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Displacement, poor 2017 rainfall, and high food prices to drive food insecurity through September

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • February - September 2018
Displacement, poor 2017 rainfall, and high food prices to drive food insecurity through September

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    2017/18 agricultural production

    The recent joint Annual Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) estimated Sudan’s national 2017/18 cereal production at approximately 5.2 million metric tons. This is approximately 10 percent higher than the recent five-year average, and nearly almost 40 percent lower than the well above-average 2016/17 harvests.

    Out of the estimated 5.2 million tons of cereal for this season, sorghum production is estimated at 3.7 million metric tons, this is almost 40 percent below that of the previous year, but still seven percent higher than the five-year average. Millet production is estimated at approximately 0.95 million tons, which is 20 percent above the five-year average and 42 percent below the above-average production of last year. According to the CFSAM, harvests of irrigated winter wheat in March are expected to be approximately 0.46 million metric tons, which is slightly lower than in 2016/17, but 15 percent higher than the recent five-year average.

    The decrease in cereal production this year compared to last year are attributed mostly to a reduction in area planted. The low prices for sorghum from last year, due to the above-average production of 2016/17 season, encouraged many farmers in the irrigated and semi-mechanized sectors to plant sesame and other cash crops with more attractive prices. In parts of the traditional and semi-mechanized rain-fed sector, area planted was significantly reduced by a delayed onset of rains, below-average rainfall and prolonged dry spells. As a result, area planted in sorghum decreased by 20 percent this year compared to last year. Areas where production was lowest compared to average include North Darfur, parts of North Kordofan, northern parts of Kassala, and northern parts of Al Qadarif states.

    Following a significant increase in area and yield, above-average sesame production is reported for this year. Overall, sesame production in 2017/18 is estimated at 861,000 tons, which is 64 percent higher than last year. Groundnut production this year is estimated at 1.6 million tons, which is below that of 2016/17 due to rain shortage in the major rainfed production areas. Sunflower production this year is 76 percent higher than last year due to a significant increase in harvestable area this year.

    According to the CFSAM, the national cereal balance sheet for the 2017/18 consumption year estimates national cereal availability at 6.3 million metric tons, including 0.94 tons as opening stocks. Wheat import needs are estimated to be approximately 2.1 million tons and rice import needs are estimated at approximately 60,000 tons. Accordingly, the total available cereal for the consumption year 2017/18 will cover the annual domestic cereal requirements and closing stocks will be an estimated 696,000 tons in November 2018.

    Increases in production costs have been reported this year, especially in the semi-mechanized rain-fed and irrigated sectors. According to the CFSAM, agricultural production costs increased 30 percent this season compared to 2016/17, which is mainly attributed to high cost of agricultural inputs, labor, and increases in water for irrigation and management fees in the irrigated sector.


    In December 2017, the Government of Sudan announced the removal of wheat and wheat flour subsidies, as well as the devaluation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) from 6.7 SDG/USD to 18 SDG/USD. In February 2018, the government announced a further devaluation from 18 SDG/USD to 30 SDG/USD. According to the Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), inflation in Sudan increased sharply from 25 percent in December 2017 to 52 percent in January 2018 following the announcement of the recent macro-economic changes.

    Staple food prices

    Following these announcements, the prices for key staples foods increased sharply. For example, the retail price of wheat grain, which is largely imported, increased by 15-50 percent between December and January across 11 markets monitored by FEWS NET in Sudan. These increases were driven by the removal of wheat and wheat flour subsidies in January 2018. Current wheat prices are between 20 and 120 percent higher than in January 2017, and two to three times higher than the recent five-year average (Figure 1).

    Prices for locally produced staple foods have also increased sharply. Retail sorghum prices increased by 10-80 percent between December 2017 and January 2018, while retail millet prices increased by 5-60 percent across most markets. The timing for these increases coincides with the post-harvest period, when prices for staple foods typically decline seasonally. In recent years, staple food prices have shown year-on-year increases that typically result in current year prices being as much as 50 percent higher than their recent four or five-year average. However, following the sharp increase between December and January, January 2018 retail sorghum and millet prices were 70 to 150 percent above January 2017 levels and two to three times higher than the recent five-year average (Figure 1).

    These changes in the macro-economic of the country have also eliminated indirect price support to both imported and locally produced non-cereal food commodities like cooking oil, sugar and milk powder, exerting upward pressure on prices for these commodities.

    Livestock prices

    Livestock prices continued to increase across most markets in Sudan between December 2017 and January 2018. Goat and sheep prices reported five to 15 percent monthly increases during January 2018. In El Fasher, one of the areas most affected by severe dryness this year, livestock prices remained atypically stable between October through January 2018, which is mostly attributed to the increased sales of animals for cereal purchase due to limited availability of households’ own production and high grain prices. In most markets, goat and sheep prices remained 20 percent above last year and more than 80 percent recent five-year average.

    Labor prices

    Despite the overall increase in prices of different goods and services following the recent macro-economic changes in Sudan, labor wages remained relatively stable in most parts of the country. Between December 2017 and January 2018, the agricultural labor wage (mostly harvesting activities) remained stable in most markets, with the exception of Zalengei and Senga markets where a slight increase in wages was reported. However, daily wage rates for agricultural labor remained between 50 and 150 SDG throughout the country, which was mainly due to the completion of the harvest process in most areas while competition over available opportunities continues. January 2018 wage labor rates were mostly similar to that of last year, but 20 to 30 percent above the five-year average. As the majority of people are likely to shift to non-agricultural labor during the summer season, wages are likely to remain slightly above last year and 20-30 percent above the recent five-year average.

    Terms-of-trade and household purchasing power

    In January 2018, sorghum to livestock terms-of-trade started to decrease for livestock holders in most markets monitored by FEWS NET in Sudan, which is due to the sharp increase in staple food prices. Goat to sorghum terms-of-trade decreased by 15 to 30 percent between December 2017 and January 2018, in most of the nine markets for which recent price data was available. In select markets, such as Madani for example, decreases in terms-of-trade were as high as 40 percent. Trends in terms-of-trade are mixed when compared to previous year levels, with January 2018 levels ranging between 30 percent above (in Kadugli market) to 50 percent below (in Ad Damazin market) previous year levels. Similar trends are observed when comparing January 2018 terms-of-trade to the recent five-year average.

    Sorghum to daily wage labor terms-of-trade continued to deteriorate rapidly between November 2017 and January 2018 in most markets due to the significant increase in sorghum prices compared to the relative stability of labor wages. In Al Gadaref market, terms-of-trade between daily wage labor and sorghum decreased by 25 percent as it dropped from 16 kg per day of wage labor in November to 12 kg per day of wage labor in January 2018, this is almost 75 percent lower than that of January 2017, and 60 percent lower than the recent two-year average.

    Conflict and South Sudanese refugees

    The influx of South Sudanese refugees into bordering states of Sudan continues due to ongoing conflict and food insecurity in South Sudan. According to UNHCR, an estimated 3,064 South Sudanese refugees arrived in Sudan during January 2018, with the majority arriving to South Darfur, East Darfur, West Kordofan, White Nile, and South Kordofan states. According to UNHCR, since December 2013, more than 417,600 refugees from South Sudan have arrived in Sudan, of whom 195,599 arrived in 2017.

    No major incidents of direct fighting between conflicting groups have been reported in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile since last year through January 2018. However, population movement, trade flow, and access by humanitarian actors to SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan remained restricted. High tension and increased deployment of Sudan Armed forces (SAF) in the eastern borders of Sudan and Eritrea continued during January 2018 due to the reported presence of different Sudanese rebel groups in Eritrea.

    Humanitarian assistance

    In 2018, WFP Sudan plans to provide general food distributions and/or cash assistance to more than 4.8 million people, over 2.8 million of whom are in the Darfur states and about 314,816 in government-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Between July and December 2017, WFP Sudan provided general food distributions to approximately 3.6 million people, or about 88 percent of the targeted population in Sudan, including 413,350 children under-five years old and pregnant and nursing women, who received preventive and curative nutrition assistance.


    The most likely food security scenario for February through September 2018 is based on the following assumptions:

    • Based on international seasonal forecasts, the June to September 2018 rainy season in Sudan is expected to be above average tending to average in terms of total cumulative rainfall. As this is a preliminary forecast, FEWS NET will continue to monitor upcoming seasonal forecasts from the Sudan Meteorological Authority and the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC).
    • High inflation and local currency depreciation is likely to persist in Sudan between February and September 2018 due to the recent local currency devaluation, removal of subsidies and increased prices of imported and locally produced food and non-food items, in addition to the very high demand for hard currency following the removal of trade sanctions in October 2017.
    • Prices of sorghum, the main staple, are expected to stabilize at their current high levels during February and April 2018 due to availability of households’ own production and hence relatively low demand for local consumption. Prices are likely to start rapid seasonal increases between May and September due to expected depletion of stocks at the household level and increases in demand for local consumption. Sorghum prices are likely to increase 10 to 30 percent from their current levels and remain at over 80 percent above last year, which is more than double compared to the five-year average (Figure 3). Prices of millet, the main staple food in western Sudan, are also expected to follow the same trend. Prices are expected to stable between February and April and increase 15 to 20 percent between May and September but will remain 50 to 70 percent above respective 2017, which is more than double compared to the recent five-year average.
    • Wheat production from the ongoing 2017/18 winter season is expected to be slightly above average.
    • Prices for locally produced wheat are likely to be stable or slightly decrease following harvests between March and June and to start typical gradual seasonal increases between July and September. However, prices of imported wheat are likely to remain more than double compared to 2017 and over 170 percent above the recent five-year average due to extremely high prices of imported wheat and wheat flour following the removal of subsidies.
    • Livestock prices are expected to remain relatively stable or slightly increase in most markets between February and May due to the availability of relatively better pasture and access to water. Livestock prices are expected to increase seasonably following the start of the June to September 2018 rains, as increased availability of water and pasture improve animal body conditions. Export demand, particularly for sheep and cattle to Saudi Arabia and Gulf, are anticipated to increase during and Hajj religious festivities. Livestock prices are anticipated to remain slightly above last year and well above average.
    • Terms-of-trade between livestock (goats) and cereals are likely to continue to be in favor of cereal producers between February and May 2018 due to expected increases in cereal prices compared to livestock prices. Terms-of-trade are expected to start to improve in favor of livestock holders with the expected increase in livestock prices between June and September. Goats to sorghum terms-of-trade are expected to remain 10 to 20 percent below last year, but slightly above average.
    • Agricultural daily wage labor opportunities are likely to decline seasonably following completion of the harvest in February 2018, when households will begin to shift to non-agricultural labor. Daily wage rates will likely continue to decrease between February and May due to increased competition over available opportunities. Agricultural labor opportunities and wages are expected to start seasonal increases by the start of June to September 2018 rainy season.
    • Between February and May, terms of trade between daily labor and sorghum is expected remain below average and to continue to be in favor of sorghum producers due to expected increases in sorghum prices with reduced labor wages. Terms-of trade will start to improve slightly between May and August with the expected improvement in labor wages but will likely remain significantly below last year and the recent five-year average.
    • The influx of South Sudanese refugees from South Sudan into neighboring states of Sudan is expected to continue between February and September 2017 as insecurity, instability, and severe acute food insecurity continues in South Sudan. According to UNHCR, an estimated 200,000 new refugees are anticipated to arrive in Sudan in 2018.
    • Disputes and tension between conflicting SPLM-N factions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, increased tension along the border with Eritrea, and disputes over pasture and water for animals and sporadic tribal conflicts in Darfur are expected in these areas during scenario period. In Kassala and Darfur, this is expected to reduce pastoralist access to some of the grazing areas and reduce poor group’s access to collection and sale of forest products, which represents a major source of income for the poor groups as well as access to cultivation during upcoming 2018/19 season. No major, additional displacement in SPLM-N areas is expected during scenario period.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The scenario for February through September 2018, includes the harvest and post-harvest period from February to May, and the peak lean season from June to September 2018. Between February and April, most households are likely to maintain improved access to food following above-average harvests, increased access to food from in-kind payments from agricultural labor, and improved access to milk resulting from improved pasture conditions. In combination, these factors will help to improve household food access, although household access to market purchases will be much lower than normal, particularly among poor households, due to very high staple food prices and lower than normal terms of trade. Nevertheless, most poor households will be able to meet at least their minimum household food requirements. Most areas of Sudan will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between February and May 2018, although the number of households unable to meet their livelihood protection needs is expected to be higher than normal during this period. As households exhaust their stocks of own-produced foods and begin to enter the period of the year when they are most dependent on market purchases to access staple foods, the number of households facing difficulty meeting the livelihoods protection needs is expected to increase further and some households may face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. However, most areas of the country will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between June and September 2018.

    However, continued displacement and poor seasonal progress in 2017 will affect food security in several areas in 2018. In SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as in Jebel Marra in Darfur, IDPs in particular had limited access to cultivatable areas for crop production during the 2017 rainy season. Very poor seasonal progress in northern Kassala, parts of North Darfur, and parts of North Kordofan likewise resulted in very poor crop production, as well as limited regeneration of water and pasture resources for livestock, below-average access to in-kind payments for agricultural labor, and reduced access to wild foods. Furthermore, the earlier than normal migration of livestock away from these zones in search of pasture has reduced household access to milk. Between February and September 2018, IDPs and these dryness-affected areas will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. As food consumption gaps widen further during the peak of the lean season, food security among IDPs in Jebel Marra and in SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan, among whom access to land, trade, and humanitarian assistance is most constrained, will deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the peak of the lean season between June and September 2018. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Figure 1. Nominal retail prices (national average) for wheat, sorghum, and millet, compared to running four-year averages

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Nominal retail prices (national average) for wheat, sorghum, and millet, compared to running four-year averages

    Source: FEWS NET/FAMIS data

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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