MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE ¬— Rains in Mozambique since the start of the 2015-16 cropping season (October/June) have generally been below average in southern and central provinces, while more favorable rains were received in northern areas benefiting crop development, according to a Feb. 10 GIEWS Country Brief from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Although the increased precipitation during December 2015 and January 2016 partly alleviated seasonal dryness in the south and center, large portions of the country still only received less than 50% of the average rainfall between October 2015 and January 2016, with the El Niño episode continuing to adversely impact the monsoon season. As a result, vegetation conditions are generally below average, particularly in southern Gaza province, implying an increased likelihood of reduced cereal yields for the 2016 crop.

The report aid weather forecasts point to a continuation of similar rainfall patterns for the remainder of the season, with a higher chance of reduced rains in the center and south, while near-normal rainfall is expected in northern provinces. Overall, the 2016 cereal output is anticipated to remain at a below-average level for a second consecutive year, with particularly poor harvests anticipated in southern areas.

The current unfavorable production outlook follows an already reduced 2015 cereal harvest, which resulted in a small increase to the maize import requirement for the almost concluded 2015-16 marketing year (April/March), the report said. In consideration of an expected second successive below-average maize harvest in 2016, import requirements in the 2016-17 marketing year are forecast to remain at similarly higher levels.

The report said prices of maize generally increased seasonally in the last quarter of 2015 and, as of early December, were up to double their year-earlier values. The elevated levels in 2015 largely reflect the tighter supply situation following the below-average 2015 harvest. The relative stability of the Metical (national currency) against the South Africa Rand, however, has helped to somewhat limit imported inflation, particularly given the record high maize prices in South Africa.

The impact of the current El Niño associated dry conditions is expected to result in a deterioration of food security conditions in 2016-17, due to reduced harvests and limited availability of seasonal farm labor opportunities, particularly in southern provinces. The higher maize prices are also negatively impacting on food access.