New Country Briefs Provide Food Price, Production Snapshot
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FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning Systems (GIEWS) has released several new country briefs for Africa south of the Sahara. This series of briefs provides an overview of the food security situation in monitored countries, focusing on the current agricultural season, harvests prospects for staple food crops and livestock, estimates and forecasts of cereal production, and food price and food policy trends.

In Ghana, estimates of 2015 harvests indicate average cereal production. Seasonal rains began in the southern part of the country in March, allowing for the start of the 2016 maize planting season. In the north, dry conditions have delayed planting by several weeks. The official estimate of the 2015 cereal crops was slightly lower compared to both average outputs and last year’s output, with maize production decreasing by 4 percent from 2014-2015. High inflation continues to impact food prices, particularly cereal prices, which have risen steadily over the past year.

Uganda is seeing favorable prospects for the first 2016 crop season production, despite a one-week delay in planting due to below average rainfall. Wholesale maize prices increased between January and April, after falling steadily between November 2015 and January 2016. Overall, however, maize prices in April were at or below the levels seen in April of last year. The country had a bumper cereal crop in 2015, which has provided adequate food stocks until the next harvest in June; as a result, food security in the majority of the country is satisfactory. The exception is Karamoja Region, where the lean season began two months earlier than usual due to below average crop production at the end of 2015. This has placed additional stress on poor households, most of whom had already depleted their domestic food stocks and are thus now relying on the market to satisfy their consumption needs. The report expects that the food security situation in this region will not improve until July, when the first green crops become available.

In Mozambique, cereal production is forecast to remain below average in 2016 due to poor rains in the southern and central provinces as a result of the 2015-2016 El Nino cycle. Maize prices remain well above the levels seen at this time last year, driven by the drought, reduced national and regional production prospects, and the depreciation of the national currency against the US dollar and the South African rand. As a result of the dry conditions and high maize prices, the food security situation in the south and in some central provinces will remain stressed through 2016-2017. The government of Mozambique estimates that as many as 1.5 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

The 2016 cropping season has started in the southern region of Nigeria, but dry conditions still prevail in the north, where the rainy season is not expected to start until May. There were adequate rains in 2015, leading to above average cereal production of about 24 million tons, 6 percent above normal. However, coarse grain prices increased sharply in January and February 2016 in several markets, led by a steep depreciation of the Nigerian Naira, reduced supplies of foreign exchange reserves, and civil conflict in the northern areas of the country. Continued humanitarian assistance is needed for people in these northern regions, as about 2.2 million people have been internally displaced and about 3.4 million are thought to be in Phase 3 (Crisis) levels of food insecurity.

Planting of the 2016 Belg harvest in Ethiopia is still underway, as rains have been erratic since March. The Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources expects Belg planting to be adequate, however, with about 2.2 million hectares of land expected to be planted. El Nino-driven drought conditions in 2015 and 2016 have reduced production and led to food shortages in many areas of the country; as a result, the government of Ethiopia has significantly increased commercial wheat imports since the end of 2015. Imports for the 2016 marketing year are expected to be even higher. An estimated 10.2 million people are facing food insecurity, with the majority concentrated in the country’s northeastern regions. Household seed reserves have been significantly depleted, and seed shortages have been reported in some areas.  

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Flickr: Heidi Frank