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MBABANE – Eswatini farmers are expected to harvest 35 per cent less maize in the 2021/2022 season compared to the previous season, where harvest was at 89 per cent according to government’s agriculture statistics.

This was caused by the prolonged high rainfall experienced during the ploughing season which damaged crops and production. The government’s second summer crop forecast estimates the 2022 harvest at about 1.568 million tonnes, down from the 2.117 million tonnes harvested last season. This means Eswatini will import more maize as the stock currently available at the National Maize Corporation (NMC) is not enough to sustain the local market. This forced NMC to spend over E2 million importing maize in the financial year.


This was mentioned in the corperation’s annual report which also indicated that maize imports exceeded 25 per cent from the previous year. NMC said local maize supplies continued to be a challenge as they witnessed a decrease in the metric tonnes received during the reporting period compared to those received in the previous financial year. They said this resulted in the corporation sourcing out more than 28 000 metric tonnes of maize from South Africa, which accounts for 98 per cent of local maize supplies costing over E2 million. NMC also mentioned that the increase in imports was due to the decrease in supply by local farmers as well as the instability of the Lilangeni. “Maize is a soft commodity that trades in the stock exchange, therefore, the instability of the Lilangeni against the US Dollar pushed the maize prices to levels never experienced before,” highlighted the report.


They also mentioned that the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX), which determines the price of maize on a daily basis was extremely high, averaging above 5 000 per metric tonnes of white maize. “This challenge will continue until the country is able to produce enough maize to feed its own people who will, in turn, reduce the cost of the grain, making it affordable to all Swazi (Eswatini) citizens,” mentioned the report. In an effort to encourage increased grain production, the corporation said it would contract farmers to produce specific grains suitable in their areas and would also provide technical services to farmers through introducing the farmer development office in the 2022/23 financial year.


NMC said the main objective of this strategic plan was to increase maize production so as to ensure a food secure country with the target being zero white maize imports. They further mentioned that they anticipated that the corporation increased trading in yellow maize before the end of the current financial year. The report also mentioned that one of NMC challenges was the price regulations of maize which hinders the response to market demands. “The corporation is currently unable to respond swiftly to market demands as far as the maize price is concerned due to the highly regulated price by government,” they said. NMC further revealed that it had only one month’s worth of stock left as the country grapples with an imminent shortage of maize. Maize production in Eswatini suffered greatly over the past farming season due to inadequate supplies of fertiliser and excessive rains.
NMC’s Chief Executive Officer, Rechi Dlamini aforementioned to this publication that as of  May 20, 2022, her company had 2 000 metric tonnes in stock, despite that the country needed about 4 800 metric tonnes to survive for one month.


She said based on current demand, they believed that the 2 000 metric tonnes would be enough for the next month, after which they would go out and import the product from the country’s neighbours. “Normal demand for maize is an average of 4 800 metric tonnes per month. Clearly we do not have enough in stock, which means we will need to go out and get maize somewhere to compensate for the shortfall that we are likely to experience,” she said. The CEO explained that at present, her organisation imported maize at E4 848 per metric tonne. She said based on the available stock, this equated to almost E9.7 million. Asked if the price NMC paid to get maize from South Africa would not ultimately be passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices of goods that were by-products of maize, Dlamini said the price of maize products locally was determined by millers and retailers.

“As NMC, we can only give assurance in terms of maize price, not the products manufactured from it. The current local maize price will not change until mid-August 2022, thereafter it will be reviewed by the relevant stakeholders,” she said. The war between Russia and Ukraine has been seen as a catalyst to the country’s inability to produce enough maize at the end of the past farming season. NMC stated that even without the negative effects of the war and other factors, Eswatini still struggled to produce enough maize to cover the needs of the economy.


Dlamini further explained that, in essence, the selling price by NMC was informed by the import price, upon which NMC added a marginal proportion to cover its own costs of importation. Director of Agriculture in the Ministry of Agriculture, Nelson Mavuso recently warned of possible shortages due to challenges faced by farmers in the past farming season. He cited the high price or unavailability of fertiliser as the main drivers of the poor harvest experienced in the country. Excessive rains that manifested towards the end of the farming season also destroyed some crops. The shortage is also experienced in other SADC countries as well, these include South Africa and Zimbabwe, who have also fallen short on their maize harvest.

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