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Harvests to improve food security in most areas, but conflict likely to drive continued high needs

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • October 2016 - May 2017
Harvests to improve food security in most areas, but conflict likely to drive continued high needs

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Harvests in October/November are expected to significantly reduce the number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher, from peak levels during the June to September 2016 lean season. Own-produced foods, reductions in staple food prices, improved harvest labor opportunities, and increased livestock productivity should improve household food access and result in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in most areas.

    • Conflict, insecurity, and additional displacement will continue to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between October 2016 and May 2017, particularly in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Jebel Marra areas. The number of refugees from South Sudan is expected to increase, resulting in additional, urgent assistance needs. 

    • Rainfall was above average in many areas during most of the main (June to September) 2016 rainy season, leading to favorable cropping prospects and the likelihood for above-average 2016/17 crop production and pasture regeneration in Sudan. In areas affected by conflict, limited access to cultivateable land is likely to reduce production at the household level, while dry spells in September are likely to result in below-average production in parts of South Kordofan and North Darfur. 

    • The promising 2016/17 harvest season is leading to price decreases for locally produced cereals (sorghum and millet) in the markets of main production areas. Sorghum and millet prices decreased by five and 25 percent between August and September and are likely to decline further during the scenario period. Despite this declining price trend, current staple food prices remain above average across many markets. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    June to September 2016 main season rainfall began on time in June/July, was average to above average in total amount, and was well distributed over time from June to September. Generally good performance of the seasonal rains has led to favorable conditions for crop development over most parts of Sudan. Cumulative rainfall by the end of September is estimated to be 120 to 200 percent above normal over most of the agriculturally productive areas in eastern, central, southern, and western Sudan.

    As a result, vegetation conditions are mostly above normal, especially in eastern, central, and western areas (Figure 1), an indication of likely good crop and pasture development this season. By the end of September, crops planted after mid-July were at flowering stage and crops planted before mid-July were at ripening stage. The water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI) for grains by end of September indicated above average-to-average conditions over most parts pf Sudan. However, there are exceptions in South Kordofan and North Darfur States, where dry spells over two to three weeks in September affected crop development. Pasture conditions are exceptionally good in the northern pastoral dominant areas of Sudan.

    Outbreaks of locusts and migratory birds are reported in southern parts of South Darfur, West Kordofan, North Kordofan, East Darfur, and Al Gadaref States. The Plant Protection Department (PPD) of the Ministry of Agriculture is undertaking effective control measures by air spraying in these states. As of mid-October, desert locust outbreaks have been reported in North Kordofan and North of Khartoum in Baiyuda desert, where control measures are taking place.

    Prices of locally produced staple cereals (sorghum and millet) have begun their seasonal decline between August and September in the main production markets, such as Gadaref (Figure 2), due to increased market supplies as traders and commercial farmers begin selling their old stocks in anticipation of above-average harvests starting in October/November. Consumption of green and/or early maturing crops by agricultural households in some areas has also reduced demand on markets. Retail sorghum and millet prices decreased by between five and 25 percent between August and September in the main markets of Al Gadaref, Madani, Nyala, Geneina, and Zalengi, while sorghum prices remained relatively stable in some other markets due to individual market factors associated with high marketing costs. In Gadaref, September 2016 sorghum prices are slightly higher than in September 2015 and the recent four-year average, although on some markets they are 30 to 60 percent higher than last year and the recent two-year average. Meanwhile, September 2016 levels of millet prices were on average 15 percent higher than in September 2016 year and five percent higher than the recent two-year average. Prices for locally produced wheat either remained stable or started seasonal increases across all markets in Sudan, a typical seasonal trend as stocks from the harvest of last year begin to be exhausted. September 2016 levels of wheat prices were on average 15 percent higher than in September 2015 and five to 10 percent above the recent two-year average.

    Terms of trade (ToT) between wage labor and sorghum have started to increase seasonally in most markets due to seasonally high demand for agricultural wage labor during the July to September weeding period. In El Fasher market of North Darfur State, ToT between daily wage labor and sorghum increased by 31 percent from 7.65 kg in September to 10.00 kg per one day of wage labor in October (Figure 3). Current ToT between daily wage labor and sorghum is 14 percent higher than at the same time last year and 35 percent higher than the recent two-year average for October.

    Prices of goats, the main asset of poor households in most rural areas of Sudan, remained relatively low following the poor 2015/16 rainy season that triggered above-average sale of goats by poor households due to extreme poor pasture conditions and the need to sell more animals than usual in order to buy food from the market. Meanwhile prices of sheep, the asset of middle and better-off households, remained relatively stable and began a seasonal upward trend since last June. This is largely due to seasonally high demand for export to Saudi Arabia, and for local consumption in the few months before the pilgrimage period, this year in September.

    Terms of trade between sheep and staple foods have increased in favor of livestock holders in recent months, as the rise in livestock prices outpaced the increase of staple food prices. However, terms of trade declined seasonally in September as livestock prices fell following the end of the pilgrimage period. In Kassala market, terms of trade between goats and sorghum decreased by 13 percent between August and September (Figure 4), mainly due to the 14 percent decrease of goat prices during the same period. Current terms of trade between goats and sorghum in Kassala are lower than at the same time last year and slightly lower than the recent three-year average.

    Despite blockage of roads by heavy rains between July and September, the flow of refugees from South Sudan to Sudan continued in recent months, although at reduced levels. More than 90,000 South Sudanese refugees have entered Sudan since the beginning of 2016, due to conflict and deteriorating food security conditions in South Sudan. This is over 90 percent higher than the same period last year, with more than 250,000 people having arrived in Sudan since December 2013. More than 60 percent of new arrivals 2016 settled in East Darfur State, while the rest settled in South Darfur, West Kordofan, South Kordofan, White Nile, Khartoum, and North Darfur States.

    Since the onset of seasonal rainfall in June/July, conflict between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudanese armed opposition groups in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan States decreased as usual, with the blockage of roads and reduced access for movement of troops and equipment during the rainy season. Reduced conflict is also due to the unilateral declaration of ceasefire by Sudan People Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and Government of Sudan in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, since the start of peace talks under the mediation of African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP) last July. The Government of Sudan unilaterally extended its declaration of ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile States through the end of 2016.

    According to an inter-agency assessment, resource-based intercommunal violence between sedentary farmers and pastoralists displaced about 1,600 people in some parts of Tawila locality to Katur area during September 2016. Meanwhile, recent fighting between SAF and the Sudanese Liberation Army-Abdelwahid (SLA-AW) faction displaced about 4,000 people from 11 villages in Western Jebel Marra to Guldo town in Central Darfur State. In addition, an estimated 5,000 to 12,000 new IDPs reportedly have arrived in Nertiti IDP camp from SLA-AW-controlled areas in Western Jebel Marra during the month of September. Conflict between SAF and SLA-AW in Jebel Marra since the beginning of 2016 has displaced over 160,000 people, with only 52 percent of these verified and assisted by humanitarian agencies.

    An estimated 14,434 refugees from Yida refugee camp in Upper Nile State in South Sudan reportedly returned to South Kordofan State during the month of August, raising the total number of recent returnees from South Sudan to South Kordofan to more than 27,500 people. Both SPLM-N and government-controlled areas in western, central, and eastern parts of the Nuba Mountains received returnees from Yida refugee camp in South Sudan. The main factors driving the return of refugees are reported to be insecurity in South Sudan, a lack of food, and an unwillingness to relocate to the new Pamir refugee site. Most returnees and IDPs in SPLM-N-controlled areas who return following the end of the rainy season are unable to cultivate.

    According to the Central Bank of Sudan, the monthly inflation rate has increased slightly from 18.15 percent in August to 18.32 percent in September. Meanwhile, the gap between the official exchange rate and the parallel market exchange rate has remained stable, with an official exchange rate in September of SDG 6.41 per one USD, and an exchange rate in the parallel market of SDG 15.5 per one USD.

    In August 2016, WFP distributed 23,754 metric tons of assorted food commodities and USD 3.7 million in cash vouchers to 2.9 million food aid recipients (81 percent in-kind food aid assistance and 19 percent in form of cash vouchers). About 80 percent and 90 percent of in-kind and cash voucher beneficiaries, respectively, are in Darfur and the rest are in central and east Sudan. The caseload includes nearly 250,000 South Sudanese refugees scattered in different parts of Sudan. The actual number of people who received in-kind and cash voucher assistance in August represents about 94 percent of the planned number for the same month, and 63 percent of the PRRO targeted figure of 4.6 million food insecure people during the peak of the lean season in 2016. This is mainly due to funding shortfalls and the unplanned influx of South Sudanese refugees and IDPs from Jebel Marra that have strained available resources of WFP.

    Between 29 August and 7 September, a mass Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening campaign was carried out nationwide in order to maximize case finding and treatment for malnutrition during the peak of the lean season. According to UNICEF, 61,000 under five children (30,400 girls: 30,600 boys) were screened within IDP and refugee camps in Sudan during the month of September, 2,800 (1,400 girls; 1,400 boys) of whom were identified with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and admitted for treatment through the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program.


    From October 2016 to May 2017, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national assumptions:

    • Due to above-average and favorably distributed main season (June to September) rainfall in most areas, and expectations for normal levels of area planted in crops, FEWS NET assumes 2016/17 national production for staple and cash crops will be above average. However, conflict in parts of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur will lead to displacement and reduced or no household access to farms for some IDPs, returnees, and host communities.
    • Favorable seasonal performance this year will likely result in above-average pasture and water for animals in most parts of Sudan, including the Al Buttanah plain grazing area in east/central part of Sudan and the northern pastoral areas. This is likely to result in better than usual livestock body conditions and productivity, and thus above-average access to food and income from livestock products.
    • Above-average harvests are expected to lead to above-average stocks of own-produced food at the household level, leading households to rely on markets less than usual in order to access staple foods, and to do so for a shorter than normal period of time. This reduction in demand, coupled with above-average staple cereal supply on markets, will contribute to decreases in sorghum prices in the main production areas by 10 to 25 percent compared to last year and below the recent five-year average. Millet prices are likely to remain stable or show slight decreases, but are likely to remain higher than last year and the recent five-year average.
    • Due to favorable agro-climatic conditions, cash crop production will likely be above-average, leading to price declines of 10 to 25 percent below levels of the same period last year, but 10 to 20 percent above the recent three-year average. The increased yield is also likely to counterbalance the reduction of cash crop prices. Terms of trade between cash crops and staple foods are also likely to increase slightly during the scenario period in favor of cash crops because the decline of staple food prices likely to be greater than of cash crop prices.
    • Due to expected above-average 2016/17 harvests, demand for seasonal agricultural (harvest) labor between November and January is likely to be above average due to expected above-average crop production. As a result, labor wage rates and labor demand will be above average, and the duration of main season harvest labor demand will be one to two months longer than normal. Likewise, terms-of-trade between daily wage labor and sorghum is likely to continue to increase in favor of daily wage labor during the scenario period. FEWS NET expects terms of trade between daily wage labor and sorghum to recover to 30-35 kg of sorghum per one day labor wage in surplus producing markets (e.g. Al Gadarif) and to 15-20 kg of sorghum per daily wage labor in chronic deficit markets (e.g. Al Obied market).
    • Since livestock prices are likely to remain high or further increase in most markets due to favorable livestock conditions for animals in most parts of Sudan and staple food prices to further decline during the scenario period, FEWS NET assumes TOT between livestock and staple food prices will increase in favor of livestock during the scenario period. TOT between sheep and sorghum likely to remain high (500 – 600 kg of sorghum per head of sheep) and TOT between goats and sorghum will be 150-200 kg of sorghum per head of goat during the scenario period.
    • Despite ongoing peace talks between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the coalition of Sudanese armed and non-armed oppositions under the mediation of AUHIP and the finalization of the national dialogue document, sporadic fighting is likely to continue in some parts of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur states, especially in Jebel Marra, where SLA-Abdelwahid is active and not engaged in the ongoing peace talks. The end of the rainy season in October/November will ease road access for troops and equipment. FEWS NET assumes the projected rise of violence during the scenario period will cause destruction of crop-fields, reduce access to seasonal agricultural labor during the harvest period, disrupt function of markets, destruction of assets, and cause new displacement. FEWS NET assumes about 5,000, 15,000 and 50,000 people to be displaced by conflict in Blue Nile, South Kordofan, and Darfur respectively during the scenario period.
    • FEWS NET assumes the prevailing macro-economic conditions related to high inflation, local currency devaluation, and the foreign trade deficit are likely to persist and will continue to push prices of basic non-cereal food and basic services to continue their upward trend during the scenario period.
    • Despite expected above-average 2016/17 harvests, WFP’s funding needs for emergency food aid and nutritional support in Sudan will most likely remain high during the scenario period, due to the influx of refugees from South Sudan, new displacement from Jebel Marra, and continued assistance needs among long-term IDPs in Darfur. For the next six months, WFP requires USD 42 million to reach 2.7 million people, including over 250,000 South Sudanese refugees and 175,000 newly displaced people.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The scenario period from October 2016 through May 2017 includes the harvest period and post-harvest period, prior to the peak of the lean season from June to September 2017. Since above-average harvests are likely this season, access to food will improve by the beginning of the harvest in October/November. Most households who have cultivated this year will have above-average access to food from own harvest, access to income through seasonal agricultural labor during November to January harvest period, sale of cash crops, and sale of livestock. Improved income during the scenario period will boost the purchasing power of poor households. Improved access to milk due to improved livestock conditions since last August will be maintained at least during the first three months of the scenario period due to better than normal pasture conditions and the reduced need to migrate livestock for grazing.  

    The exceptions are the IDPs and refugees with no/limited access to cultivation who will not have access to food from own harvest, sale of cash crops, and limited households for sale on markets. The main viable income source for IDPs and refugees during the scenario period is seasonal agricultural labor on the farms of their host communities during the November to January harvest period. Movement restrictions for IDPs in some parts of Blue Nile and South Kordofan States will likely reduce access to seasonal agricultural labor in these areas.

    Prevalence of acute malnutrition is likely to follow seasonal trends during the outlook period (October-May). Nevertheless, levels of acute malnutrition is expected to improve across the country, assisted by the projected above-average harvest for 2016/17’s agricultural season, which will increase food access. Food insecurity among resident communities in drought-prone areas will improve Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the senario period. The number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity will likely decline significantly in the post-harvest period, most of whom are conflict-affected populations and/or IDPs in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur States. 


    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 Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. eMODIS 250m Percent of Normal NDVI, September 26 – October 5, 2016

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. eMODIS 250m Percent of Normal NDVI, September 26 – October 5, 2016

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Sorghum (feterita), nominal retail prices (SDG/kilogram), Al Gadaref

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Sorghum (feterita), nominal retail prices (SDG/kilogram), Al Gadaref

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Terms of trade, retail sorghum (kilograms) per day of wage labor, El Fasher

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Terms of trade, retail sorghum (kilograms) per day of wage labor, El Fasher

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Terms of trade, retail sorghum (kilograms) per goat (head), Kassala

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Terms of trade, retail sorghum (kilograms) per goat (head), Kassala

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    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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