Zambia Wheat Crop Seen Dropping as Much as 11% on Power Cuts

Updated on
  • Wheat output to fall even as farmers expanded planted area
  • Power shortages also contributing to reduced copper supply

Zambia’s wheat production may drop as much as 11 percent this season after power shortages curbed irrigation during the dry period when the crop is grown, a farmers’ group said.

The Zambia National Farmers Union expects output to decline to 300,000 metric tons to 330,000 tons from 338,000 tons last year, Kingsley Kaswende, a spokesman for the organization, said by e-mail. The harvest, which has just begun, will fall even as the planted area rose 14 percent, he said.

Zambia has been battling an electricity crisis as low water levels in the hydropower dams it depends on led to the rationing of supply, causing rolling blackouts that have been lasting as long as 14 hours. The nation will need to import the grain to meet its 2015-16 consumption of about 390,000 tons, Kaswende said.

“The reduction is attributed to load shedding, which affected irrigation, as all wheat is grown under irrigation,” he said, referring to blackouts.

Erratic rainfall led to a 22 percent decline in the corn harvest this year. The blackouts will also contribute to reduced supplies of copper in Africa’s second-biggest supplier, Barclays Plc wrote in a report on Friday. Full-year output of the metal may fall “well below” last year’s total of 708,000 tons, the bank estimated.

A 13.3 percent increase in bread prices was one of the main contributors to Zambia’s September yearly inflation that quickened to 7.7 percent, the fastest since January, John Kalumbi, director at the Central Statistical Office, told reporters Thursday. Prices for imported flour to make bread rose 20 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the agency.

(Adds bread prices in final paragraph.)
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