The almost total failure of the maize crop in Namibia's northeastern Caprivi region could have "disastrous consequences" for the area's food security, according to a crop assessment report.
"The Emergency Management Unit is yet to conduct a vulnerability assessment, so we do not know the numbers in need of food aid in Caprivi," said Lesley Losper, an agricultural economist with the Namibia Early Warning and Food Information Unit (NEWFIU) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development.
Losper pointed out that the NEWFIU team, which compiled the report, found that farmers had already "abandoned their fields" and adopted survival mechanisms, such as selling fodder grass and fishing.
The Caprivi region has lost about 50 percent of the potential crop area because of dry spells, diminishing maize output from 6,636 mt in 2003/04 to 1,394 mt this year.
National cereal production fell by 16 percent compared to last year's figures and was about eight percent below the eight-year average.
NEWFIU was confident that the cereal deficit of 81,757 mt would be met by commercial imports.
"Although the commercial stocks appear adequate at the national level to meet the country's consumption needs, localised deficits will persist due to adverse growing conditions," the report noted.
In the Kavango, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto areas, the yields of crops planted early had also been reduced by dry spells, while those planted late had failed to reach maturity because the rains ended abruptly, according to NEWFIU.
The final estimates of the 2004/05 harvest will be available after the National Planning Commission finalises the results of the current Agricultural Census.
An estimated 4,500 ha of crops were destroyed last year as a result of flooding in the eastern Caprivi.