Urgent action needed as South Africa faces maize drop linked to ‘super’ El Nino

Published: 28th January 2016

South Africa is facing its smallest maize harvest since 2007 this year as record-high temperatures and drought continue to hit its agricultural sector. According the government’s Crop Estimates Committee, only 7.44 million tons of maize is likely to be harvested in 2016 - that’s 25 percent less than the 9.94 million tons reaped.

In response, Oxfam South Africa Executive Director, Sipho Mthathi, said: "South Africa's agricultural production figures are playing into the worst fears of this ‘super’ El Nino's likely effects on ordinary people. The region depends upon South Africa's food exports but that buffer has been blown away now by record high temperatures and drought.

“We're anticipating similar drops in maize production in neighboring countries too. The region typically has a maize surplus of 3 million tons – these latest figures suggest there will now be a deficit of around 500,000 tons or more.

“To make matters worse, many farmers have delayed planting, or even abandoned the idea altogether, because of erratic rains. Food prices are already well above average and markets are stressed.

“This is a recipe for disaster for many millions of poor people in the region - and it must be a wake-up call for governments, donors and international and local organizations to take urgent action now to help.”

Notes to editors

Contact information