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Staple food prices continue to increase during the harvest period

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • South Sudan
  • December 2015
Staple food prices continue to increase during the harvest period

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • An acute food Emergency (IPC Phase 4) continues in central Unity state and will extend to parts of Jonglei and Upper Nile states worst affected by conflict between January and March 2016 as conflict continues to severely limit food availability and access, and significantly restrict market functioning. Larger areas of Greater Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria state are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as many households still face significant difficulty meeting their basic food needs.

    • Prices of staple foods and essential commodities continue to increase atypically or remain high even though this is the middle of the harvest period, when prices typically decline due to increasing supply. As conflict continues to restrict cultivation activities and harvests come in well below average, atypical price increases were observed in November compared to previous months.

    • In mid-December, the Government of South Sudan devalued the South Sudanese Pound, adopting the parallel market rate of SSP 18.5 to 1 USD. This was soon followed by an increase in official fuel prices, with the state-owned petrol company raising the retail price of fuel from SSP 6 to SSP 22 per liter.  The devaluation of the currency comes amidst the backdrop of significant hard currency shortages.

    • Ongoing conflict and tension, reduced production prospects, fuel shortages and reduced market functioning continue to impact food security outcomes for many outside of worst-affected Greater Upper Nile. Conflict in Western Equatoria is likely to continue, restricting trade to and resulting in significant price increases within greater Bahr el Ghazal. As own production stocks become depleted much earlier than usual in many areas of Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, an early start to the 2016 lean season is expected.

    Current Situation

    Despite the signing of the peace agreement in August, with a renewed commitment signed in October, sporadic fighting continues in Greater Upper Nile in December. Conflict continues to displace households, block returns of displaced persons, disrupt livelihoods, and restrict humanitarian assistance delivery, particularly in central Unity state. Increased violence has also been reported in Western Equatoria, South Sudan’s surplus producing zone, where thousands have been displaced and second season harvests are impacted. Insecurity along trade routes in Western Equatoria state is restricting trade and humanitarian aid flows to Greater Bahr el Ghazal. Clashes also occurred in Eastern Equatoria where tensions remain high, disrupting some harvests and market activity.

    In November, cereal prices continued to increase atypically or remain high in key markets during the harvest period when prices are expected to be at their annual low. Despite the arrival of new harvests, between October and November the price of sorghum increased by 33 and 15 percent in November in Aweil and Wau, respectively, when it normally would have decreased given with the arrival of new harvests. In November 2015, the price of Sorghum in Juba was 316 percent higher than in November 2014, whereas in Wau and Aweil, sorghum increased by 194 and 151 percent respectively over the same period (Figure 1). The prices also increased by 229 and 209 percent above five-year average in Aweil and Juba respectively. As seasonal incomes remain restricted, access to food through purchase continues to be difficult for urban, market-dependant households and rural households with limited own-production stocks.

    In mid-December, South Sudan devalued its currency by 84 percent. The Government of South Sudan increased the exchange rate from SSP 2.96 per USD to SSP 18.5 per USD. This was soon followed by an increase in fuel prices in Juba, with the official retail price increasing from SSP 6 to SSP 22 per liter, fixed by South Sudan’s state-owned petrol company. Following the devaluation of the currency and the associated increase in fuel costs, against the backdrop of a shortage of hard currency, commodity prices have also begun to increase further in December, although the extent of the ongoing increase for key staples is not yet fully known. With the devaluation of the currency, there is currently no evidence that household incomes have responded in any way to support improved purchasing power.

    Livestock body conditions remain good due to the seasonably good availability of pasture and watering points across most of the country owing to the generally average levels of 2015 rainfall. In Greater Upper Nile, access to livestock products remains poor for many, particularly in Unity state, where many households have lost livestock during the conflict and as households become displaced. In Leer, Panyijiar, Mayom, Southern Koch and Southern Mayendit counties, however, the concentration of livestock has reportedly increased somewhat since May 2015. Access to livestock products is relatively more stable in Upper Nile and Jonglei, where the instance of looting is relatively less significant as compared to Unity state.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation is in line with the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for October 2015 to March 2016. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the South Sudan Food Security Outlook for October 2015 to March 2016.

    Projected Outlook through March 2016

    In central Unity state, a food security Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will continue and extend into neighboring areas of Upper Nile and Jonglei states between January and March 2016, with increased risk for malnutrition, as household food access remains very limited. Although food security outcomes are expected to improve somewhat in localized areas of Jonglei and Upper Nile States between January and March 2016 as food availability and access increases with the availability of new harvests for some households, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity is expected to extend to other areas in these states and to parts of Eastern Equatoria beginning in January as household access to food and income further deteriorates following meagre 2015 harvests and persistent civil insecurity. Given the limited availability of own production stocks, high market prices, and limited access to seasonal income-earning opportunities, large populations, particularly in Greater Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria, will experience significant difficulty meeting their basic food needs between January and March 2016. Additionally, households in many areas spanning from Greater Equatoria to Greater Bahr el Ghazal, whose agricultural activities have also been disrupted by conflict and where market access remains restricted, will experience substantial agricultural production shortfalls and deplete their harvest stocks much earlier than normal, contributing to an early start to the lean season by March 2016.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. 2014 and 2015 November retail sorghum prices

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: WFP

    Figure 1


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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