New GIEWS Country Briefs Released

FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) has recently released several new country briefs for the Africa South of the Sahara Food Security Portal’s prioritized countries. The country brief series provides information regarding countries’ current agricultural season and harvest prospects for main staple food crops, as well as estimates and forecasts of cereal production, cereal imports, and food prices and policy developments. This latest round of updates includes new information for Senegal, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Zambia.

In Senegal, cereal production significantly increased for the second year in a row in 2016. Aggregate 2016 cereal production is estimated at about 2.25 million tonnes, which is 55 percent above average. The increase in cereal production has been driven by a combination of favorable weather conditions and increased government support to the agricultural sector. The good supplies have also led to a drop in cereal prices in the country, but December 2016 coarse grain prices remained above their year-earlier levels. GIEWS reports that Senegal’s domestic production generally covers a little over half of the country’s cereal utilization needs, meaning that the country still relies on imports to a certain extent. This makes populations vulnerable to fluctuations in global cereal markets. While increased 2016 cereal production, along with the bumper cereal crop harvested in 2015, has improved food security in Senegal, an estimated 345,000 people remain in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) food insecurity and above.

Weather forecasts for Zambia’s remaining 2016-2017 main summer cropping season, which spans from November to June, predict above-average rainfall. This increased precipitation is expected to improve the country’s crop production prospects. GIEWS reports that the overall 2017 agricultural outlook for Zambia is favorable, with above-average maize production expected. To ensure sufficient maize supplies until the start of the harvest, the Government of Zambia revoked all maize export permits (except for humanitarian purposes) until mid-October. Maize grain and maize meal prices continue to rise, however, due to tighter national supplies and sharply rising retail fuel prices. In addition, the southern area of the country continues to suffer from food insecurity as a result of El Niño‑related dryness. Around 975,000 people are estimated to be food-insecure and in need of food assistance. Conditions are expected to improve in April with the start of the main harvest season.

In Nigeria, 2016 cereal harvests were above average as a whole, due to improved rainfall in major producting states and government support for the agricultural sector. The country’s aggregate cereal output for 2016 is estimated at around 22.6 million tonnes, which is five percent higher than 2015 levels. However, food prices in the country remain high and many parts of the population continue to face severe food insecurity as a result of ongoing conflict and the severe depreciation of the Nigerian Naira. The currency has depreciated by more than 50 percent since the start of 2016; as a result, Nigerian cereal exports to regional markets have increased, while reducing the country’s demand for imports from regional markets. These trends have put pressure on domestic food supplies and income for producer households. Food insecurity has reached extreme levels in northern areas of the country due to ongoing fighting. By June-August, as many as 121,000 people are expected to be experiencing famine conditions, with 8.7 million and 2 million experiencing Crisis- and Emergency-level food insecurity, respectively. Borno State has been particularly hard hit; GIEWS estimates that 96 percent of the population expected to face famine conditions in the coming months will be located in this state.

South Sudan is also facing extreme food insecurity, with famine conditions already declared in parts of the country (former Unity State). Throughout South Sudan as a whole, food insecurity has significantly risen over the past three years due to conflict and macro-economic problems. From February to April 2017, over 40 percent of the population is anticipated to be severely food insecure; as many as 5.5 million people could suffer from severe food insecurity by July, the peak of the lean season. Preliminary results from crop assessments show overall 2016 cereal harvests about 10 percent below year-earlier levels. Conflict has hampered planting and harvesting activities throughout much of the country.  As a result of the decrease in production, food prices in South Sudan remain at extremely high levels. Sorghum and maize prices in the country’s capital, Juba, surged by 30 percent in February 2017, while cassava and groundnut prices rose by 15 and 30 percent, respectively. Wheat prices in Juba have declined from their peak in August 2016; however, overall staple food prices in the capital are between two and four times higher than their year earlier levels.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Alex Berger