Zambia’s estimated maize production has drastically fallen to just two million metric tonnes for the 2018-2019 agricultural season, down from 2.4 million tonnes produced last year, a second successive drop, triggered by severe drought conditions.

And production of three major cash crops – millet, sorghum and soya beans, among others – are all expected to decline during this year’s harvest.

Announcing to the crop forecasting survey for the 2018/2019 agricultural season and the food security status for the 2019/2020 marketing season, Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo revealed that Zambia is anticipated to record around 2,004,389 metric tonnes of maize in the 2018-2019 agricultural season.

This year’s maize output of two million tonnes is also the lowest harvest in a decade when Zambia produced less than this amount of maize in 2009.

Since then, the country recorded at least two bumper harvests, one during the 2013/2014 agricultural season of 3,350,671 metric tonnes, with the other one slightly higher at around 3,606,549 tonnes during the 2016/2017 season, a record bumper harvest, remaining the highest on record so far.

For the 2018/2019 season, however, Katambo told journalists that this year’s harvest plummeted, and had been negatively affected by Zambia’s prolonged drought, which hit the lower half of the country.

“This year, maize production is forecast to decrease to 2,004,389 metric tonnes from 2,394,907 metric tonnes produced last season. This represents a decline in production of 16 per cent. The reduction in the total maize production and yields for the 2018/2019 season is largely due to the prolonged dry spells that were experienced in the growing season,” Katambo said.

“Small and medium-scale farmers are expected to contribute up to 94.5 per cent or 1,893,845 metric tonnes to the total maize production, while large scale farmers are expected to produce 110,544 metric tonnes.”

But Katambo added that Zambia was still food secure despite the depressed maize output.

“As I have indicated earlier, the national food security status indicates that as a country, we have enough maize stocks to meet the human and industrial requirements till the next harvest in 2020. The country also has a maize carry-over stock amounting to 475,515 metric tonnes as at May 1, 2019,” he said.

“The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) is expected to actively participate and make early entry into the market to ensure that the national strategic food reserve requirements are met. I, therefore, urge the millers to ensure that they procure enough stocks for their operations and not rely on the FRA for operational stock.”

And data availed by the Ministry of Agriculture shows that production of three major cash crops – millet, sorghum and soya beans, among others – are all expected to decline during this year’s harvest.

Millet is expected to reduce by 23 per cent to 24,843 metric tonnes from 32,278 tonnes last season; sorghum production is projected to drop by 49 per cent to 6,684 metric tonnes from 13,130 tonnes last season, while soya beans also sees its production fall by seven per cent to 281,389 metric tonnes from 302,720 tonnes last season.

On the other hand, wheat will see its production rise to 151,850 metric tonnes from 114,463 tonnes produced last year, an increment of 33 per cent.

The Crop Forecasting Survey took into account a grand total of 16 crops’ expected production following the end of the 2018/2019 agricultural season.