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Food prices continue to increase in most reference markets and remain above average

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sudan
  • June 2012
Food prices continue to increase in most reference markets and remain above average

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September
  • Key Messages
    • As of June 2012, about 4.7 million people in Sudan face Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of food insecurity. Food insecurity is driven principally by conflict in parts of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, food shortages due to the poor 2011/12 harvest, high inflation, above-average food prices, and the impact of reduced oil revenues.

    • African Union-initiated peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan in May/June failed to result in an agreement on a buffer zone. Border tensions remain high, particularly in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Fighting in Blue Nile in Bau locality and in the Angasana Mountains in May has triggered movements of about 35,000 people to Upper Nile State in South Sudan. 

    • Food prices remain well above average, particularly in Darfur, due to significant shortfalls in supply caused by poor local production and disrupted trade flows from central Sudan. Markets in Darfur have reported the highest grain prices in Sudan for the last two months.

    • An increased pattern of lawlessness and insecurity in parts of Darfur and North Kordofan is reportedly due to the return of members of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) from South Sudan. SRF has reportedly been attacking villages, commercial convoys, and GoS garrison towns.

    • The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook forecast for the June – September season states that average to above-average rains are likely for most parts of Sudan.  As of mid-June, rains started in southern, central and western parts of Sudan. However, area cultivated is expected to be below average given the likelihood of continued conflict in the important sorghum-producing areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.  

    Updated food security outlook through September

    Macroeconomic context. Since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 and the loss of over 70 percent of its oil revenues, Sudan has faced deteriorating economic conditions. Inflation rates continue to soar, and according to Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the May 2012 inflation rate was 30.4 percent compared to 28.6 percent in April. The GoS recently instituted several major economic reforms including gradual removal of fuel subsidies, reduction in posts at national and state legislative and executive institutions by 45 – 50 percent, devaluation of the local currency to bridge the gap between the official and black market exchange rates, reduction in government allowances by 50 percent, and increased VAT taxes. The removal of the fuel subsidies is of the greatest concern, as this will sharply increase the cost of living, transport, and agricultural production.

    Insecurity/conflict. Following heavy fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and South Sudan’s Army (SPLA) in Heglig and other border locations over the past two months, and in conformity with the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on Sudan and South Sudan, the African Union (AU) initiated peace talks between the conflicting parties from May 28 to June 7. However, the talks ended without agreement on a buffer zone. Border tensions remain high, though direct confrontations have decreased. In conformity with the UNSCR resolution, SAF pulled out its troops from Abyei region. The next round of peace talks is scheduled to start in late June 2012.  Meanwhile, tensions remain high in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and parts of Darfur, as detailed later in the report. 

    Markets and trade. Grain prices (sorghum and millet) continued to increase in May (in line with seasonal trends) in most reference markets, and remain well above average. Sorghum prices increased by 30 percent in Kadugli, 20 percent in Gadarif, 18 percent in El Fasher, 13 percent in Damazine, and 11 percent in Geneina, compared to April 2012 prices (Figure 2).

    The sharp increase in sorghum prices in deficit areas (e.g. North Darfur, North Kordofan, Red Sea states and other main urban areas) is due to the substantial market supply shortfall, increased demand for sorghum at the household and market levels, and disruption to market supply/trade flows in parts of Darfur and South Kordofan due to insecurity. In some surplus areas (Blue Nile, White Nile, South Kordofan and Gadarif), price increases are attributed to high demand from other parts of Sudan and neighboring countries (Chad and South Sudan). May 2012 sorghum prices were, on average, over 170 percent higher than the five-year average and about 90 percent higher than the reference year (2009/2010).

    Seasonal progress. The movement of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone toward the northern sector of East Africa marks the beginning of the June – September main rainy season in Sudan, and some early rains have been reported. The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Forum outlook forecast for the June–September season indicates that normal to above-normal rains are likely for most parts of Sudan. However, the Sudan Meteorological Authorities forecast normal to below normal rains.  

    Livestock movements. The restrictions on trade from Sudan to South Sudan imposed by the GoS in May 2011 are raising concerns for the impact on traditional livestock movements. Cattle herding populations (Rufa’a, Lahawein, A’agalein and Kenana tribes) accompanied by 4 – 5 million head of animals have returned from Upper Nile state to Blue Nile, Sinar and White Nile States, and most are reluctant to return to South Sudan during the next dry season (beginning in November/December) due to tensions between the two countries and fears of looting and taxes. This will adversely affect semi-mechanized farming in these areas of Sudan and increase tension with farmers. Local authorities in Sinar state are considering re-allocation of 10-30 percent of farmland to provide settlement areas, migratory routes and grazing areas.

    South Kordofan

    An estimated 400,000 – 500,000 people in South Kordofan have been directly affected and/or displaced by ongoing conflict between the GoS and SPLM-N since June 2011. Of most concern is the large number of IDPs within SPLM-N areas, most of whom are concentrated in Heiban, Dellami, Al Buram, Talodi, parts of Aldalang (Salara), and Kouda localities.

    FEWS NET estimates that about 200,000 – 250,000 people living in SPLM-N controlled areas currently face Crisis to Emergency levels of food insecurity. Of this population, IDPs (about 150,000 – 200,000 people) currently face Emergency levels of food insecurity, and poor households among the host community (about 50,000 people) face Crisis levels of food insecurity.

    In GoS-controlled areas, an estimated 100,000 – 130,000 IDPs face Stressed levels of food insecurity. IDPs in these areas are expected to have better access to markets, humanitarian assistance by the GoS and WFP, and face fewer limitations on movement. In GoS-controlled areas of Talodi, Dulami, and Aleyeri, food aid was reportedly distributed by WFP to about 108,000 IDPs and conflict-affected people in May/June 2012. The SRCS is planning to distribute three to five months of WFP food rations to about 130,000 people in GoS-controlled areas of Kadugli, Al Abassiya, Abugeibeha, Gadir, Talodi, Rashad and Eleyri.

    Some of the main factors affecting food insecurity through September are discussed below.

    Trade flows and access to markets: Restrictions on trade flows from GoS to SPLM-N controlled areas are likely to continue. The GoS declaration of a state of emergency in border areas is expected to further reduce supplies to SPLM-N areas, where market supplies are already assumed to be 25 percent of normal levels. Small quantities of food will continue to be smuggled into SPLM-N controlled areas through sumbok markets (areas of exchange by smugglers from both sides).  Given that food supplies in SPLM-N controlled areas are expected to be at a minimum, prices are likely to rise above the current extremely high levels (over SDG 500 per 90-kg sack of sorghum).

    Population flows:  Some of the displaced are reportedly voluntarily returning to their areas of origin in GoS-controlled areas with the intention of engaging in some small-scale cultivation. However, some limitations on population flows to/out of SPLM-N controlled areas by the SPLM-N are likely to continue during scenario period. 

    Cultivation: Area planted by traditional farmers and IDPs in both government and SPLM-N controlled areas is likely to be less than last year due to insecurity and a shortage of seeds and tools. Some farmers on large-scale semi-mechanized farms (located in GoS-controlled areas) are likely to minimize cultivation to avoid the high risk of damage to crops and looting of agricultural equipment and assets by the SPLM-N. However limited small-scale cultivation, mainly for sorghum, might be practiced by residents and IDPs still in the SPLM-N controlled areas in the Nuba Mountains.  

    Food availability:  Most IDPs in SPLM-N controlled areas are depending on small quantities of food supplied to the area through smuggling, limited support from the host community, and wild food collection (e.g., berries and leaves). Wild food availability, particularly green leaves, is likely to improve during the rainy season, though not in sufficient quantities to allow households to meet basic food needs.  

    The rainy season (June to September) will be a critical time in South Kordofan. Food prices seasonally rise, household savings are typically low, and food stocks are exhausted. Though there will be some minor improvements in food availability with increased wild food sources, access to food will remain severely restricted given the prevailing insecurity conditions and limitations on movement, humanitarian access, and trade flows to SPLM-N controlled areas. Poor households and IDPs in these areas will have very limited sources of food and income while better-off households are assumed to have better access to land and assets such as livestock to sell.  In general, food security conditions are likely to deteriorate during this period, though Phase 5 outcomes are not anticipated in the most likely scenario. 

    Blue Nile State

    Fighting between SAF and SPLM-N in Blue Nile has continued since September 2011. In May 2012, SAF reportedly recovered Sawda and Jam villages from the SPLM-N. Recent fighting in Bau locality, near the border with South Sudan, and in the Angasana Mountains (southwestern Blue Nile), has triggered massive refugee movements from Blue Nile to Upper Nile state in South Sudan. Approximately 35,000 refugees have crossed the border to Doro, Jamam and Batil refugee camps in Upper Nile state since mid-May. An additional 20,000 people are also reportedly stranded en route to Upper Nile in border areas. According to UNHCR, as of the first week of June 2012, there are at least 105,000 refugees from Blue Nile registered in the three main camps in Upper Nile, compared to 73,000 refugees in May.  Furthermore, there are 33,000 refugees from Kurmuk and Geissan localities in Blue Nile in Ethiopia. These refugee flows are reportedly due to insecurity, food shortages, and the potential closure of roads due to the rainy season.

    Since mid-May, a considerable portion (40-50 percent) of the IDPs/host communities in SPLM-N controlled areas has fled deteriorating security and food security conditions to go to South Sudan (80-90 percent) and to GoS-controlled areas (10-20 percent).  Therefore, the number of displaced people in SPLM-N controlled areas of Blue Nile state is expected to be less than previous estimates. FEWS NET estimates that there are now about 50,000 – 75,000 people located in SPLM-N-controlled areas of Blue Nile, compared to about 100,000 – 150,000 people in April/May 2012. These populations are expected to face Crisis levels of food insecurity through September, and will therefore face significant food consumption gaps through this period.

    About 80,000 – 100,000 IDPs and people affected by conflict In GoS-controlled areas of Blue Nile state are expected to face Stressed levels of food insecurity through September. These populations are able to engage in local daily labor and have access to food and non-food items distributed by the GoS, according to HAC. Furthermore, contingency food stocks are reportedly pre-positioned by GoS in Damazine, Geissan, Kurmuk, Bau and Tadamon localities to meet lean season needs during the rainy season.


    As of June, the majority of the 1.8 million IDPs in Darfur face Stressed levels of food insecurity and about 1.2 million resident/host communities in the drought-affected areas of North Darfur face Crisis levels. Food security is of most concern in North Darfur due to poor food availability and high grain prices, and in Jebel Mara, due to the impacts of conflict on trade and humanitarian access.

    An increased pattern of lawlessness and insecurity in parts of East Darfur, North Darfur, South Darfur and North Kordofan is reportedly due to the return of members of the SRF from South Sudan. SRF has reportedly been attacking villages, commercial convoys, and GoS garrison towns. There are also reports of Justice and Equity Movement (JEM) attacks in East and North Darfur, and fighting between SAF and some nomadic communities in Central Darfur. Increased movement of Darfur rebel groups along the main road between North and South Darfur has reportedly disturbed truck movements between El Fasher town (North Darfur) and Nyala town (South Darfur). The rising pattern of insecurity in Darfur is expected to cause new displacement, reduce access by humanitarian agencies, and reduce the flow of food and non-food goods from central Sudan to Darfur, with continued implications on prices.

    There is growing concern over soaring prices in Darfur, due to significant shortfalls in supply because of disrupted inflows of grain from central Sudan, and exceptionally high local demand and from neighboring areas in east Chad. Markets in Darfur have reported the highest grain prices in Sudan for the last two months. In El Fasher (North Darfur), sorghum prices (90 kg) were SDG 230 and SDG 271 in April and May 2012, respectively, representing an 18 percent increase.  In an attempt to control grain prices, the local government in West Darfur set measurements to restrict out-flows of grain and released subsidized grain.  

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Sorghum prices, January 2009- May 2012

    Figure 2

    Sorghum prices, January 2009- May 2012

    Source: 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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