SOUTH AFRICA – According to a special alert issued by the World Food Programme, SA has reported a 22% decline in area planted this season

A sharp drop in SA’s maize crop is expected‚ due to poor rainfall and fall armyworm.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Friday that Southern Africa was being affected by prolonged dry spells‚ erratic rainfall‚ high temperatures and the presence of the fall armyworm‚ which have significantly dampened the current agricultural season’s cereal production prospects.

“Early action in the form of consolidating information through assessments, and anticipatory measures that reduce the impact of threats are crucial for an effective response‚” the UN agency said.

Fall armyworm‚ which first emerged last season‚ is spreading‚ it said.

The pest is now present across the Southern African Development Community (SADC), except for Mauritius and Lesotho.

Partial fall armyworm monitoring has pointed to Malawi as the hotspot in the 2017-18 season‚ and the country has since declared a national disaster.

“The FAO concludes that the damage may already have been done.

Whether the dry spells continue‚ or a lot of rainfall is received within a short period‚ crop production is likely to be negatively affected and, consequently‚ water supplies for humans and livestock‚” said David Phiri‚ the FAO sub-regional co-ordinator for Southern Africa.

A special alert issued this week by the World Food Programme’s food and nutrition security working group for Southern Africa noted that many farmers in the region planted late, while in some areas of Botswana‚ southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe, they did not plant at all.

According to the alert‚ SA — the largest producer of white maize in the region — has reported a 22% decline in area planted this season.

The poor rains and the presence of the fall armyworm have far-reaching consequences on access to adequate food and nutrition during the 2018-19-consumption year.

Phiri said it was imperative that stakeholders, including the UN‚ SADC‚ funding partners‚ NGOs and the private sector, come together to attain a “convergence of thought on the evolving situation”.

“There is an urgent need to determine the scale and possible impact of the prolonged dry spell on the season and intervene immediately,” he said.

“It is equally important to draw lessons from previous experiences and implement proven resilience-building interventions, such as pre-positioning water infrastructure‚ supplementary feeds and disease surveillance for livestock.”

Business Day