Farmers in Mexico and the U.S. are starting to plant grains and oilseeds for the 2024/25 season. The U.S. does not typically plant much white maize in the grains component of the crop. It usually is a few million tonnes for contracts. Mexico plants a large volume of white maize mainly for domestic consumption.

But we are opportune for Zimbabwe and Zambia to nudge the Mexican or American farmers to increase their white maize plantings for Southern African exports this season. The El Niño-induced dryness and heatwave hit the Southern Africa region, resulting in roughly half of Zimbabwe and Zambian maize crop failure. South Africa’s maize crop is also down by 20% y/y, with a harvest estimated at 13,2 million tonnes. If it materializes, it would still meet the domestic needs of about 12 million tonnes, leaving the country with a small export volume.

But this is a tough season requiring white maize imports for Zimbabwe and Zambia. The neighbouring small producers such as Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia are also struggling and will require white maize imports. These countries will need white maize, not yellow maize, which is widely traded in the world market.

At the end of 2024 and into the first quarter of 2025, the maize (mainly white) supplies will be tight in Southern Africa. This is also when the U.S. and Mexico would be harvesting their 2024/25 maize crop. Thus, this is the right time to nudge the Mexican and American farmers to plant more white maize this year.

Therefore, the Zambian and Zimbabwean governments, collectively with the private sector, should consider engaging Mexico and the U.S. to produce more white maize in their 2024/25 season. This would be for exports to the Southern Africa region at the end of this year and the first quarter of 2025.

Moreover, the regional governments should also engage with the World Food Programme to prepare to assist the least well-off countries with maize imports from the world market.

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