Dry East Africa faces crop failure

A crop failure unfolding in East Africa is likely to have little impact on grain and pulse crop prices, says an analyst.

“From a grain market perspective it is probably not a huge mover, (but) from a humanitarian point of view, it’s big,” said Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather with Glacier FarmMedia’s MarketsFarm.

“Drought in that region is pretty devastating in terms of the population there.”

The European Crop Monitor issued a special report on June 20 highlighting “cropping concerns” in East Africa.

It said the March-to-May rainy season was among the driest on record in the central and southern parts of East Africa through mid-April.

Cumulative precipitation in the Horn of Africa was less than 20 percent of average during that period.

Above-average precipitation in late-April and May reduced the moisture deficits but it was mostly too late to improve crop prospects.

“Damage to crops was largely irreversible and prospects remain highly unfavourable,” the crop monitor said in its June Global Agricultural Monitoring report.

The drought caused delayed planting and has stunted crop development in Somalia, Uganda, southeastern Kenya, eastern Ethiopia and northeastern Tanzania.

Burnett said East Africa is not a significant grain importer simply because it can’t afford to pay for imported food.

“East Africa is still not developed enough that it’s going to result in a great switch around in terms of trade,” he said.

He noted that if conditions remain challenging, demand could start to materialize in the form of food aid but it can take a while to trigger that process.

The crop monitor expects harvest to be 40 to 50 percent below normal in Somalia, Uganda and parts of Kenya.

Crops could still recover in Kenya’s corn basket in the southwestern portion of the country.

“If weather forecasts of above-average rainfall between now and August materialize, a substantial recovery of water-stressed crops is still possible as the growing season continues up to October,” the crop monitor stated in its report.

By contrast, crops in the southeast and coastal regions of the country are beyond repair.

It was also a poor growing season in southern Africa where harvest is now complete for the main season corn crops.

“Below average production and in some cases crop failure has resulted across much of the region due to delay onset rains and severe dry conditions throughout the season,” said the crop monitor.

There was widespread wilting of crops in Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and the southern parts of Zambia and Mozambique.

A series of cyclones also caused flooding and crop damage in Mozambique, southern Malawi and eastern Zimbabwe.

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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