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Maize prices rising beyond reach of vulnerable Mozambicans

Maize crop in South Africa
Maize crop in South Africa

from ARIMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO – THE escalating price of the staple maize – it has doubled in some regions impacting negatively on poor households, mostly still recovering from a series of shocks this year.

These shocks include cyclones, drought, floods and insecurity.

In the Gorongosa area, a hotbed of conflict, maize grain prices have since November been trending at 100 percent above their respective 2018 levels and 51 percent above the five-year average.

In most markets also monitored by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) around the country, prices of the commodity increased by between 6 and 31 percent from October to November.

At a national level, prices of maize grain were trending at levels 48 to 100 percent above their respective 2018 levels and were above the five-year average by between 40 and 75 percent.

Overall, maize grain prices are above average prices due to below average market supply during the current consumption period.

In Gorongosa, the national reference market, maize grain prices have been increasing since May.

Prices have peaked at MT22 (US$0,35) in November and are projected to reach MT25 in January 2020.

In 2018/2019, the highest price recorded was MT16 (in March). It was MT11 in November and MT13 in January.

FEWS NET decried the prices as abnormally high prices of maize grain and constraining the purchasing power of the most vulnerable households who were affected by this year´s shocks and lost much or all of their annual food production.

“They (vulnerable households) are now heavily relying on market purchasing for food,” the agency stated.

Meanwhile, due to two consecutive years of below-average production in southern semiarid areas, most poor households were unable to keep some of their harvested grain to be used as seeds for this year as normal.

FEWS NET sated that similarly, the devastating floods caused by Cyclone Idai in the central region and Cyclone Kenneth in the north had reduced households’ ability to retain seeds for the current season.

Certified seed distribution is taking place in the central and northern regions, however, remains well below the needs.

Rainfall had a slow start in the semiarid areas, particularly in the interior of Gaza and Inhambane provinces and southern parts of Sofala and Manica Provinces where cumulative rainfall for October to December was below average.

Land preparation and planting is ongoing although at below average rates in the southern region and near average in the central and northern regions.

Localised heavy rain in Maputo and Sofala in November caused localised flooding in urban and peri-urban areas of Beira and Maputo cities, a development FEWS NET attributed mainly to poor drainage systems.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) more than 2,5 million Mozambicans are in urgent need of assistance following multiple and consecutive shocks -including drought, cyclones, floods and insecurity.

This is out of an estimated total population of 30 million.

Within this context, the revised Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) targets the priority life-saving and life-sustaining needs of the 2 million hardest-hit people.

Humanitarian partners have massively scaled-up operations in Mozambique in 2019, thanks to nearly US$300 million contributed by donors.

– CAJ News