Almost 1.5 million people in Mozambique are now affected by food insecurity, caused essentially by the drought hitting the southern and central regions of the country, Antonio Paulo, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, announced.

Speaking to AIM, at the end of a meeting of the government’s Disaster Management Technical Council (CTGC), Paulo said the situation was serious, and likely to get worse.

The rainy season officially ended on March 31. No more significant rainfall can be expected until October. As food reserves run out in the coming months, more people are likely to fall into food insecurity.

Adding up the numbers provided by local authorities, Paulo put the number of people affected by food insecurity at 1,493,928. Of these people, 315,000 are currently receiving food aid. That number seems certain to rise, since drought affected rural households will be unable to produce anything until the next rainy season.

There was some rain in southern Mozambique in March – but nowhere near enough to rescue this year’s harvest. “The rain which fell recently was only satisfactory for livestock”, said Paulo. “Farming did not benefit from it”.

In terms of the numbers of people affected, the provinces worst hit by the drought are Tete and Sofala in the centre of the country and Gaza in the south. Paulo put the number of people affected by drought in Tete at 343,413, in Sofala at 328,002 and in Gaza at 220,282.

Meanwhile, sugar production in Mozambique will decline this year because of the drought hitting sugar production areas in the south and centre of the country.

According to Joao Jeque, the executive director of the Mozambican Association of Sugar Producers (APAMO), in 2015 the sector produced 3.3 million tonnes of sugar cane, but the drought guarantees that this amount cannot be produced in the current campaign.

Jeque was speaking at an international sugar conference in Maputo, which was discussing how to improve the production and marketing of sugar.

He pointed out that, of the 3.3 million tonnes of cane produced last year, between 20 and 24 per cent came from peasant farmers, who sell their cane to the large sugar companies for processing.

“This amount of cane was turned into around 330,000 tonnes of sugar”, said Jeque. “That’s a target we would like to meet again, but with the drought it is clear that we will not be able to meet it”.

Jeque added that a study is now under way to assess the full impact of the drought on sugar production.

In recent years, the four Mozambican sugar mills have produced an average of 450,000 tonnes of sugar a year. Less than 200,000 tonnes is consumed on the domestic market, while the rest is exported. The European Union is the main market for Mozambican sugar.

Jeque noted that, although the Mozambican sugar industry produces enough to meet all domestic needs, imports of sugar (legal and illegal) are still occurring, and pose a threat to the industry. He hoped that measures taken by the government, such as increasing the import surtax on sugar would reduce imports.

Source: NNN-AIM