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Despite surplus cereal production, food insecurity persists in many areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • January - July 2013
Despite surplus cereal production, food insecurity persists in many areas

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • As of January 2013, about 3.5 million people in Sudan face Stressed and Crisis (IPC Phase 2 and 3) levels of food insecurity, with 80 percent of the food insecure population in conflict-affected areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Abyei. Last year at the same time, about 4.5 million people were estimated to be food insecure.

    • The decrease in the food insecure population is mostly attributed to the good harvest this year. Total area planted during the 2012/13 season is more than double last year’s figure, and yields are expected to be significantly higher than last year due to favorable rainfall and decreased pest infestations. A surplus of 1.41 million metric tons (MT) of sorghum and millet is expected. However, high production costs (due to the shortage and high cost of labor) have discouraged some farmers from harvesting, which could increase post-harvest losses.  

    • With abundant supply and household consumption of own stocks, consumer prices of sorghum and millet are declining but remain 41 percent higher than last year and 123 percent higher than the five-year average. Inflation and increased production costs are keeping prices high. 

    • In spite of the surplus national cereal production, Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity persist in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur, and Abyei due to the impacts of conflict on production, market access, and livelihood options. Crisis levels are expected to persist at least through June in SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and conflict-affected areas of Darfur (Jebel Mara and Serief Beni Hissein areas).

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    As of January 2013, an estimated 3.5 million people in Sudan face Stressed and Crisis (IPC Phase 2 and 3) levels of food insecurity, with the majority (80 percent) in conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur and Abyei. Last year at the same time, about 4.5 million people were estimated to be food insecure.

    Harvest prospects for the 2012/13 season are very good. The Annual Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (ACFSAM) in Sudan indicated that total area planted in 2012/2013 for sorghum and millet was more than double last year’s area planted and significantly above the five-year average. Favorable rainfall conditions, both in terms of totals and distribution, led to yields of sorghum and millet that are higher than last year and the five-year average.  2012/13 sorghum production is estimated at 4.3 million MT, compared to 1.9 million last year, and the five-year average of 3.4 million (Figure 2). Millet production is similarly above average. Cultivation of wheat (winter) crop is underway; however production this year is projected to be below average as farmers in the Northern and River Nile states have shifted to more profitable crops. The high cost of inputs has also discouraged wheat production.

    On semi-mechanized farms, the main season harvest is likely to continue later than normal, until March/April (compared to January/February) due to the good harvest, low producer prices, and the shortage of labor. Although cereal prices are high for consumers, producer profits are low given the high cost of labor this year due to labor shortages. Some farmers in these areas have reportedly been selling standing crops for grazing by cattle herders. According to the ACFSAM, post-harvest losses could be 10 percent this year, versus seven percent in a typical year. The delayed harvest could encourage rodent outbreaks during the next rainy season.

    The harvest is estimated to result in a national surplus of 0.98 million MT of sorghum and 0.43 million MT of millet. The government has lifted bans on exports to neighboring countries, and exports have begun to Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, formal exports have not resumed to South Sudan, given ongoing border tensions, though informal flows continue. Average sorghum prices in December were six percent lower than export parity prices, a factor that is likely to reduce competitiveness of Sudanese sorghum on international markets.  

    Cereal prices (sorghum, millet, and wheat) have continued to decline seasonally during the harvest period due to improved availability and low demand while households consume own production. In December, sorghum prices declined by 10.9 percent in Gadaref, 10.7 percent in El Obied, and 5 percent in Damazine compared to the previous month. However, current prices are 41 percent higher than the same period last year, and 123 percent higher than the five-year average. The relatively high prices are mainly attributed to inflation (44 percent in December), the local currency devaluation, and the high costs of transportation and production.

    Despite the good harvest prospects, insecurity continues to destabilize food insecurity on many fronts. Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM-N) in parts of Blue Nile and South Kordofan states has continued to threaten lives and livelihoods of civilians and cause massive displacement. Since October, renewed fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states has caused thousands to cross into South Sudan. As of early January, more than 170,000 refugees were living in South Sudan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee arrivals have increased significantly since the dry season started in October.

    Security conditions are also deteriorating in Darfur due to increased fighting between SAF and Darfur rebel groups, and tribal clashes between sub-clans of Arab communities in North Darfur. Fighting between SAF and Darfur rebel groups (e.g. SLA-Abdelwahid faction and JEM in some parts of North Darfur) in West and East Jebel Mara has been ongoing since December. The Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) reported that ongoing fighting in Jebel Mara since September displaced over 30,000 people.

    Tribal clashes between Beni Hissein and Rezeighat (Abala, or camel herders) in Serief Beni Hissein locality in North Darfur since the beginning of January have resulted in the burning of more than 30 villages and displacement of about 90,000 people to Serief Beni Hissein town, Saraf Omra town, Kebkabiya town and Abu Gamra village. The clashes also disturbed about 60,000 traditional gold miners in the area. Increased clashes between farmers and nomadic cattle herders in some parts of Darfur (e.g. Masteri in West Darfur state) have caused crop destruction and displacement.

    Conditions along the border between Sudan and South Sudan remained tense over the past month due to direct confrontations between Rezeighat cattle herders of East Darfur and the SPLA of South Sudan in the disputed border town of Samaha. Both countries are alleging that troops are being built up along the border. However, in early January, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan reached a tentative agreement to establish a demilitarized zone along the disputed border, a precondition for the export of oil from South Sudan via facilities in Sudan. Nonetheless, the ongoing dispute over Abyei and other areas (e.g. Mile 14) and Sudan’s request that South Sudan dismantle military ties with the SPLM-N and Darfur rebel factions are likely to pose challenges to these agreements.


    Harvest:  The 2012/13 harvest is expected to be very good, despite the shortage and high cost of labor and the shift of seasonal laborers to traditional gold mining. The labor shortages could lead to delayed harvests and increased losses.

    Conflict and Insecurity:

    • Fighting between SAF and SPLM-N in Blue Nile and South Kordofan is likely to continue during the scenario period, causing additional displacement, loss of assets and reduced livelihood options, reduced humanitarian access, market disruptions, and reduced trade flows to conflict-affected areas.   
    • Deteriorating security conditions in Darfur will continue to cause new displacement, crop destruction, and reduce access to livelihood opportunities (e.g., traditional gold mining in Serief locality). Deteriorating security conditions will further exacerbate the already poor access by humanitarian agencies.
    • Deteriorating security conditions in border areas of South Kordofan and East Darfur are a concern for over 10 million heads of Rezeighat cattle, which seasonally cross the border into South Sudan for grazing from November to April/May. The delayed or disrupted migration will threaten livestock body conditions due to pasture and water shortages during the dry season.
    • Although the recent agreements reached in Addis Ababa in January between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have raised hopes for cooperation, particularly for the creation of a demilitarized zone and eventual resumption of oil exports, major implementation challenges remain given a number of unresolved issues. The agreements are unlikely to have significant impacts on food security during the Outlook period.
    • High levels of tension in some border areas with South Sudan, including the border areas of East Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, are likely to reduce the volume of informal trade with South Sudan via the South and East Darfur corridor. Typically, livestock from South Sudan are sold in Sudan, while cereals from Sudan flow into South Sudan. These tensions will also continue to impact the flow of labor for agricultural opportunities from South Sudan to Sudan.

    Cereal and cash crop prices: Cereal prices will continue to decline or remain low for producers (but high for consumers) until the beginning of the next lean season in May/June 2013. Cash crop prices are likely to increase steadily during the scenario period. However, as most poor households will have sold their cash crops by now, only large-scale traders and farmers will benefit from the increase.

    Macroeconomic indicators: Exceptionally high inflation throughout 2012 is likely to continue through the scenario period. The government’s decision to double the minimum wage raises concern for further inflation.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Minimal acute food insecurity is likely in most parts of Sudan during the extended harvest period due to improved access to food from own production and market purchase, financed by income from seasonal agricultural labor and cash crop sales. Increased food availability and access to food are likely to be maintained until the beginning of the lean season (May/June).  Households in areas not affected by conflict are likely to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during the outlook period. 

    In conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur, Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity will persist throughout the scenario period, with Crisis levels for the majority of IDPs and resident communities in SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states who have had limited access to cultivation and rely heavily on wild foods. In addition, lack of access to markets and sharp price increases (prices in SPLM-N areas are 5-10 times those in GoS-controlled areas), along with reduced access to common income sources (e.g. livestock and wild food sales, seasonal agricultural labor, firewood/charcoal sales) have sharply reduced food access for conflict-affected households.

    In Darfur, Crisis levels of food insecurity are likely through the scenario period in some conflict-affected areas (e.g. Jebel Mara (East Jebel Mara, Golo, Guldo and Rokero localities), Serief Beni Hissein, parts of Tawila, Dar Al Salam, El Fasher and Kuttum localities and the newly displaced populations in Nertiti, Kebkabiya, Abu Gamra, Zamzam, Tawila, Kassa and Kebkabiya).  Insecurity has caused significant displacement and loss of assets (including standing crops and food stocks), reduced trade flows, and limited access by humanitarian agencies. Affected households are expected to face food consumption gaps and to rely on irreversible coping strategies (such as sale of productive assets) to meet food and non-food needs.

    Areas of Concern

    South Kordofan

    Current Situation

    Conflict between the SPLM-N and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in South Kordofan has continued since June 2011, with major repercussions on food security in the state. As of January 2013, 400,000 to 500,000 people have been directly and indirectly affected by the conflict, including 150,000 to 200,000 people now in SPLM-N-controlled areas, and 160,000 – 180,000 people in GoS-controlled areas.  In addition, there are more than 67,000 refugees in Unity State of South Sudan, and an unknown but likely considerable number of IDPs in other parts of Sudan, including Khartoum.

    HAC has reported the presence of 45,600 IDPs in Kadugli town (GoS-controlled), most of whom are from the SPLM-N areas of Al Buram and Um Dorain localities. In December, fighting between SAF and SPLM-N in rural areas of Kadugli locality forced over 10,000 people to flee and seek refuge in GoS-controlled areas (Al Sunut, Al Kuok, Aby Saififa and Dandur), while 2,800 people went to Yida camp in Unity state of South Sudan.

    According to the ACFSAM, total 2012/2013 cereal production in South Kordofan State was 225,000 MT, about nine percent higher than last year and nearly half (47 percent) of the five-year average. This decrease reflects the devastation brought about by the conflict on the agricultural sector of the state, particularly in the traditional sector in SPLM-N controlled areas, due to massive population displacement and reduced cultivation.

    Restrictions on humanitarian assistance in SPLM-N-controlled areas continue.  However, humanitarian assistance is being provided in GOS-controlled areas to IDP populations.  WFP reported that food assistance was distributed to 122,000 people in nine GoS-controlled localities of South Kordofan in December 2012. This is the second round of distributions for the same caseload of beneficiaries, who received the first distribution in September 2012.

    Most of the 150,000 to 200,000 people in SPLM-N areas are currently facing Crisis levels of food insecurity, while the majority of the 160,000 to 180,000 IDPs and conflict-affected people in GoS areas are classified at Stressed levels. The relatively better situation in the GoS-controlled areas is mainly due to better access to agricultural production, labor opportunities, and humanitarian assistance compared to those in SPLM-N areas.  


    Conflict: Fighting between SAF and SPLM-N is likely to increase during the scenario period (dry season) due to improvements in road access and the lack of peace dialogue between the conflicting parties.

    Market access and prices:  Conflict-affected areas in South Kordofan are expected to benefit from the relatively good harvest in secure areas, as greater availability will allow traders to smuggle commodities into SPLM-N-controlled areas during the scenario period. Prices in SPLM-controlled areas are likely to be lower than last year, but higher than prices in GoS-controlled areas.

    Delivery of humanitarian assistance to SPLM-N controlled areas: Current restrictions on humanitarian access to SPLM-N-controlled areas are likely to continue. However, access to GoS-controlled areas is likely to improve due to better road access during the dry season.

    Lack of access to seasonal grazing in South Sudan: The ongoing conflict in border areas with South Sudan is likely to prevent traditional Messeriya cattle migrations to seasonal grazing areas in Unity state of Sudan during the summer (November – April/May). This will reduce livestock access to needed pasture and water, and increase the risk of crop destruction during the harvest period (November – February/March), as cattle herders will compete with farmers for land access. Considerable destruction of crops has already occurred in some parts of Dallang and Kadugli localities as cattle herders were confined in North and South Kordofan.

    Improved access to own crop production: Access to own crop production will increase as a direct result of better access to cultivation and a good harvest in-GoS controlled areas. The good harvest will also enhance the capabilities of host communities to assist the IDP population. Those in SPLM-N-controlled areas will receive some modest benefits from the recent harvest, as most households were able to engage in backyard (jubraka) cultivation.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the SPLM-N controlled areas, although food security conditions are expected to be slightly better than over the last six months, the typical household’s food and income sources will be limited by a number of factors, including persistent insecurity and sporadic fighting, increased displacement, restricted population movements and trade flows, restricted humanitarian access, and diminishing household assets. IDPs and poor resident households will maximize dependency on limited household production from jubraka cultivation, and wild foods. Given the severe limitations on typical food and income sources, as well as access to humanitarian assistance, food consumption deficits are expected among most IDPs and poor households within the host community. IDPs and poor resident households in SPLM-N controlled areas in Heiban, Um Durein, Al Buram, Delami, Salara and parts of Kalogi, Talodi, and Aleiri localities are likely to face Crisis level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) throughout the  scenario period.

    In the GoS-controlled areas of South Kordofan, the good harvest this year has improved availability of food at household and market levels. Own production will be one of the major food sources during the scenario period, though IDPs had less access to cultivation than in a typical year. The good harvest has also provided ample seasonal agricultural labor opportunities in GoS-controlled areas. Furthermore, access to food on the market is likely to improve as a result of continued decreases in grain prices and improved household income from agricultural labor and cash crop and livestock sales. Although food access will improve during the Outlook period due to the recent harvest, displaced households in GoS-controlled areas will continue to have limited/reduced livelihood options and a reduced asset base. Given access to humanitarian assistance and the sources of food and income noted above, most IDPs and conflict affected populations in GoS-controlled areas of South Kordofan (Kadugli, parts of El Dalang, Abassiys, EL Rief Alshargi, Abu Ghebaiha, Rashad, parts of Kalogi and parts of Talodi) are likely to face Stressed levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) during the outlook period.


    Current Situation

    The ACFSAM revealed a remarkable increase in cereal production this year compared to last year and the five-year (2006/7 – 2010/11) average. In North Darfur, total cereal production is estimated at 150,000 MT, or 484 percent of last year’s production (a very poor year) and 164 percent of the five-year average. In West Darfur, total cereal production is 680,000 MT, which is 300 percent of last year’s production and 680 percent of average. In South Darfur, total cereal production is estimated at 459,000 MT, about 157 percent of last year and similar to average. The relatively low cereal production in South Darfur compared to other parts of Darfur is mainly attributed to the considerable shift among farmers from cereals to groundnut production due to high groundnut prices last year and limited potential for destruction by livestock. Numerous incidents of crop destruction were reported in several parts of Darfur, with most damage in West Darfur.   

    The deteriorating security conditions toward the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 have jeopardized the relative improvement in security conditions in Darfur that led to increased returns and involvement of IDPs in cultivation. Continuous fighting between SAF and SLA-Abdelwahid faction in Western and Eastern Jebel Mara since the beginning of 2013 has displaced over 30,000 people from Golo, Guldo and Rokero localities in Central Darfur. Of these about 4,350 arrived in Nertiti and others are reportedly in hiding. The tribal clashes between Beni Hissein and Rezeighat (Abala – camel herders) in Jebel Amer traditional goldfield in Sereif Beni Hissein locality (North Darfur) resulted in hundreds of deaths, and 90,000 people were displaced to parts of North and West Darfur. Numerous incidences of fighting between SAF and Darfur rebel factions were also reported in Tawila and Dar Al Salam localities of North Darfur state, while an increased pattern of armed militia attacks was reported in many parts of Darfur.

    Cereal prices continued to decline in most markets due to new harvests. In December 2012, millet (the main staple food in Darfur) prices In El Fasher (North Darfur) and Nyala (South Darfur) were 13 percent and 10 percent lower, respectively, than in November, but were still well above average.

    According to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as of mid-January, a total of 849 cases of yellow fever were reported in Darfur with a Crude Fatality Rate (CRF) rate of 20.1 percent. The highest cases were reported in Central and West Darfur states, with 438 and 148 cases, respectively. An intensive vaccination program is in progress and the number of new cases has reduced remarkably in recent weeks.


    Above-average harvest prospects: The ACFSAM projected an above-average harvest in most parts of Darfur due to relatively improved security conditions (compared to the five-year average) in some parts of Darfur, but also due to the reduced ration of food assistance and the high cereal prices over the course of the past two years. However, insecurity, displacement, a shortage of labor and destruction of crops by animals are the major risks to the good harvest.

    Deteriorating security conditions: Deteriorating security conditions will threaten lives and livelihoods, increase displacement, destruction of crops, curtail activities of humanitarian agencies and affect trade flows to and from conflict affected areas.

    Declining cereal prices: Cereal prices are likely to continue the downward trend until the beginning of lean season in May/June 2013.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    As a direct outcome of the good harvest, food security improvements in relatively secure areas of Darfur will be maintained through the scenario period. Most residents and mixed (IDPs and resident) communities in relatively secure areas will have access to sufficient food from own production and/or markets. The availability of cash income from the sale of cash crops, seasonal agricultural labor, and sale of livestock at high prices are likely to improve purchasing power of these communities. However, most of the 1.4 million IDPs in camps are expected to face Stressed levels (IPC Phase 2) of food insecurity even though they are expected to receive a 50 percent ration of 2100 kcal ration of food aid. The main reasons are limited access to cultivation and reduced access to typical livelihood sources.

    In conflict-affected areas, food security is expected to remain at Crisis levels through the Outlook period due to displacement, crop destruction, and lack of access by humanitarian agencies. These areas include Jebel Mara, Serief Beni Hissein, Dar Al Salam, some parts of Tawila, Kuttum, EL Fasher, Saraf Omra and Kebkabiya localities. The main populations of concern are those recently displaced by the ongoing conflict in Jebel Mara and Serief Beni Hissein.

    Blue Nile State

    Conflict between the SPLM-N and SAF in Blue Nile state has continued since September 2011. As of December 2012, 100,000 conflict-affected people are located in SPLM-N-controlled areas in the southwestern parts of the state, and about 100,000 people are displaced in GoS-controlled areas. About half of the population in SPLM-N areas is IDPs. To date about 147,000 refugees from Blue Nile have fled to Upper Nile state (112,000) of South Sudan and Ethiopia (35,000).

    According to the ACFSAM, total 2012/13 cereal production in Blue Nile state is estimated at 244,000 tons, about 14 percent higher than last year, and close to the average. This confirms that the bulk of cereal production in Blue Nile state is derived from the large-scale semi-mechanized farming sector, most of which is in GoS-controlled territory.  Cultivation among IDPs in SPLM-N areas was limited by insecurity and lack of seeds and tools.  However, some residents reportedly cultivated about 1-3 fedans this year, which is a typical amount cultivated in the traditional sector of this state during a normal year. 

    Supplies of food commodities are limited in SPLM-N areas, resulting in significant price increases. A sack of sorghum in SPLM-N areas is reportedly sold at SDG 1,600 – 2,000, compared to SDG 160 in GoS-controlled areas. Most market supplies in SPLM-N areas are now coming from Ethiopia and South Sudan.

    In SPLM-N-controlled areas, Crisis food security levels will continue through the scenario period due to the impacts of ongoing displacement, limited access to cultivation and markets, and reduced livelihood options.   In GoS-controlled areas, the bumper harvest, declining prices, and food assistance provided are likely to bring temporary improvements to food security conditions. However, due to the impacts of displacement and reduced livelihood options, IDPs in GoS-controlled areas will continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity. 



    Impact on food security outcomes

    SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states

    Improved access by humanitarian agencies

    Humanitarian assistance in these areas would increase access to food and other basic needs (health, water, protection etc.) and gradually lead to food security improvements from Crisis to Stressed levels of food insecurity.

    South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur

    SPLM-N receives less support from South Sudan as per Sudan’s request from South Sudan to dismantle ties with SPLM-N and Darfur rebel factions

    This would create pressure on rebel factions to sign a peace agreement with the GoS.  This could ease the situation in SPLM-N areas in terms of access to normal livelihood options, markets, and humanitarian assistance.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    Sudan 2012/2013 cereal production (million metric tons)

    Figure 3

    Sudan 2012/2013 cereal production (million metric tons)

    Source: ACFSAM

    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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