Zambia may have its worst corn crop in three years this season because of poor fertilizer distribution and late rains, a farmers’ group said.
Distribution of seed and fertilizers to small-scale growers who account for four-fifths of the country’s corn production has “to say the least, been disastrous,” Calvin Kaleyi, a spokesman for the Zambia National Farmers Union, said in reply to e-mailed questions on Jan. 22.
Rains that most farmers rely on for irrigation started late, he said.
Dry weather and rising demand have led to shortages and increased prices of the staple food in sub-Saharan African countries including Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Prices in Zambia, the continent’s biggest copper producer, rose 35 percent in the year through November, United Nations data show. Cornmeal made from the white variety of the grain is used to make a southern African staple food known as nshima in Zambia, while the yellow type is used to feed animals bred for meat.
A 7.4 percent drop in Zambia’s 2013 farm output caused the World Bank to cut the country’s growth forecast to 6 percent from an earlier projection of 7.8 percent, it said in an October report. Last year’s corn harvest fell 11 percent to 2.5 million metric tons from 2012, according to the Central Statistical Office.
For the farmers almost midway through the corn-growing season, the window for applying fertilizers “now is as good as closed,” Kaleyi said.