HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Corn production in Zimbabwe in the 2024-25 marketing year is forecast to fall by 60% due to extreme drought conditions associated with the El Niño weather phenomenon, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture.

The massive year-on-year decline, which led Zimbabwean President Emmerson Dambudzo to declare a “state of disaster,” is the result of more than half of Zimbabwe’s planted area being destroyed by the drought, the report said. This year’s output is projected at 635,000 tonnes, compared with 1.5 million in 2023-24.

Domestic consumption is forecast at 1.9 million tonnes. Consequently, the FAS said Zimbabwe will have to import more than 1 million tonnes of corn to meet local demand.

“With other corn-producing countries in the region, including South Africa, Zambia and Malawi, also impacted by the drought, Zimbabwe will have to source some of its corn implants on the global market,” the FAS said.

The Zimbabwean government said it plans to obtain corn, with the support of private millers, from Brazil, Argentina, Russia and the United States.

Although Zimbabwe’s Grain Marketing Board is mandated to maintain a minimum strategic reserve of 500,000 tonnes of grain, which is mostly comprised of corn, the FAS foresees carry-over stocks declining to 150,000 tonnes in 2024-25.

Corn is the main staple food and the most important crop in Zimbabwe. More than 90% of the country’s corn production comes from smallholder farmers who are entirely dependent on rainfall to nourish the crop.