Africa > East Africa > Mozambique > Mozambique Agriculture Profile 2012

Mozambique: Mozambique Agriculture Profile 2012






Mozambique Agriculture Profile 2012

Reference Date: 18-May-2011



  1. Despite a dry spell and localised flooding, national cereal production estimates are favourable

  2. Maize prices decline steeply in some markets, reflecting the good cereal production prospects

  3. Overall food security is satisfactory, but areas affected by production losses and households susceptible to high prices remain a concern

Good cereal harvest expected for 2010/11 season

Harvesting of the 2011 maize crop, which began in March in southern provinces, is underway across all provinces. Rainfall in northern provinces was generally below normal between October and December, delaying planting activities in some areas, and increasing from January onwards. The opposite is true for much of the central and southern areas that were affected by a dry spell that started in February, following predominantly favourable rainfall months. By that time most crops had already reached maturity or were being harvested, limiting the negative impact of the dry spell. However, the sorghum crop in central provinces was affected by insufficient moisture levels during February and March, with low yields expected as a result. Furthermore riverine flooding caused localised damage to crops in southern and central river basins. Official estimates indicate that nearly 32 000 hectares were damaged while 22 610 hectares of cropped land was lost. Although this could impact local production levels, at the national level the area lost represents less than one percent of the total cropped area of about 4.2 million hectares in 2010/11. Despite the effect of heavy rains and a dry spell, cereal production estimates for the 2010/11 season remain satisfactory, with maize production anticipated to be slightly above the output of last year.

Declining maize prices reflect positive crop prospects

As market supplies are augmented by the continuing cereal harvest, maize prices have been falling in most markets since March 2011. The largest decrease was recorded in Milange, Zambezia province, where maize prices fell to MZN 2.75 per kg at the beginning of May, marking a 66 percent reduction since January. Elsewhere, price declines for maize have ranged between 10 and 50 percent over the same period and are generally lower, with the exception of Manica and Montepuez, than the same period last year.


Rice prices have remained persistently high during 2010, but fell by 12 percent at the beginning of May 2011 from their peak in December 2010, largely reflecting the drop in international prices. Commercial rice imports cover more than two thirds of the national consumption requirements.

Generally stable conditions, but pockets of food insecurity persist

Overall, the national food security situation is satisfactory. The new supplies from the 2011 harvest are also expected to assist in further improving the situation. However, production losses caused by climatic shocks in central and southern provinces could constrain food reserve stocks of the affected households. These areas need to be monitored closely, and more information will become available following the completion of the vulnerability assessments in the coming months. Furthermore, despite the recent decline, food prices remain relatively high, negatively impacting food security conditions of poor households, as food purchases constitute the bulk of their expenditures and are therefore more vulnerable to rising and higher prices. However, good production from the minor secondary season could assist in supplementing households’ food stocks and lessening households’ reliance on market supplies.

06/12/2010  Cereal production declines from record high, but still above average levels
The joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), conducted in May, estimated that national maize production declined in 2010 by 3 percent from last year’s record level, to 1.878 million tonnes, but remained well above the average of the previous five years. The southern provinces experienced the largest decline, but at the national level this was partly compensated by the good production in three northern regions (Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado). Rice production fell by more than 30 percent compared with last year, as a result of extensive losses and yield reduction in central coastal areas, due to the long dry-spell early in the season. Both sorghum and millet registered a slight increase in production over last year’s level, primarily attributed to an expansion in the area planted. Other major crops - beans, groundnuts and cassava - performed satisfactorily, also showing some increase in the area planted.

The mid-season dry spell that affected large areas in the South, forced many farmers to replant their maize crops. However, support provided to farmers through the Government’s Food Production Action Plan (PAPA) for the main season, assisted in preventing a more significant decline in cereal production, particularly in southern provinces. Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG) provided farmers in vulnerable areas with increased quantities of seed (compared to previous years) for the second season, which aimed to compensate for the expected shortfall in the main-season harvest. This was further augmented by contributions from FAO and various NGOs. MINAG contributions consisted of planting material for field crops and a variety of horticultural crops.

Maize price double the level in the south compared to the north
Prices of maize grain began to fall in March across most of the country, but in Maputo, following a stable period between March and June, prices only started to decline in July. A large disparity in maize prices between north and south remains, reflecting the regional differences in production, high transport costs – despite recent improvements in infrastructure – and the burgeoning demand from the poultry industry. In August, the price of maize in Maputo (MZN 11.43/kg) was approximately twice as high as the price in Nampula (MZN 6.58/kg). Rice (the most consumed cereal in Maputo) prices have also risen by 33 percent between August 2009 and August 2010 in Maputo.

The depreciation of the Metical against both the US dollar and South African Rand is also partly attributed to a general rise in cereal price levels (especially for wheat) over the past year. This, as well as the recent increases in global wheat prices, led the Government to raise the price of bread by 30 percent at the beginning of September. The measure, however, was revoked later in the month when the Government decided to maintain the price of bread through introducing a subsidy, after serious civil disturbances. In addition, the Government has introduced a more progressive tariff system for water and electricity charges, which will benefit low consumption households and will also promote the consumption of bread that includes cassava flour, which has lower production costs and retail prices.

Improved infrastructure could facilitate increased intra-regional trade
The opening of the new bridge across the Zambezi in August 2009 may have an increasing impact on the distribution of grain from areas of surplus production to those that are in deficit in the southern provinces. Another bridge across the Rovuma River has recently been opened between Cabo Delgado Province and southern Tanzania, which may enhance the flow of trade into and out of Mozambique’s productive northern region. However, it is expected the maize deficit in the south will continue to be primarily covered by imports from South Africa. Overall, total cereal import requirements in 2010/11 marketing year are projected at 919 000 tonnes, slightly higher than the previous marketing year, mainly reflecting the reduced output of rice.

Overall food security outlook satisfactory but localized shortages expected in several regions
Overall, the national food security situation is still satisfactory. However, an estimated 250 000 people from low-income and resource=poor households in the semi-arid and arid areas of Tete, Gaza, Inhambane and Sofala provinces will require some 40 000 tonnes of emergency food assistance to meet their basic dietary requirements from August until the next harvest in March 2011.

In addition, if current high food prices persist in Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces up to 50 000 more people may require food assistance from September onwards.

With a total area of 799 380 km2 and a population projected at 21.7 million by October 20101, Mozambique has a relatively low population density. The most populated provinces are Nampula in the north and Zambezi in the centre, which, combined, account for nearly 40 percent of the total population. The country is richly endowed with natural resources, including arable land, forest, grasslands, inland water resources, marine fisheries, minerals and hydroelectricity. As a result, the economy is diversified, and agriculture, manufacturing, energy, fisheries, tourism and wage remittances all make important contributions to the economy. The completion of two large coal projects (Moatize and Benga) and a second fuel pipeline to South Africa, in addition to a projected rise in foreign direct investment, which contracted in 2009, will further contribute to strengthening the economy.

Economic performance was more robust than anticipated during the global economic crisis. In spite of a significant decline in export receipts during 2009, the decline in international food and fuel prices helped to stabilise the current account, through the reduction of import payments. GDP growth was estimated to have increased by 4.5 percent in 2009, below the average growth of the past three years (7.5 percent), but the economy is projected to perform better in 2010, with GDP forecast to expand by 5.4 percent. Despite favourable economic growth over the last decade, particularly in comparison to other sub-Saharan Africa countries, Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 172 out of 182 countries in the 2008 UN Human Development Index. Table 1 shows the country’s key economic indicators.

Increased Government expenditure and rising domestic consumption are expected to lead to higher inflation levels in 2010, forecast to increase to an average of 9.5 percent in 2010, up from 3.5 percent recorded in 2009. Furthermore, the depreciation of the Metical and gradual removal of fuel subsidies, which were implemented in May 2009 and coincided with a decline in national Consumer Price Index, are likely to contribute to amplifying inflation increases. The National Consumer Price Index has been on an upward path since August 2009, following a decline recorded at the beginning of 2009.


Agriculture policy

The Government’s development policy will continue to focus on executing the country’s poverty reduction plan (PARPA II) that, in board terms, aims to strengthen governance, improve human capital and enhance economic growth, notably through integrating the agriculture sector and the rural economy with the national and world economy. The recently approved 2010 budget indicates that expenditure will increase by 20 percent this year, in nominal terms, while it is also forecast that revenue will rise by 24 percent over 2009’s level. The Government has committed to improving and strengthening the tax administration systems, which is anticipated to contribute to the increased revenue, raising tax revenues as a percentage of GDP to an estimated 14.7 percent in 2010, up from 14.3 percent in 2009.

Agriculture sector

Forty-five percent of Mozambique’s total land area is suitable for agriculture, but only 11 percent, around 4 million hectares, is estimated to be cultivated. Farming is conducted by some 3 million peasant families, a small number of commercial farmers cultivating a total of less than 60 000 hectares, and refurbished agro-industrial units growing about 40 000 hectares of sugar-cane. Agriculture occupies 81 percent of the country’s population of 21.7 million. Production of food staples is dominated by smallholders, with an average of 1.2 hectares of cultivated land. Use of purchased inputs is very limited; according to a national survey conducted in 2007, only 4 percent use fertilizers.

Mozambique’s diverse soils and climatic conditions, influenced by latitude, altitude, topography and proximity to the coast, offer a wide range of production opportunities. However, as agricultural systems are predominantly rainfed, production can fluctuate widely from year to year. According to MINAG, the existing potential for irrigation, where basic infrastructural requirements are already in place, is 120 000 hectares. However, only 55 000 hectares are used at present; about 35 000 are under sugarcane and most of the remaining 20 000 are under rice and vegetables.

Tree crops, especially coconut and cashew, grown by small farmers are an important source of foreign exchange earnings, and contribute to household food security. Tree numbers are particularly significant in the heavily populated littorals of Inhambane and Gaza, where the contribution to the household food economy of such crops is substantial as individual farm families may own from 100 to 200 trees.

Other major cash crops grown by small farmers include cotton and tobacco, which generally occupy between 150 000 and 180 000 hectares and between 30 000 and 35 000 hectares respectively. These cash crops, along with oilseeds, tea, citrus and horticultural crops (particularly tomatoes), offer alternative sources of income to the small farmers in inland districts, where coconuts and cashews are not grown.

On a larger scale, about 40 000 hectares of industrial plantations of sugarcane (35 000 under irrigation) are grown at four operational sites surrounding sugar mills in Maputo (2) and Sofala (2) provinces. Sugarcane production has increased rapidly from 386 000 tonnes in 1998 to approximately 3 million tonnes by 2010 as a result of improved production practices and increased area planted.

Maize and cassava are the major staples; other food crops of significance include sorghum, beans, groundnuts, millet and rice. Cassava is grown mainly in the north where it is the main food staple, and it is being introduced, along with sweet potatoes, under a Government initiative in drought-prone areas throughout the country. The area under sweet potatoes is also increasing.

The use of purchased agricultural inputs, (improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) is limited to a small number of modern farm enterprises growing cash crops and vegetables and to out-growers of tobacco and cotton, producing crops on contract. The yields of cereals in the peasant sector are generally low, and losses in the field and stores are high.

Cattle, goats, sheep are reared in extensive grass-based systems and at such low stocking rates, that body conditions are generally excellent. Tsetse fly precludes the keeping of cattle in some parts, mostly in the central and northern regions. At household level, pigs and poultry are kept mainly under back-yard, scavenger systems. There is, however, a fast-growing modern poultry industry which has almost replaced the importation of chickens from Brazil.

In regards to agriculture, following strong growth of the industrial sector, the share of agriculture in national GDP has been falling since the early 1990s, but has maintained a steady rate of 28 percent since 2002. Despite this decline it still remains the largest sector of the economy with approximately 80 percent of the population dependent on agricultural for their livelihood2. Government support to the agricultural sector has focused on three main strategies, the Green Revolution (2007), the Food Production Action Plan (Plano de Acção da Produção Agrícola, PAPA, 2008-2011) and the Strategic Plan for Development of the Agricultural Sector (Plano Estratégico de Desenvolvimento do Sector Agrário, PEDSA, 2009-2019). These initiatives have led to increased investment in the sector enhancing domestic production of main food staples, market integration between regions and agricultural value chains which has reduced the country’s reliance on imported food commodities. One objective of PAPA’s strategy is to enhance the country’s storage capacity, which is cited as a key obstacle preventing small scale farmers participating in the commercial maize market as well as restricting an increase in inter-regional trade. Currently, national capacity (silos and warehouses) both private and public is estimated at 560 735 tonnes, however, there is still a need for the construction of small scale rural silos to incorporate farmers into market system, in addition this will allow farmers to store maize until prices rise. The Government is planning to increase storage capacity by 143 000 tonnes by 2012.

Factors affecting production


In contrast to the generally good rainfall throughout the country in 2008/09, there was wide variation in the quality of rainfall from north to south of Mozambique during the 2009/10 main cropping season. In the northern region (Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Nampula Provinces) the rains started on time in October and early November and continued with satisfactory amounts and distribution throughout the main cropping season (see Figure 2), resulting in good crop production.

The rains in northern Zambezia and northern Tete were not dissimilar to those in the northern region, but further south the situation began to deteriorate. In those areas - southern Zambezia, southern Tete, southern Manica, and much of Sofala - a weak and often late start to the rains was followed by up to two months (December-January) of inadequate or negligible rainfall which, in the worst-affected areas, necessitated several re-plantings of maize. This relatively dry period was then followed in many places by heavy rains which, apart from causing some localised flooding, generally improved the prospects for the later planted or re-planted maize crop. Figure 3 shows typical rainfall patterns in Tete and Sofala Provinces. Some of the areas worst-affected by dry weather lay along the right bank of the Zambezi River, especially in and around Caia District in western Sofala Province. In the floodplain of the Zambezi and on islands revealed at low water levels, it is the normal practice of farmers to grow late crops on residual moisture. This year, however, much of this planting was swept away by surges of high water resulting from releases from the Cabora Bassa reservoir which was unusually full because of heavy rain further upstream.

Figure 3: Rainfall 2008/09, 2009/10 and 15-year average, Central Region

The southern region (Inhambane, Maputo and Gaza Provinces) is habitually drought-prone. This year a delayed start to the rains was followed by a period of erratic and often negligible rainfall, accompanied by unseasonably high temperatures. The rains returned briefly and often heavily at the end of January, but rapidly diminished again till the end of the season (see Figure 4). The heavy rains resulted in flooding and localised crop loss in some areas.
Figure 4: Rainfall 2008/09, 2009/10 and 15-year average, Southern Region


Owing in large part to the support provided by PAPA programme in terms of inputs, the overall harvested area of maize this year was only 2 percent lower than 2008/09, despite the unfavourable rainfall in southern parts. The northern three provinces showed an increase of 12 percent compared with last year, as is shown in Table 2. In the central region there was virtually no change in the overall area under maize compared with 2008/09, although there were large differences between provinces. Sofala registered a reduction of 13 percent in harvested maize area compared with 2008/09, but this was offset by significant increases in Tete and Manica. The southern region suffered most from poor rainfall this year, with an overall reduction of harvested maize area by 28 percent compared with 2008/09. However, the situation would almost certainly have been worse without the support of PAPA. It is instructive to compare the maize area with those of the more drought-tolerant sorghum and millet which both showed overall increases in harvested area compared with last year.

Given the large amount of maize remaining in store from last year’s harvest in the northern region, many farmers there are reported to be considering changing to more lucrative crops such as sesame or soya in the coming year. Although this is a logical short-term response to the current glut of maize in the region, a change away from maize could have negative implications for the country’s long-term food security. The current Government programme of silo construction should, however, go some way towards reducing this threat, especially if it achieves a measure of price stabilization that encourages maize production.

The harvested area of rainfed rice this year in Zambezia was significantly reduced by the dry conditions at the beginning of the season. Parts of Sofala were also affected. Some re-planting was achieved with the return of the rains on land where there had been complete crop loss, but seed was not always available, with the result that Zambezia saw a reduction of almost 40 percent in its harvested rice area compared with last year. On the other hand, the irrigated area under rice in Gaza, where yields of 3 tonnes/ha are achieved, expanded by some 17 percent from a low base of about 13 000 hectares.

The areas under beans, groundnut and cassava showed a slight increase this year in the north and central regions. This was presumably attributable to the very favourable results of last year’s harvest and support from PAPA.
Table 2: Mozambique - Harvested areas of main field crops by province (‘000); 2009/10 compared with 2008/09, and percent change

Table 3: Mozambique - Time series for maize and sorghum production, Mozambique 2004/05-2009/10

Crop yields

Average maize yields, at about 1.19 tonnes/ha nationally, were close to those of last year (1.20 tonnes/ha), indicating that reduction in harvested area, rather than yield reduction, was the main contributor to this year’s lower production. It is notable that last year’s average yields were not considerably higher, compared to this season, given the fact that rainfall last year was good. However, the small difference between the national averages for the two years masks the larger yield differences in the lower-yielding, drought-prone areas of the Centre and the South, as can be seen in Table 4 showing declines in maize yields from the previous year. Average sorghum and millet yields at 0.6 and 0.4 tonnes/ha were similar to those of last year. Rice in 2008/09 gave an average yield, nationally, of 1.2 tonnes/ha. This year it is down to 1.0 tonnes/ha, depressed partly by the poor yield from much of the crop planted late in Zambezia after the early drought had eased. The yield of the irrigated rice in Gaza fell also, from 3.3 tonnes/ha last year to 3.0 tonnes/ha this year.


The use of purchased inputs in Mozambican agriculture is very limited; according to a national survey conducted in 2007, only 4 percent of farmers use any fertilizers. However, the Government this year distributed, through PAPA, 1 600 tonnes of maize seed to all provinces, 2 000 tonnes of rice seed to all provinces except Tete and Manica, and 150 tonnes of soya seed to the provinces of Sofala, Manica, Tete, Zambezia and Nampula. In an effort to increase crop production in the second season and compensate for the relatively poor season in the South and parts of the Centre, the Government also distributed 497 tonnes of maize seed, 1 412 tonnes of wheat seed, 2 125 tonnes of seed potatoes, 107 tonnes of bean seed and 1.7 tonnes of assorted vegetable seed. Ninety tractors and various other pieces of agricultural equipment, including hand-held cultivators and irrigation pumps, were also distributed. These efforts were further supplemented by FAO and various NGOs which provided large numbers of farmers with seed.

Pests and diseases

Most crop pests and diseases were at normal levels this year. However, some parts of the central region reported a higher-than-usual incidence of elegant grasshopper on cereals.

Coconut plantations, especially in Sofala Province but also in Nampula Province, have, since about 2005, suffered increasingly from lethal yellowing. The virus has taken a severe toll on very large numbers of palms to the evident detriment of many livelihoods. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is reported to be supporting the multiplication of replacement planting material in the form of short-stature lethal-yellowing-tolerant palms, but producers are reluctant to expend the energy required to grub out the dead palms and wait for eight or nine years for the new palms to start producing. The disease has not yet spread to Inhambane Province.

Commercial citrus and mango plantations were infested by fruit fly in the second half of 2009, to the extent that exports to South Africa were halted by MINAG in November. However, exports of these food items resumed in March 2010.
3.2 Estimated production in 2009/10

Main crops

Despite poor results in the southern region and in parts of the central region, national maize production was satisfactory this year at 1.878 million tonnes (Table 4). This was down less than 3 percent on last year’s excellent harvest but surpasses preceding years. Regionally, production in the South was down on last year by a substantial 38 percent and by 4 percent in the Centre. These reductions, however, were largely redeemed on the national level by a 12 percent increase in production in the northern region. Given the significant distance between the north and south that precludes large-scale transport of produce, this year’s production in the south must be regarded as unsatisfactory. Last year’s excellent and geographically more evenly distributed harvest gave a maize production ratio of 35:53:12 for north, centre and south. This year’s ratio of 40:52:8 clearly shows the increased dominance of the north at the expense of the south.
Table 4: Mozambique - Maize area, yield and production, by province, 2006/07-2009/10


At the national level, production of sorghum and millet was slightly above last year’s level (see Table 5), while rice production was significantly lower than last year because of the substantial losses suffered at the beginning of the season in the central region. Nationally, it is estimated that 384 000 tonnes of sorghum, 49 000 tonnes of millet and 179 000 tonnes of rice were produced.
Table 5: Mozambique - Sorghum, millet and rice; area, yield and production by region, 2008/09 and 2009/10



By the end of the civil war in 1993, livestock had been severely depleted and the cattle population was estimated to number a mere 250 000. Since then, numbers have increased at a rate which is currently estimated to average about 10 percent per annum. Table 7 shows the numbers of cattle, goats, sheep and pigs by province according to a livestock census undertaken in 2009, and Table 8 shows the increases in the numbers of cattle between 1999 and 2009, the greatest increase having taken place in the south.

It will be seen from Table 8 and Figure 6 that there are two distinct trends from north to south in the relative importance of cattle on the one hand, and small ruminants and pigs on the other. North of the Rio Save, which forms the boundary between Sofala and Inhambane Provinces, the country is increasingly subject to tsetse fly infestation, hence the relatively small numbers of cattle further north and the greater importance of goats, sheep and pigs. Some districts in Gaza and Maputo Provinces are also susceptible to tsetse, but a measure of control has been achieved through a joint programme with Swaziland and South Africa.

PAPA has attempted to introduce animal traction in the north - with 72 pairs of animals being provided for training. Due to the lack of experience in handling cattle and given the problem of tsetse fly, there is uncertainty whether this programme will be successful.

Tick-borne diseases are ubiquitous in Mozambique. About ten years ago the Government changed its policy of free distribution of acaricides and started to charge cattle owners at cost price. This led to owners no longer dipping their cattle; consequently, a nominal pricing system was introduced as a response. This brought about an improvement, but even at the reduced price many owners still do not dip their cattle at the recommended frequency (weekly during the summer months and fortnightly in the winter). The number of dip tanks and crushes for spraying is said to be adequate for the present cattle population. Foot-and-mouth disease has been reported, especially near game parks; and Rift Valley fever poses a threat along the Malawi border in Niassa Province as well as along parts of the border with South Africa.

Currently, livestock health and condition are good, and pasture is adequate to plentiful, due in part to the late seasonal rains. Livestock prices have risen steadily in recent years. Slaughtered livestock are consumed in the country, which, with the increasing livestock population and a growing demand for meat, indicates an increasing dietary intake and possibly more disposable income in urban centres. However, to keep this in context, it should be borne in mind that, according to the Animal Production Department, only about ten percent of the country’s existing abattoir capacity is currently being used.

The national flock of poultry has increased significantly in recent years (52 percent annually in the past five years), in accordance with the Government’s policy of import substitution, assisted by the intervention of some commercial companies such as Technoserve, by which imported chicken is subject to a 25 percent tariff and 3 to 5 percent taxes. Newcastle disease remains a ubiquitous problem at household level; there is still resistance to vaccinations (on the stated grounds of taste) despite the availability of very cheap vaccine (MZN 1.00 for three birds in Sofala).