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Very high staple food prices to continue driving large assistance needs through lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • February - September 2020
Very high staple food prices to continue driving large assistance needs through lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Large numbers of people are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse food security outcomes in Sudan through September 2020, particularly poor households and IDPs in Greater Darfur, Greater Kordofan, Red Sea and Kassala states. Of highest concern are IDPs and conflict-affected people in areas of Jebel Marra in Darfur and SPLM-N held areas of South Kordofan, parts of West Kordofan and Blue Nile where humanitarian access is poor and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected between June and September 2020. 

    • National cereal production for the 2019/20 season in Sudan is estimated at 5.1 million metric tons, 18 percent below the five-year average and 57 percent below last year’s bumper harvest. The decrease in cereal production this year is related to increases in area planted in cash crops at the expense of area planted in cereals, and to a lesser extent, low yields resulting from flooding and pest infestations.

    • Sudan’s persistent macroeconomic crisis has continued to deteriorate further into February 2020 as reserves of foreign currency remain low, the SDG/USD exchange rate continues to decline, prices of imported essential items remain very high. Moreover, prices for locally produced staples continue to increase to very high levels. Sudan is likely to continue facing macroeconomic difficulties associated with low foreign exchange reserves throughout 2020.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    2019/20 agricultural production

    The inter-agency Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission carried out in December 2019 estimates national 2019/20 cereal production in Sudan was below average. According to preliminary findings, total production of sorghum, millet, and wheat is estimated at 5.1 million metric tons, 57 percent below the bumper harvest of the previous year and 18 percent less than the five-year average. Sorghum production is estimated at 4 million MT (-19% vs. 5YA, -26% vs. 2018/19) and millet production is estimated at 1.1 million MT (-16% vs. 5YA, -63% vs. 2018/19). 

    The drop in cereal production this year is related mostly to increases in area planted in cash crops, and to a lesser extent, lower yields due to flooding and pest infestations. Agricultural households and large-scale producers reduced area planted in cereals in order to take advantage of much higher prices for cash crops, like sesame and groundnut. Harvestable areas of cereals were estimated to be 20 percent lower compared to last year and 11 percent below the five-year average. 

    The greatest decrease in sorghum production this year was observed in the semi-mechanized sector, where overall production was 44 percent lower than that of last year and 48 percent below the five-year average. The highest drop was reported in El Gadarif, White Nile, and West Kordofan states where production was estimated to be 60, 64, and 42 percent lower than of last year and 63, 62, and 54 percent below the five-year average, respectively. A significant drop in millet production was also reported in the traditional rain-fed sector, where overall production this year was almost 60 percent lower than of last year and 15 percent lower than the five-year average. 

    Cash crop production is estimated to be above average following significant increases in area planted during the main 2019/20 season. National production of groundnuts is estimated at 2.8 million MT (+90% vs. 5YA, -2% vs. 2018/19), and national sesame production is estimated at 1.2 million MT (+26% vs. 2018/19). El Jazeira, Sennar West Kordofan are major areas reported significant increase in sesame production as this year production reported 140-280 percent increases compared to last year. production was 

    Food Balance Sheet

    Sudan is not expected to face a significant cereal supply gap in 2020, with a combination of carryover stocks, 2019/20 production, and imports expected to cover Sudan’s cereal needs. According to the ACFSAM national cereal balance sheet, the available 6.0 million tons of cereal (5.9 million tons production, 54,000 tons carryover stock) is expected to cover about 78 percent of the 7.7 million MT cereal requirements for the 2019/20 consumption year in Sudan (Table 1). Meanwhile, wheat import needs for this year estimated at approximately 1.6 million tons compared to 2.2 million tons for last year and the five-year average. In addition, rice import needs are estimated at approximately 60,000 tons while an anticipated 0.54 million tons of food aid is expected to contribute 7 percent of the annual requirements. accordingly, Sudan is expected to remain with only 0.5 million tons of closing stock this year compared to 3 million tons for last year and 2.5 million for the five-year average. However, the anticipated further local currency depreciation could limit the government and private sector’s ability to import sufficient cereal to meet import requirements. 

    Macroeconomic difficulties 

    Sudan’s long-standing structural macroeconomic crisis has continued to deteriorate further into February 2020. Since its establishment in August 2019, the Transitional Government of Sudan has attempted to adopt austerity measures to curb continuing macroeconomic difficulties in the country that have worsened since November 2017. Nevertheless, persistently low reserves of foreign currency, and increased shortage of USD in the official banking system, has driven rapid depreciation of the local currency on the parallel market and forced the government to devalue the Sudanese Pound on the official exchange market. As of February 2020, the Central Bank of Sudan has raised the Sudanese Pound official exchange rate to 52 SDG/USD compared to 45 SDG/USD in January. The rate in the parallel market registered a record of 103 SDG per USD in February 2020, compared to 97 SDG/USD in January (Figure 1). According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), the national inflation rate increased from 57% in December 2019 to 64% in January 2020.

    Prices and terms-of-trade

    Sorghum and millet prices have continued to increase significantly between October 2019 and February 2020, when prices typically decline as harvests reach markets (Figure 2). Sorghum and millet prices have increased by 10-25 percent between January and February 2020 in most of the main production and consumption markets, and are 60-85% higher than in January 2019, and 225-285% higher than the five-year average. 

    Continued increases in staples food prices are being driven principally by high cross-border demand, driven by low depreciation of the Sudanese Pound that is lowering the price of Sudanese sorghum relative to sorghum priced in neighboring countries’ currencies. These price increases are also due to tighter than usual market supply resulting from below-average cereal production, below-average carryover stocks, and high production and transport costs. Low market supply has also been reported as producers and large-scale traders are withholding their stocks, anticipating high prices during the upcoming lean season.

    Retail prices of locally produced wheat increased seasonably (by five to 15 percent) in most production and consumption markets of Sudan between January and February 2020, in line with typical seasonal trends. Supply of locally produced wheat market declined in February due to reduced stocks at the household and market level, in advance of wheat harvests that are set to begin in March 2020 for the ongoing winter season. This is in addition to shortage and high prices of imported wheat. Current levels of wheat prices are approximately 50 percent higher than in January 2019 and 220 percent higher than the recent five-year average.                     

    Prices for fuel are well above average and have continued to increase in early 2020. The high prices of fuel are attributed to scarcity and high costs for transporting fuel to reach markets. The official subsidized fuel price in fuel stations varies across different parts of the country according to proximity to Port Sudan and Khartoum, the main centers for fuel supplies in Sudan. Official prices of diesel for January 2020 range between 5-10 SDG/liter, while the lowest price of 5 SDG/liter was found in Khartoum and Port Sudan, the highest official price of 8-10 SDG/liter were reported in Ad-Deain, Zalengei, El Geneina, El Fasher and Nyala in Darfur and Kadugli in South Kordofan. Meanwhile, parallel market prices range between 18-26 SDG/liter which almost up to threefold of the official price and 30-50 percent above respective in Khartoum. The highest prices for fuel on the parallel market are found in the Darfur states and in South Kordofan. In an attempt to manage fuel shortages and high demand for the subsidized fuel, the government has set two prices for diesel and gasoline. Gasoline and diesel will be sold on a quota basis at partially subsidized prices of 6.1 SDG/liter and 5 SDG/liter, respectively. Commercial prices will be 28 SDG and 26 SDG/liter for gasoline and diesel, respectively.

    Livestock conditions and sales

    Good livestock body conditions are reported across the main grazing areas of Sudan, which have been supported by above-average pasture and water availability resulting from above-average levels of rainfall during the rainy season. No major disease outbreaks are reported. However, in some parts of South Kordofan, North Kordofan, and White Nile, seasonal animal migration to the wet season grazing areas has been constrained by flooding along typical routes and expansion of farming. This is likely to result in earlier than usual overgrazing in these areas. Animal sales and market supplies are anticipated to increase by April 2020 due to the expected high demand during Ramadan (fasting month) and Haj (pilgrim) festivals, in addition to the expected resumption of animal export to Saudi Arabia. 

    Livestock prices increased across Sudan between January and February and are much higher than in prior years. Goat and sheep prices increased 10-20 percent between January and February and remained 85-110 percent higher than last year and 270-300 percent above the five-year average. Cattle prices have shown similar increases and remain on average 160 percent above last year and 315 percent above the five-year average. These well above-average prices for livestock are attributed to a combination of local currency depreciation that is driving high transport costs for animals, as well as good animal body conditions driven by good pasture and water availability in pastoral areas of Sudan. These increases are also despite the hold on animal exports to Saudi Arabia that has been in place since October 2019. 

    Agricultural wages remained generally stable in areas of where extended harvests and winter cropping continue. Agricultural labor opportunities slightly declined while wages remained stable in February 2020, the end of the harvest period in the main agricultural areas of Sudan. Labor wages ranged between 180-300 SDG per working day, which is slightly lower in most markets than last month and February 2019. The highest daily wage rates were found in areas of irrigated and spate flow cultivation, where extended harvests have been observed and some winter cultivation continues, while lower rates were mainly in traditional rain-fed areas, where harvests were completed by early January 2020.

    Terms-of-trade and household purchasing power remained below last year and the average due to the high increase in staple food price relative to livestock and labor wage prices. Goats-to-sorghum terms of trade in most markets dropped on average 12 percent between January and February 2020 due to 13 percent increases in sorghum prices while goat prices increased on average by only 4 percent (Figure 3). Goat to sorghum TOT remained between 50-140 kg of sorghum per goat in January 2020, compared to 65-210 kg per goat in November 2019. February 2020 goats-to-sorghum terms of trade are 20-40 percent below those observed at this time last year, and 15-35 percent below the recent three-year average. Labor to sorghum terms of trade slightly declined or remained stable in most markets as sorghum prices increased and labor wages remained stable or decreased slightly. Labor-to-sorghum ToT for February remained 30-50 percent below average as cereal prices remain well above average.

    According to the Desert Locust Bulletin, during February, hopper bands were present on the southern coastal plain of the Red Sea between Aqiq and the Eritrea border. A few mature swarms were reported near Atbara and Garora, scattered immature and mature adults were presence in the Nile valley state between Ed Damer and Merowe.   

    Humanitarian assistance

    In January 2020, WFP and implementing partners provided approximately 1.9 million beneficiaries with 11,426 MT in-kind assistance of food commodities and $3.4 million in cash vouchers, which represents 60 percent of the planned quantity and 70 percent of the planned cash voucher equivalent value. The areas where provision of assistance was highest include Greater Darfur, government-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and chronically food-insecure areas of eastern and western Sudan. WFP is planning to distribute a total of 109,574 MT and USD 28 million in cash vouchers 3.5 million beneficiaries between March and September 2020.

    Levels of conflict and new displacement in Sudan remain low in late 2019/early 2020 compared to prior years. Nevertheless, some intercommunal tensions in some areas of Darfur, Abyei, and eastern Sudan have caused smaller scale displacement during the past few months. Overall, an estimated 46,076 individuals (9,607 households) have been newly displaced since the beginning of this 2020 in El Geneina in West Darfur state, mainly due to conflict in areas of West Darfur.

    Current food security outcomes

    Overall, food security has slightly improved in February compared to the peak lean season of September 2019 due to the increased availability of food from the 2019/20 harvest. However, during February 2020, poor macroeconomic conditions and above average staple food prices continued driving worse food security outcomes than are typically observed during harvest period. therefore, many areas in northern, western and eastern Darfur, parts of North West and South Kordofan, parts of Kassala, and Blue Nile states, where poor households are typically highly dependent on markets to access food remained Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist among IDPs and conflict affected households in conflict affected areas in Jebel Marra, SPLM-N areas of South Kordofan, southern Blue Nile in absence of humanitarian assistances.


    The most-likely scenario for February to September 2020 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Sudan is likely to continue facing severe macroeconomic difficulties associated with low foreign exchange reserves in the official banking system and active informal market. Given the fact that no major sources of USD revenue are likely during projection period, shortages of foreign currency are likely to remain very significant throughout 2020.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated projections, the Sudanese Pound (SDG) is likely to depreciate further on the parallel market and will likely be between 100 and 140 SDG/USD during the scenario period (Figure 4). 
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, retail prices for sorghum and millet are expected to begin 5-10 percent monthly increases by early April and to be 20 to 25 percent above current (January) prices during the peak of the lean season in August and September 2020. Overall, sorghum and millet prices are expected to be 60-100 percent higher than last year and 250-300 percent above the five-year average. Prices for locally produced wheat will increase 30-40 percent from current levels through the next harvest in March/April 2020. Wheat prices will remain over 50 percent higher than last year’s prices and over 180 percent above the five-year average.
    • Sudan is expected to continue importing large quantities of wheat in 2020, estimated at import approximately 2 million MT by preliminary results of the 2019/20 ACFSAM. In addition, Sudan is expected to import 60,000 MT of rice and 23,000 MT of maize overall. 
    • High fuel (diesel) prices are expected to persist across Sudan, with price increases expected to reach 10-30 percent above current levels through September 2020. Fuel prices in remote areas of Darfur and South Kordofan and Northern states will remain 40-50 percent above those in central Sudan, while fuel price on the informal market will likely to be more than twice as high as official prices across the country.
    • Harvestable area of wheat is expected to be harvested is estimated to be about 20 percent lower than last year but near average levels. Average yields are expected from the ongoing November 2019 to March 2020 winter agricultural season in Sudan. 
    • Livestock prices are expected to slightly increase during the first half of the scenario period and remain relatively stable during the second half of the scenario period. Goat prices expected to increase 5-10 percent between February and April and remain relatively stable or start to decrease by May through August-September peak of the lean season, the time during which market supply increases as households sell additional livestock to fund food purchases. Overall, goat prices are expected to remain 30-50 percent above last year and 150-180 percent above the five-year average. 
    • Based on the projected cereal and goat prices, goat-to-cereal terms of trade are expected to remain relatively stable between February and March, the harvest and post-harvest of the outlook period and decline 5 to 10 percent with beginning of the lean season by April through peak lean season in September 2020 as result of the anticipated 10 to 20 percent increase in sorghum prices while goat prices are anticipated to remain stable or slightly decline during mentioned period goat-to-cereal term of trade in is expected to remain on average 20-30 percent lower than last year and 10-15 percent below the five-year average.
    • Cumulative rainfall during the June to September 2020 rainy season in Sudan is likely to be average and well distributed, with an on-time start and end to the season. This is likely to support planting and development of crops, as well as regeneration of pasture and water resources. 
    • According to the Desert Locust situation update, scattered adults are maturing on the central coast of the Red Sea in Sudan, but no locusts are reported elsewhere as of early March. However, winter breading is expected in southern coastal Sudan and the northern and central coastal areas of Eritrea. Thiis is likely to move to the Nile Valley where breeding is likely to occur with possible hatching and band formation staring from late March onward. 
    • Given the current above-avergae cereal prices, and low closing stock of this season, farmers are likely to increase area cultivated in cereals for the upcoming 2020/21 season comapred to that of this year, therefore, areas expected to be cultivated cereal for the upcoming season is likely to be average and remain atleast 15-20 percent above that cultivated this season. Increase in area cultivated is expected to improve agricultural labor opportunities in the traditioal and the semi-mechanized rain-fed sectors during land preparation and cultivation period between May and September 2020.
    • Agricultural labor opportunities and wages, which are currently at the range of 150-250 SDG per day of work, are expected to drop to 100-150 SDG per day with the end of winter harvests in March and to remain limited until land preparation activities in the traditional and semi-mechanized begin in May 2020. Labor wages are anticipated to be 10-15 percent above last year’s and more than twice the five-year average as laborers demand higher wages in response to continued local currency depreciation and rising prices of other goods and services. Nevertheless, labor-to-sorghum terms of trade are expected to be 10-15 percent lower than of last year and 20-30 percent lower than the five-year average due to the anticipated high food prices.
    • Low levels of conflict are expected to be maintained throughout the outlook period across Sudan. However, sporadic tribal clashes are expected in some parts of western and eastern Sudan. Accordingly, low levels of new internal displacement are expected. Overall, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Sudan is expected to remain around 1.9 million mostly in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Meanwhile, the number of refugees from neighboring countries, primarily South Sudan, is expected to remain near 1 million. 
    • WFP and implementing partners are likely to provide emergency food assistance to over 3.5 million beneficiaries with 109,574 MT of in-kind assistance and about $ 28 million in cash vouchers to IDPs and conflict-affected people in Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile, and to refugees from South Sudan. Although no humanitarian access to SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile is assumed for this scenario period, ongoing peace talks and efforts by the government and SPLM-N could lead to increased access and assistance in these areas.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Protracted displacement and the continuing macroeconomic crisis will drive above-average needs for humanitarian assistance through at least September 2020. In western and eastern pastoral areas, food access among poor households is expected be poorer than normal as increases in staple food prices outpace earnings in cash income from labor and the sale of livestock. Poor households will continue to access some food and income from gifts and remittances, but livestock productivity will be at seasonally low levels during the dry season. Households will face more difficulty that usual meeting their food needs and will face livelihoods protection deficits. Between February and May 2020, many poor households in these pastoral areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). As the rainy season progresses between June and September, livestock productivity and gifts from better-off households are expected to increase, which will provide some improvement in food access. However, staple food prices are expected to continue increasing, and overall poor households’ food access will continue to deteriorate. Between June and September 2020, increased number of poor pastoral households, particularly in North Darfur, North Kordofan, Kassala, and Red Sea states, will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of assistance. In worst-affected areas, some very poor households are likely to face even larger food consumption gaps in line with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the peak of the lean season. 

    In agropastoral areas, poor households are likely close to exhausting their staple food stocks and are increasingly turning toward markets in order to purchase food. Lower than normal livestock to cereal terms-of-trade, alongside high staple food prices reducing purchasing power for households who access cash income from labor and remittances, are likely limiting many poor households’ ability to meet their staple food needs. Between February and May 2020, large numbers of agropastoral areas of western and central Sudan (Greater Darfur, West Kordofan) are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while significant numbers of households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Long-term IDPs who are continuing to rebuild their livelihoods are a population of concern for increases in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, although assistance continues to mitigate worse outcomes in many areas. Between June and September 2020, increases in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are expected at the household and area level between June and September, as staple food prices continue to increase and household access to income reaches seasonal lows. 

    In agricultural areas, most households will continue to meet their minimum food needs between February and May 2020 through a combination of stocks of own-produced foods and market purchases. However, many poor households will face difficulty meeting their basic livelihoods protection needs. Most agricultural areas of eastern Sudan will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, while central and western Sudan most agricultural areas will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The areas of greatest concern include conflict-affected Jebel Marra and SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan. In these areas, IDPs and poor households will face significant difficulty meeting their minimum food needs, both as a result of very high staple food prices and lack of access to key sources of food and income, such as crop production and agricultural labor. Jebel Marra and SPLM-N-controlled South Kordofan will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2020. Between June and September, agricultural households will enter the peak of the lean season and will continue to rely on markets to purchase staple foods at significantly higher prices than normal. The number of people expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is expected to increase. In the conflict-affected areas, food consumption gaps are expected to widen further, with parts of Jebel Marra and  SPLM-N-controlled South Kordofan deteriorating to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the absence of assistance. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario. 



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Significant improvements in macroeconomic conditions lead to improvements in the exchange rate. 

    Improved macroeconomic conditions would likely lower demand for sorghum and reduce pressure on staple food prices. This would likely improve household purchasing power and help to reduce the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. 


    Ongoing peace talks between the transitional government and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), lead to sustained improvements in security and humanitarian access.

    Improvements in security would lead to improvements in trade flows and population movements to areas where conflict has made access the most difficult. In addition, the ability of humanitarian actors to reach these areas would allow assistance to increase and help to mitigate food consumption gaps and a reduction of the size of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worse outcomes. 

    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 This map shows current food security outcomes in Sudan for February 2020. Large areas of the country are in Minimal (IPC Phas

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, February 2020


    Land preparation is from April to May. Planting is from June to August. Winter season planting is from November to January. R

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year


    Figure 1 depicts the behavior of the Sudanese Pound vs. US Dollar exchange rate between February 2014 and February 2020. The

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Sudanese Pound (SDG) to U.S. Dollar (USD) exchange rate, official and parallel market

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 2 depicts the behavior of the retail prices of sorghum in select markets between February 2017 and February 2020. Sorg

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Retail prices of sorghum (SDG/kg), select markets, February 2017 to February 2020

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 3 depicts the behavior of the goats to sorghum terms-of-trade in select markets between February 2017 and February 202

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Goats-to-sorghum terms-of-trade (wholesale 100 kg bags/animal), select markets, February 2017 to February 2020

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 4 depicts FEWS NET's integrated price projections for the SDG/USD exchange rate. Between February and September 2020,

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Integrated FEWS NET exchange rate projection (SDG/USD) on the parallel and official markets

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data, FEWS NET projection

    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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