January 22, 2018 / 10:42 AM / 4 months ago

Zambia drought could slash 2018 maize output by around 50 percent

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s maize production may drop around 50 percent in the current 2017/2018 crop season if a dry spell which the nation is experiencing continues into next month, an industry body said on Monday.

Officials spray maize plants affected by Armyworms in Keembe district, Zambia, January 6, 2017. REUTERS/Jean Mandela

Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) spokesman Calvin Kaleyi said a lot of the maize crop in key production areas had wilted and this was likely to hit the harvest.

“If this trend continues into February, we are in trouble. We may be lucky to hit 1.8-2 million tonnes of maize,” Kaleyi said.

The maize production rose to 3.61 million tonnes in the 2016/2017 season from 2.87 million tonnes the previous season.

Zambia’s maize production season runs from October-November when the planting is done to March-April when the crop is ready for harvesting.

But this season a dry spell has hit small-scale farmers who rely on rain-fed irrigation and produce 82 percent of Zambia’s maize, Kaleyi said.

“The crop is wilting and this is very bad because it has hit the maize belt,” he said.

The situation will be made worse due to late access by small-scale farmers to fertilizer from the government, he said.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; editing by Jason Neely

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