Zambia’s corn production expanded by about 70% this year after good rains followed a historic drought in the previous season, making agriculture the one economic sector that might grow in 2020.
Production of the staple crop probably rose to 3.4 million metric tons in the 2019-2020 season from 2 million tons the previous one, meaning the southern African nation is food secure, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo told reporters in Lusaka, the capital.
A topsy-turvy climate has for the past decade wreaked havoc for Zambian farmers, the country’s biggest employers, with often drastic changes in rainfall patterns. The worst drought in at least four decades decimated crops in Zambia’s southwest in the previous season. This year, the rains that feed the vast majority of its farmers’ fields have been abundant.
The bumper harvest is a bright spot in an economy otherwise straining under a looming debt crisis and the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. Gross domestic product will shrink by 3.5% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Katambo forecasts a corn surplus of 210,099 tons will help cool inflation that’s soared to 15.7% year-on-year, the highest since 2016.
Average national prices for finely ground corn which is boiled in water to make nshima, a thick porridge that is Zambia’s staple food, were 58% higher in April than a year ago, according to the statistics agency.