High prices of agricultural supplies may affect cropping season – FAO
Despite favourable projections for this year’s farming season, soaring prices of agricultural supplies will likely affect planted areas and crop yields. This is due to due to sustained inflation and dwindling foreign currency reserves that are hampering imports. In addition, the full removal of fuel subsidies in June has constrained farmers’ access to fuel, affecting the semi-mechanized and irrigated sectors, which account on average for about half of the aggregate cereal output.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in its newly released GIEWS country update for Sudan that the planting of 2021 crops, for harvest from October, is well underway. The June-September rainy season is characterized by an early onset at the beginning of May.
Rainfall has continued at above-average levels. In mid-June satellite estimates indicated cumulative rainfall surpluses over most cropping areas. According to the latest Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF) weather forecasts, seasonal rains are expected to be above average across the country. If these forecasts materialize and the distribution of rains is favourable, the abundant precipitation will boost crop yields. However, there will be a heightened risk of flooding, especially in low-lying and riverine areas alongside the River Nile and its tributaries.
Cereal prices at exceptionally high levels
Food prices are expected to rise and availability and access to food continues to be limited due to COVID-19 containment measures and the impact of the 2020 floods. This will worsen the food security of Sudanese farmers, particularly smallholders and vulnerable households who cannot afford to purchase food for their families or agricultural supplies needed to resume farming. About 58 per cent of the population is involved in the agricultural sector in Sudan.
Substantial devaluation of the Sudanese Pound from SDG 55/USD to SDG 375/USD in late February reduced the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates, easing inflationary pressures. It caused prices of sorghum and millet to decline in some markets by up to 15 per cent between February and April (FAO Food Price Monitoring and Analysis bulletin). Subsequently, prices resumed their upward trend, which started in late 2017, increasing by 5-15 per cent in May as the local currency further depreciated in the parallel market from SDG 393/USD in April to SDG 436/USD in May. Prices of wheat, mostly imported, levelled off in April and May in some markets as local harvests in March increased market availability. Prices of cereals in May were exceptionally high—about double the price of last year—mainly due to a weak local currency and soaring prices of fuel and agricultural supplies, which inflated production and transportation costs.
Food security situation affected by multiple shocks
According to the results of the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, about 9.8 million people (21 per cent of the analyzed population in the survey) are estimated to be severely food insecure for the period June-September 2021. This figure includes about 7.1 million people in crisis situation (IPC Phase 3) and 2.7 million people in emergency levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 4). While the total number of severely food insecure people is similar to the estimate of food insecure people in 2020, the number of people estimated to be in the emergency phase is more than 20 per cent higher, indicating an increase in severity of food insecurity.
The main drivers are macro-economic challenges resulting in rampant food and non-food inflation, the lingering impact of the 2020 widespread floods on livelihoods and the escalation of inter-communal violence in western Greater Darfur Region and in eastern South Kordofan, North Kordofan and Blue Nile states. So far, about 22 per cent of the localities affected by the devastating impact of the 2020 floods have received assistance from the government and humanitarian actors, according to FAO. Further assistance is urgently needed, and additional funds are required to maintain livelihood interventions and provide necessary emergency and recovery support.
The highest prevalence of food insecurity is reported in East, North and West Darfur, in Blue Nile and in North and South Kordofan states, where the macro-economic challenges are compounded by inter-communal violence. In these areas, between 25 and 30 per cent of the population is estimated to be severely food insecure. In addition, 18 per cent of the population of Khartoum State is estimated to face food insecurity, 3 per cent more than the same period of the previous year. Humanitarian needs are particularly high for IDPs, estimated at 2.55 million people, and for 1.1 million refugees, including 793 000 people from South Sudan and 45,000 people from the conflict-affected Tigray Region of Ethiopia.
Humanitarian organizations are advocating for early and flexible funding as the economic crisis and inflation are increasing the number of people in need and the severity of their situation.