The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) has warned that there is an increased probability of drought inducing El Niño weather conditions recurring in southern Africa including Zimbabwe during the upcoming 2018/2019 agricultural season.

During the 2015/2016 period, the region experienced one of its driest seasons in decades due to El Niño conditions.

In its report for June, FEWSNET however cautioned that there was still some uncertainty in the forecasts for next season.

“Early international forecasts indicate that the most likely El Niño – Southern Oscillation phase for October 2018 to January 2019 is El Niño, but there is some uncertainty in this forecast. Based on the El Niño forecast and looking at  relevant analogue years, below-average rainfall is most likely from October 2018 to January 2019.

“In addition, there is an increased probability for a late start of the rains in some areas, which are likely to be erratic in terms of spatial and temporal distribution. Due to current uncertainties, this forecast may shift in the periods closer to the start of season,” FEWSNET said.

In addition to the seasonal forecast, FEWSNET pointed out other factors which it said would also impact production during the cropping season. Migratory trans boundary pests and other diseases are expected to continue to be a problem.

The fall army worm is expected to remain a threat to crop production in the coming season. Other pests include quelea birds, large grain stalk borer, and wild animal attacks on crops, livestock and humans in parts of the country.

Typical livestock diseases such as foot and mouth, anthrax and others will also likely affect herds in various areas, with Newcastle a potential threat to poultry. Below-average household incomes will affect access to appropriate chemicals and could impact potential production.

As the foreign currency crisis persists, it is likely that fertiliser shortages will continue as fertiliser companies face challenges in importing raw materials.

Because of prevailing economic challenges, low household incomes and high crop input prices, most poor households are expected to have poor access to crop inputs for the 2018/2019 cropping season. This may result in delayed plantings and reduced cropped area.

FEWSNET expects national cereal stocks to be above average for the 2018/2019 marketing and consumption year because of the above-average carryover stocks from 2016/2017 season.

The Grain Marketing Board currently has reportedly over 900 000 metric tonnes of maize because of above-average (140 percent) maize production during the 2016/2017 cropping season.