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Below-normal rainfall and high agricultural input costs are likely to impact agricultural activity

  • Key Message Update
  • Lesotho
  • November 2023
Below-normal rainfall and high agricultural input costs are likely to impact agricultural activity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • High staple market prices and low income are expected to drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in Lesotho through May 2024. Markets are well-supplied with maize meal, but market prices remain higher than last year and the five-year average. Access to food for very poor and poor households is limited due to below normal casual labor opportunities, which is an important source of income for households. However, the ongoing wheat harvest will likely support household food access in the mountain areas of Lesotho and provide income from harvesting labor and crop sales. Food access will start improving in March with the availability of the green harvest and the start of the main harvest in April is expected to improve income from agricultural labor. However, access to food and income for poor and very poor households will remain limited due to the anticipated impact of the El Niño, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.
    • In mid-to-late October, there was an effective start to the rainy season across much of the country although the better part of November has been very dry. The strong El Niño is expected to result in cumulatively below-average rainfall, which will likely result in below-normal cropped areas, compounded also by the high agricultural input costs, and resulting in lower agricultural labor opportunities. Although the government is subsidizing fertilizer, seeds, herbicides, and pesticides by 70 to 80 percent, the distribution of agricultural inputs, particularly fertilizer, has been a challenge due to shortages. Additionally, the high cost of living is likely affecting household purchasing power. A below-average 2024 harvest due to cumulatively below-average rainfall is likely to necessitate increased food imports, increase inflationary pressures, and limit water exports, affecting Lesotho’s macro-economy and keeping household purchasing power low due to high food prices.
    • In October 2023, headline inflation rose to 6.5 percent, an increase from 5.8 percent in September. The main contributors to this rise were food and non-alcoholic beverages; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; housing, water, electricity and gas, clothing and footwear, education and miscellaneous goods and services. Persistently high regional fuel, fertilizer, and energy prices are expected to keep imported food prices high. In October, the price of a 12.5 kg bag of maize meal in Maseru decreased slightly, retailing for around 101 LSL (5.40 USD). However, maize meal prices in October are 13 percent higher than last year and nearly 17 percent higher than the five-year average. The high staple food prices are expected to keep household purchasing power low through the lean season. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Lesotho Key Message Update November 2023: Below-normal rainfall and high agricultural input costs are likely to impact agricultural activity, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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