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Sorghum and millet prices increase significantly during main season harvests

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sudan
  • December 2017
Sorghum and millet prices increase significantly during main season harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through May 2018
  • Key Messages
    • Seasonal improvements in food access with the onset of main season harvests are contributing to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes in most of Sudan. However, conflict-affected areas of SPLM-N-controlled South Kordofan and Jebel Marra remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Furthermore, areas of Kassala and North Darfur where seasonal progress was particularly poor are also facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    • Harvests of the 2017/18 main agricultural season in Sudan are currently underway. The preliminary findings from the inter-agency annual crop and food supply assessment mission (CFSAM) in November/December 2017 indicated national harvests of cash and staple cereal crops are likely to be average to above average. However, harvests in some areas, such as Kassala State and North Darfur, where seasonal performance was particularly poor, are likely to be below average.  

    • Cereal prices increased significantly and atypically in November, when main season harvests typically contribute to seasonal declines in prices. Between October and November 2017, sorghum and millet prices increased between 10 and 40 percent across most markets. Field reports indicate delays in harvests of staple cereals, and farmers’ prioritization of cash crop harvests over cereal harvests, may have contributed to these increases.

    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress

    • Main season crop harvests underway since October are likely to continue into January 2018. The harvest of cash crops (e.g. sesame and groundnut) is complete, while sorghum and cotton harvests in the irrigated and rainfed sector is still in progress. The preliminary findings of the inter-agency Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted during November/December 2017 suggest average to above-average harvests are likely in most areas of Sudan, except in Kassala and the northern parts of Gadaref, North Darfur and Kordofan States, where cumulative rainfall was below normal and/or long dry spells occurred between June and September 2017. In many areas, above-average prices for cash crops have driven significant increases in area planted in cash crops, particularly cotton and sesame, resulting in some shift from cereal to cash crop cultivation.
    • Access to seasonal agricultural labor opportunities has improved with increased demand for harvest labor since October. The increased cultivation of cash crops such as sesame and cotton, the latter of which is highly labor intensive, has also driven increases in labor demand. In general, seasonal agricultural wages also have increased by 20 to 30 percent compared to the same period last year.
    • In conflict affected areas of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, access to land for cultivation by Internally Displaced People (IDPS) continued to be below normal levels due to insecurity, displacement far away from farms, and lack of seeds and tools. Consequently, access to seasonal agricultural labor in these areas is expected to remain below normal.  

    Markets and prices

    • In November, atypical price increases for sorghum and millet were observed in several major markets in Sudan, at a time when prices typically begin to decrease as harvested crops begin to arrive on markets. Sorghum and millet prices abnormally increased by 10 to 40 percent between October and November 2017 (Figure 1). Field reports suggest some of these increases may be due to slight delays in harvests this year, combined with shifts in planted area for cereal crops versus cash crops, with prices for the latter more than twice as high than at the same time last year. Field reports further indicate that farmers are currently accessing sufficient cash income from the sale of cash crops, to allow them to hold onto and sell cereals later in the year at more advantageous prices. November levels of sorghum and millet prices were on average 25 to 55 percent higher than of the same period last year and 50 and 80 percent higher than of five-year average for sorghum and millet, respectively.
    • Prices of locally produced wheat continued to increase seasonably across most markets since last September. Between October and November 2017, prices of locally produced wheat increased by five to 10 percent across most markets in Sudan. This increase reflects the trend typical at the end of the season, when market supplies and household stocks are at their lowest. November 2017 local wheat prices were on average 40 percent higher than at the same period last year and 75 percent higher than the recent five-year average.
    • Livestock price either remained stable or slightly decreased in most markets between October and November 2017, due to seasonal decreased demand for export and increases in staple food prices. In Kassala State, extremely poor availability of pasture and water resulted in the migration of livestock two to three months earlier than normal from the northern Kassala to New Halfa and Gazeira irrigated schemes and further South into Gadaref and Sennar states. The price of dry fodder in Kassala state in October 2017 was 33 percent higher than during the same period last year.
    • Household purchasing power is reaching its seasonal peak as Terms of Trade (ToT) between key sources of income (daily wage labor, sale of cash crops, and sale of livestock) peak. However, declines in ToT were observed in November, due to the sharp increases in the prices of sorghum. For example, in Kadugli market, November 2017 terms of trade between daily wage labor and sorghum is 17 percent lower than during the previous month due to a 20 percent increase in sorghum prices (Figure 2). However, ToT on this same market are approximately 36 percent higher than at the same period last year and the recent three-year average.

    South Sudanese refugees

    • Approximately 5,900 refugees arrived into Sudan from South Sudan during November 2017, with most arriving in South Darfur, according to UNHCR and the Sudanese Commission for Refugees (COR). This bring the total number of refugees arriving since December 2013 to approximately 460,000 people. In total, more than 800,000 South Sudanese refugees currently reside in Sudan. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions made in the Sudan Food Security Outlook for October 2017 to May 2018 remain unchanged. 

    Projected Outlook through May 2018

    Food security typically improves in November and December as main season harvests and improved purchasing power improve household food access. As a result, most areas of Sudan will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through January 2018. The exceptions include agropastoral and pastoral areas of Kassala, northern Gadaref, North Kordofan, and North Darfur states, where seasonal progress in 2017 very poor. Consequently household’s access to income from seasonal agricultural labor, reduced access to livestock products and reduced harvests have led to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in smaller areas, while the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is expected to increase between February and May 2018. In some parts of Jebel Marra and SPLM-N-controlled South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, prevailing insecurity conditions, displacement, and restricted population movements continued to hamper access to cultivation and seasonal agricultural labor. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity persist among IDPs and poor residents during the harvest period. These areas are likely to continue facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes between February and May 2018. 

    Figures Figure 1. Nominal retail sorghum prices, (SDG/kg) Gadaref market

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Nominal retail sorghum prices, (SDG/kg) Gadaref market

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Terms of trade sorghum prices and daily wage labor, Kadugli market

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Terms of trade sorghum prices and daily wage labor, Kadugli market

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    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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