from TSOANELO MOKHAHLANE in Maseru, Lesotho
MASERU – PRICES of the staple maize meal in Lesotho have reached a five-year high as the country grapples with increasing grain prices in neighbouring South Africa.
The prices in Lesotho are projected to increase further in the wake of increased demand driven by a poor harvest this year. This is the aftermath of insufficient rain.
Maize is priced at LSL5,50 (US$0,39) at markets in the capital Maseru.
Prices are projected to escalate to LSL6 until the next harvest in February next year.
Projections by Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) show that maize meal prices in Maseru would likely increase to above-average levels during the outlook period.
They are expected to fluctuate between 4 percent and 12 percent above the five-year average between July 2019 and February 2020.
South Africa is a source market for Lesotho maize exports but is experiencing shortfalls of its own.
A recent South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) bulletin indicated that white maize grain prices in the country slightly increased between April and May.
It also projects that white maize grain prices will likely increase by 7 percent between June 2019 and March 2020.
At the time of publication, South African white maize prices were at R2 900 ($205,88) per tonne.
“This increase is expected to cascade down to receiving markets in Lesotho,” FEWS NET stated.
“The combined effects of below average harvest, low incomes, and increasing maize meal prices are expected to increase food insecurity to above last year levels,” the agency added.
Although official crop estimates are still to be released, unofficial statistics indicate that maize grain production is likely to be below last year’s levels and 20 percent to 40 percent below peak levels.
In addition, wheat and sorghum production are also well below average, at around 10 percent to 30 percent.
The World Food programme (WFP) anticipated food security in Lesotho to deteriorate further from July 2019 to June 2020.
The food insecure population projected to increase to 640 000. This is out of the country’s total population of 2,29 million people.
Agriculture, which contributes 7 percent of the Mountain Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP), is a major source of livelihood for 80 percent of the population living in rural areas.
– CAJ News