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Weekly Updates: Africa | Asia | Latin America

18 March 2011

Africa Update #21: Crisis Building in Zimbabwe

Most of southern Africa is expecting a bumper crop this year, except Zimbabwe and Mozambique, which are expecting widespread crop failures. Zimbabwe, however, is of much greater concern. Some locations in the region are contending with flooding due to the excessive rains.

While most of southern Africa has had huge rainfall surpluses this season, much of Zimbabwe, primarily in the south, along with central and southern Mozambique, have been very dry. Of the two Zimbabwe is more likely to face a major crisis as a result of its international isolation, which makes importing food more difficult. Mozambique is no prize at the moment either with the main growing areas in the central and southern parts of the country also facing major crop losses. Although the northern part of the country has had great rains, very little crop production occurs there. Note that while the above graphic looks great, this past week has been wetter than every week since late January combined across Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique.

Meanwhile flooding remains a major concern across Namibia, Angola and Zambia. Heavy rainfall persisted this week with many of the same areas getting hit once again. The Caprivi strip has also received heavy rainfall and that could lead to flooding downstream along the Zambezi River over the next week. Widespread flooding is most likely across northern Namibia, southern Angola, nearby parts of Zambia and northern Madagascar. (Note, Madagascar could be dealing with a cyclone sometime early next week).

Early reports from South Africa are very encouraging for the region. For the first time in at least 14 years South Africa will be exporting maize (corn) to Italy. This is excellent news that may help to ease the pending world food price shock. Namibia and other regional food producers (with the exception of Zimbabwe and Mozambique) will likely all have food surpluses this year. Note that reports out of those countries will be slower to emerge than South Africa.

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