, while there was a small increase in the price of oils and fats.

About 36 000 people are estimated to be food insecure in the April 2021-March 2022 period, marginally higher than the level in 2020/21. The small increase reflects the continued and adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on households’ access to food, primarily due to the economic slowdown and a consequent increase in unemployment.

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