Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 09, February 2010
SADC records surplus food in 2009/10

The overall food security situation in southern Africa for the 2009/10 marketing year is favourable, with a regional cereal surplus of 476, 000 metric tonnes compared to a deficit of 1.78 metric tones in 2008/09.

A communiqué released following the recent meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security, said the region recorded an estimated surplus of 4.37 metric tonnes on key cereal crops such as maize.

However, the ministers observed that despite having a good surplus of cereals, the region has about 3.26 million people who are still failing to access food due to various challenges such as low income and high food prices.

The ministers also noted that non-cereal food crops, livestock and fisheries are playing a critical role in food security in the region.

They directed the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat to ensure data on these commodities is adequately captured for future planning and analysis.

"Member States should also promote the production and utilization of these food commodities," the ministers said in a statement, adding that this will boost production and promote food security.

With regard to the establishment of a regional centre to coordinate agricultural research, the ministers expressed their commitment towards this goal and recommended the SADC Minister’s Council to immediately set up a sub-regional organization (SRO) to carry out such activities.

The ministers recommended to Council the approval of a sustainability plan as well as a charter for establishing the SRO.

The ministers also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the SADC Harmonized Seed Regulatory System.

The system, initiated a few years ago, aims to improve seed trade and increase the availability of high quality seed to farmers in the region. The system also seeks to integrate small isolated national seed markets into one large SADC market.

SADC developed the system in direct response to a call by Member States to the low availability and limited access by farmers to key agricultural inputs.

The development of the system is being supported by Member States and international cooperating partners such as the Swiss Agency for International Development and Cooperation.

On the current rainfall pattern, which has seen most parts of the region receive good rains, the ministers urged Member States to closely monitor the situation.

"Ministers noted that good rains have been received in most parts of the region, except for the south-eastern parts of the region which has had low rainfall."

"In this regard, they called on Member States to closely monitor the developing rainfall situation in their countries and take appropriate measures to mitigate against hunger and malnutrition."

Areas that have received good rains include the northern half of continental SADC, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Southernmost part of Madagascar, southernmost and central Mozambique, easternmost parts of Botswana, southernmost parts of Zimbabwe, and southernmost half of South Africa and southernmost parts of Lesotho are some of the areas in the region that have received insufficient rainfall.

The SADC Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security meeting was held on 5 February in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo. DRC Agriculture minister Norbet Katintima chaired the meeting.

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