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Soaring food prices raise concern

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Sudan
  • May 2012
Soaring food prices raise concern

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September
  • Key Messages
    • As of May 2012, an estimated 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, well above-average food prices, and the impact of reduced oil revenues. 

    • High food prices are driven by below-average supply levels and, in some areas, the increased outflow of millet and sorghum to eastern parts of Chad due to high demand. April sorghum prices in key markets were almost double the five-year average. 

    • Food insecurity is of greatest concern in areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan, where about 200,000 – 250,000 people now face Crisis to Emergency levels of food insecurity. Food insecurity is expected to deteriorate through the scenario period (April to September), though not to Phase 5 levels. 

    Updated food security outlook through September

    Although Sudan and South Sudan indicated conformity with the UN Security Council Resolution on Sudan and South Sudan on May 2, 2012, border tensions remain high. The Government of Sudan (GoS) has declared a state of emergency in a number of border localities in South Kordofan, White Nile, Senar, and Blue Nile states and announced measures to curb smuggling into South Sudan. 

    Numerous clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and factions of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) have been reported in South, Central, and East Darfur; Blue Nile; and South Kordofan states, leading to new waves of displacement and loss of assets. Ongoing conflict is likely to disrupt access to cultivation, which will begin in June. Tension in border areas in particular is likely to continue to disrupt trade flows and negatively impact grain availability and prices.

    High food prices continue to be a major driver of food insecurity. From March to April 2012, nominal sorghum retail prices increased by 20 percent in Geneina (West Darfur), 16 percent in Damazin (Blue Nile), 13 percent in El Fasher (North Darfur), and 6 percent in Kadugli (South Kordofan).  Current sorghum prices are almost double the five-year average and 60 percent higher than the reference year (2010). Millet prices rose by 50 percent in Kadugli, 20 percent in Khartoum, 20 percent in Gadarif, 11 percent in El Obied and 9 percent in El Fasher. These increases were generally triggered by high prices in main supply areas (e.g. Gadarif, South Kordofan, White Nile, and Blue Nile) due to the poor 2011/2012 harvest, and the increased outflow of millet and sorghum from border markets in West Darfur State to eastern Chad due to extremely high demand there. Prices of other items (oil, meat, wheat flour) have also continued to rise due to the continued local currency depreciation and high inflation rate, which reached 21 percent during the first quarter of the year.

    South Kordofan

    An estimated 400,000 – 500,000 people in South Kordofan have been directly affected and/or displaced by fighting that has continued between the GoS and SPLM-N since June 2011. Of most concern is the large number of IDPs within the Nuba Mountains, where restrictions on trade and humanitarian access continue. FEWS NET estimates that about 200,000 – 250,000 people living in SPLM-N controlled areas currently face Crisis and Emergency levels of food insecurity.  Of this population, most of the IDP population (about 150,000 – 200,000 people) currently faces Emergency levels of food insecurity, and poor households among the host community (about 50,000 people) face Crisis levels of food insecurity.

    At present, the main areas of concern in South Kordofan include Heiban, Dellami, Al Buram, Talodi and Kouda localities, where most IDPs are concentrated. Fighting in these areas is likely to continue as the GoS declared its intention to take control of Kauda, an SPLM-N stronghold. The Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS) has registered about 4,917 newly displaced people in Al Leri following recent fighting in Talodi. HAC also reported the recent displacement of 388 people from Shat El Damam, Shat El Sufaya, Kulo, El Taice and EL Toma in Al Buram locality to Kadugli town, while 154 people were also displaced from Belainga area (about 15 km south of Kadugli) to Kadugli town. These displacements are reportedly due to insecurity and deteriorating food security conditions in SPLM-N controlled areas.

    Refugee inflows from South Kordofan to Yida camp in Unity state of South Sudan continue at high levels. UNHCR reported the arrival of 700 refugees per day in May, up from approximately 100 and 200 per day in March and April, respectively. As of May, Yida camp hosts over 30,000 refugees from South Kordofan.

    The main assumptions for the scenario period laid out in the April Outlook remain valid:

    Conflict: Though troop movements and delivery of logistical supplies may be constrained by poor road conditions during the rainy season (June-September), conflict is likely to continue. The increased involvement of the SRF is likely to intensify fighting.

    Humanitarian access: Restrictions on humanitarian access to displaced population in SPLM-N-controlled areas are likely to remain in place during the scenario period. Although significant diplomatic efforts are underway to obtain access to affected populations, the GoS restrictions are unlikely to be fully withdrawn during the scenario period.

    Trade flows and access to markets: Restrictions on trade flows from GoS to SPLM-N controlled areas are likely to continue, though small quantities of food will continue to be smuggled into SPLM-N controlled areas.  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. Prices are likely to rise above the current high levels of SDG 250-450 per 90 kg sack of sorghum in SPLM-N controlled areas.

    Population flows:  Restrictions on population flows out of SPLM-N controlled areas by the SPLM-N are likely to continue.  However, some of the displaced (both in SPLM-N and GOS areas) might return to their villages for planting.

    Rainy season: The rainy season is expected to begin in June, and is assumed to begin on time and to be average to above average, according to forecasts from the CPC, ECMWF and IRI. The rains will increase susceptibility to water-borne diseases associated with high malnutrition prevalence at this time of the year.

    Cultivation: Prevailing insecurity is likely to reduce area cultivated among traditional farmers and IDPs. Furthermore, some farmers on large-scale semi-mechanized farms (located in GoS-controlled areas) are likely to avoid risks associated with farming in South Kordofan this year, including potential damage to crops and looting of equipment by the SPLM-N. However, some limited small-scale cultivation, mainly for sorghum, might be practiced by residents and IDPs still in the Nuba Mountains. Such cultivation is likely to supply food for only a few months, and to be hindered by insecurity.

    Food availability: Carryover food stocks from the good 2010/11 harvest and the 2011/12 harvest are now expected to be exhausted or drawn to a minimum among both the host and displaced communities.  Currently wild foods (e.g., berries and leaves) and very limited host community support are the main sources of food. Although green leaves might be available at the beginning of August, they are not expected to compensate for household food consumption deficits.

    The period from July to September will be a critical time, as prices tend to peak, savings are typically low, and food stocks are exhausted. Market purchase is the most important source of food at this time. Wild foods, especially green leaves, are available during this period, and seasonal agricultural labor opportunities increase in a normal year. However, for the displaced and conflict-affected households in the Nuba Mountains, access to food will be even more restricted during this period should restrictions on movement and trade to the area continue. Poor households typically divide their time and/or labor between working on their own farms and farms of better-off households, but with limited or no ability to access seasonal labor opportunities, households will lose this critical source of income. In general, the host community is assumed to have better access to land and assets such as livestock to sell.  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, although in recent months fighting has been confined to the southern and western parts of the State (parts of Bau, Kurmuk, Geissan and Tadamon localities). On May 2, SAF took control of Bau town, near the border with Upper Nile State (South Sudan). UNHCR reported an increased number of people fleeing recent fighting in Blue Nile. By the end of April, UNHCR reported over 30,000 refugees in Ethiopia (5,629 refugees in Shorkole camp, 12,500 in Tongo camp and about 12,000 in Ad-Damazine transit centre) and about 100,000 refugees in Upper Nile. However, some people have been returning to GoS-controlled areas. HAC reported the return of over 30,000 refugees from Ethiopia to Geissan and Kurmuk.

    Although assumptions regarding conflict and restrictions on humanitarian access are similar, food security outcomes in Blue Nile are expected to be better than in South Kordofan as host communities have more food stocks to assist the displaced, cross-border movement is easier, and there is better access to markets from adjacent areas with good harvests, such as in Beni Shengol region of Ethiopia. Continuation of prevailing insecurity will affect access to cultivation in the traditional farming sector of Kurmuk, Bau and Gissan localities and the semi-mechanized sector in parts of Tadamon and Bau localities. Access to critical seasonal labor on semi-mechanized farms during the cultivation season is also expected to be reduced.

    As of May 2012, approximately 200,000 – 250,000 people are directly affected and/or displaced by the conflict. Of this population, about 100,000 – 150,000 people are located in SPLM-N-controlled areas, and are expected to face Crisis levels of food insecurity through September. About 50 – 100,000 people affected and/or displaced by conflict are in GoS-controlled areas, and are expected to face Stressed levels through September.


    Recent clashes between SRF and SAF forces have been reported in parts of South Darfur, East Darfur, Central Darfur and North Darfur states, causing destruction of assets, delayed planned returns, reduced humanitarian access, and displacement of about 30,000 people in April. Conflicts are likely to reduce access to farms for cultivation during the coming rainy season. Fighting could spread to other locations and disturb seasonal animal migrations to rainy season grazing areas in the north. The main areas of concern include Um Dafug, Hufrat EL Nahas, Kafan Dibei and Gireida (South Darfur), Samaha (East Darfur), Golo and Rokoro (Central Darfur) and Dar el Salam, Tabit and Kuttum (North Darfur).

    As of May, the majority of the 1.8 million IDPs 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, where production was 30 percent of 2010/11 production, and in Jebel Mara (South Darfur and West Darfur), due to insecurity. This year the lean season started two months earlier than usual (in March/April versus May/June).

    There is growing concern over the adoption of food/milling vouchers, the late start of seasonal support to drought-affected populations because of a breakdown in the food pipeline, and reduced food aid rations (about 50 percent of the standard 2100 kcal per person per day) during the lean season, when food prices peak. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    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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