ZIMBABWE -Zimbabwe’s maize harvest is expected to halve to 1.1 million tonnes in 2024 due to an El Nino-induced drought, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said on Wednesday, December 13.

This stock would represent a drop of 300,000 tonnes compared to the production of 1.4 million tonnes achieved during the previous campaign.

It would also mark a second consecutive season of drop in cereal harvest for the country which had set a production record of 2.7 million tonnes in 2021/2022.

In Zimbabwe, maize is the main staple food for the population.

The southern African country requires about 1.8 million tonnes of maize annually for human consumption and projected a 2.3 million ton maize harvest in 2023.

In 2022/2023, the country registered a 41% drop in production and now expects another difficult campaign in 2023/2024 due to unfavorable weather conditions, threatening food security in poor households.

El Nino, a natural climate phenomenon in which surface waters of the central and eastern Pacific become unusually warm, causing changes in global weather patterns, is expected to hit crop yields during the 2023/24 farming season.

According to Mr. Ncube, this climatic phenomenon, which returned this year for the first time in 7 years last July, is expected to continue until April 2024, influencing weather conditions with warmer weather and below-average precipitation, according to the data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEW S NET) has said governments, donors, and humanitarian bodies must prepare for high food assistance needs in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar from 2024 to early 2025 as El Nino disrupts agriculture.

Agriculture sector’s performance to shrink

Meanwhile, farmers in Zimbabwe have compounded a lengthy economic crisis, and have delayed planting the staple grain amid high temperatures and dry conditions linked to El Nino.

Only 95,156 hectares of land had been put under summer crops, mainly grains, by December 10, a sharp decline from 465,707 hectares by the same time last year, Zimbabwe’s cabinet said on Tuesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a World Bank briefing on Zimbabwe’s 2024 economic prospects in Harare, Ncube said the country’s agriculture sector would shrink by 4.9% next year due to the El Nino-induced drought.

“Maize is the most impacted where output is in the order of 1.1 million metric tonnes in terms of our estimates,” Ncube said.

Last month, Ncube said Zimbabwe’s economic growth would slow to 3.5% next year, in line with World Bank forecasts, from 5.5% in 2023, mainly due to the drought.

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