Thursday, June 01, 2017

Famine Amid Plenty

Corn, or maize as it’s called locally, is a central part of life across much of sub-Saharan Africa, usually ground and mixed with water to form a porridge or stiff dough. It’s called pap in South Africa, sadza in Zimbabwe and ugali in Kenya.
Africa’s corn harvest this year is a tale of two extremes as worries about overflowing silos and rotting crops in the south contrast with the east where supermarkets are running short of the staple food.
Zambia and South Africa are both predicting record output of the grain, while Zimbabwe may meet its domestic needs for the first time since it began seizing land from white farmers in 2000. Yet in East Africa, 17 million people may be facing hunger, and concerns about food shortages are driving up prices as governments scramble to secure imports. In East Africa, countries including Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Ethiopia face a food-production deficit equivalent to about 30 percent of consumption, according to the Nairobi-based Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The effects of the drought have been amplified by conflict -- about 5.5 million people are facing severe hunger in South Sudan while Somalia is on the brink of famine with 3.2 million people at risk, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program.
Kenya’s reserves of corn dropped to less than a day’s worth of consumption earlier this month, with annual food inflation reaching 21 percent in April, squeezing a country where almost half of the population live on less than $2 a day. The government is planning to import 450,000 tons of the grain to plug the deficit and is subsidizing supplies. Yet imports from South Africa, the continent’s top producer, are unlikely because Kenya, like most African countries, doesn’t allow genetically modified corn. About 85 percent of South Africa’s corn is GMO.
South Africa said Friday it expects to reap an unprecedented 15.63 million metric tons this year, after rains during the prime growing period helped farmers rebound from the worst drought in more than a century.  All indications point to “a crisis in terms of wastage,” he said. Zimbabwe is also facing a severe lack of storage.

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