Weather conditions have been generally favourable since October with normal to above normal rains falling over most growing areas. In keeping with contingency planting measures suggested by the government, farmers started to plant early, especially in the Low Veld. Fast maturing and drought tolerant maize varieties were used in drought prone areas. Area planted to maize is expected to be slightly lower than last years level, largely as a result of crop diversification by some farmers. The early planted crop is now reported at the tasselling to grain-formation stages, while the late planted crop is at the late vegetative stage and in good condition. Harvest prospects are generally good but yields may be somewhat affected by above normal rains in several areas which may cause the leaching of nutrients and weed infestation.
The national food supply situation for the current marketing year (1997/98) is expected to remain satisfactory. Available supply and planned commercial imports are also expected to cover consumption needs for the rest of the season.