Zambia's Corn Harvest Falls to Decade Low After Drought

(Bloomberg) -- Zambia’s corn harvest fell to an estimated 2 million metric tons this year, the lowest in a decade, after a drought and pest outbreaks hurt output of the staple crop, the agriculture minister said Wednesday.

Production fell from 2.4 million tons last year, Michael Katambo said in a speech in Lusaka, the capital. Zambia has enough corn stocks to remain food secure until next year’s harvest, he said. Still, exports of the cereal remain suspended.

The country suffered prolonged dry spells in the southern and western regions, with many farmers’ corn crops failing completely this year. Average national prices for ground corn -- which is boiled in water to make a stiff porridge and eaten for most meals -- were 35 percent higher in April than a year ago, according to Zambia’s statistics agency. Further price increases could add to inflationary pressures, compounding effects from Zambia’s currency that’s depreciated by 7.3 percent against the dollar this year.

The nation has carryover stocks from last year of 474,515 tons, while total requirements are about 2 million tons, Katambo said. Zambia produced a record 3.6 million tons of corn in 2017.

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