Maize Price Cycles in Southern and Eastern Africa
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Maize prices have been established by central government in most countries in the region since the 1930s. Maize is the most important staple crop and adequate supplies are essential to food security. The major concern in the region is with the instability of food supplies rather than increased supplies since the agronomic potential exists for adequate or surplus maize production in normal rain-fall years. This paper shows how the pricing system has exaggerated the inherently variable maize supplies. While a general trend towards providing more attractive farm prices for maize is apparent in East and Southern Africa, this is linked to policies which emphasize maize self-sufficiency rather than comparative advantage in agricultural production. Most countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have adopted a policy of self-sufficiency in maize. Virtually all the maize grown is rain fed. Both total rainfall and its distribution within a season exhibit considerable variability which in turn, is reflected directly in variations in the aggregate levels of maize output in Zimbabwe.