HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Due to climatic challenges, corn production in Zimbabwe in 2018-19 is forecast at 1.2 million tonnes, a 46% decrease from the previous season, according to a June 20 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA estimated that corn area harvested declined by 36% while corn yield is forecast at 0.98 tonnes per hectare compared with 1.20 tonnes per hectare the previous season.

“After a good start to the season, Zimbabwe experienced erratic rainfall and a six-week dry spell from mid-December through the end of January negatively impacting crop growing conditions,” the USDA said. “Fortunately, a period of sufficient rain started again in February and continued through April. This good rainfall in the second part of the season impacted positively on corn yield, and many farmers replanted after the dry spell damaged the early crop.”

Despite a 15-year high corn carryover stock of about 500,000 tonnes, Zimbabwe will still have to import about 300,000 tonnes of corn in 2018-19, according to the USDA.

The USDA noted that over the last 15 years, Zimbabwe has been a net importer of corn.

The country produced 2.2 million tonnes of corn in 2017-18, but the season prior to that produced only 512,000 tonnes due to severe drought.

Despite the corn production challenges it has faced in recent years, Zimbabwe maintains its policy prohibiting the cultivation of genetically engineered corn.

“Although Zimbabwe does import GE corn for local consumption, it must be milled under government supervision,” the USDA said.

Corn is the main staple food crop for the majority of Zimbabweans.