Africa’s corn harvest this year is a tale of two extremes as worries about overflowing silos and rotting crops in the south contrast with the east where supermarkets are running short of the staple food.
Zambia and South Africa are both predicting record output of the grain, while Zimbabwe may meet its domestic needs for the first time since it began seizing land from white farmers in 2000. Yet in East Africa, 17 million people may be facing hunger, and concerns about food shortages are driving up prices as governments scramble to secure imports.
Kenya’s reserves of corn dropped to less than a day’s worth of consumption earlier this month, with annual food inflation reaching 21 percent in April, squeezing a country where almost half of the population live on less than $2 a day. The government is planning to import 450,000 tons of the grain to plug the deficit and is subsidizing supplies.
Yet imports from South Africa, the continent’s top producer, are unlikely because Kenya, like most African countries, doesn’t allow genetically modified corn, according to Wandile Sihlobo, an economist at the Pretoria-based Agricultural Business Chamber. About 85 percent of South Africa’s corn is GMO, he said.
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