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Average national aggregate harvest likely, with pockets of well below-average harvests

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • October 2017 - May 2018
Average national aggregate harvest likely, with pockets of well below-average harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Assumptions
  • Most likely food security outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Harvests starting in October, seasonal improvements in livestock productivity, and increased seasonal labor income are improving food security outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in most areas. However, very poor seasonal progress in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Kassala, northern Gadaref, and parts of North Darfur, are leading to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and humanitarian assistance needs between now and mid-2018. 

    • Food access is also improving among IDPs and poor households in Jebel Marra and SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan. However, restrictions on access to land, limited agricultural labor opportunities, and continued low asset holdings as a result of conflict continue to limit household productive capacity. Households in these areas will continue to require humanitarian assistance through May 2018. 

    • Overall, the main season rains performed very well over most parts of Sudan, and national harvest prospects are near average. However, severe mid-season dry spells and well below-average seasonal rainfall resulted in significantly reduced area planted in Kassala and northern Gadaref. Moreover, poor rainfall in these areas and in parts of North Darfur led to very poor regeneration of pasture and water sources for livestock. 

    National Overview

    June to September 2017 seasonal rainfall was above-average over most parts of the Sudan, according to the CHIRPS satellite-derived rainfall estimates (Figure 1), although seasonal performance was very poor in some areas.  Significant flooding occurred in some areas where seasonal rainfall was very heavy, particularly during August and September. In areas of White Nile, Gezeira, and Khartoum, localized flooding reportedly affected nearly 100,000 people and caused damage to crops and infrastructure. In addition, field reports suggest that seasonal rainfall was delayed, below-average, and characterized by significant dry spells during the months of June and July in parts of Kassala, northern Gadaref, and parts of North Darfur and North Kordofan. By mid to late September, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) showed very poor vegetation conditions in these areas, while vegetation levels have been much better in other areas of the country (Figure 2).

    Preliminary findings of the inter-agency mid-season assessment carried out in mid-September 2017 indicated the successful establishment of crops in the rainfed and irrigated sectors, with most crops between the late vegetative and flowering stages. It is estimated that 85 – 90 percent of the normal sorghum crop area of about 23 million fedan was planted by mid-September. Nevertheless, field observations confirmed planting was late and well below average in Kassala, northern parts of Gadaref, some parts of North Darfur and north Kordofan states. A shortage of irrigation water was also reported due to poor irrigation maintenance in some parts of Gazeira, Rahad and New Halfa irrigated schemes that has caused wilting of crops.

    Outbreak of Fall Armyworm (FAW) has been reported by farmers in Gadaref, Blue Nile, White Nile, and Sennar states. So far, FAW has caused severe damage to maize and sorghum crops in localized areas and has the potential to expand damage to other crops, including the surplus-producing areas of Sudan.

    September sorghum and millet prices were, in general, 20 to 45 percent higher than in September 2015, and 50 to 65 percent higher than the recent five-year average. Between August and September, sorghum and millet prices remained stable or increased slightly in most markets in Sudan. For example, wholesale sorghum prices in Gadaref, a major supply market, increased by approximately eight percent (Figure 3). These increases are slightly higher than typical seasonal trends, likely due in part to poor seasonal performance in nearby areas. Market sources indicated the carryover stocks of sorghum held by the strategic grain reserve, commercial farmers, and traders are above average, thanks to the above-average 2016/17 harvest. Prices of locally produced wheat increased seasonably by 10 and 20 percent between August and September across most consumption markets. Prices for local wheat remained stable in the main production markets of Dongola, Kosti and Madani. Current wheat price levels are, in general, 23 percent higher than in September 2016 and 58 percent higher than the recent five-year average.

    September levels of goat and sheep prices remained on average 35 - 50 percent higher than in September 2016 and 50 to 65 percent higher than recent five-year average. Livestock prices remained seasonably stable or slightly decreased between August and September in most markets, but goat and sheep prices increased slightly (by five to eight percent) in some of the main urban consumption markets.

    Terms-of-trade between sorghum and daily wage labor and shoats have remained generally stable in recent months, as seasonal increases in prices for livestock and wage labor keep pace with the seasonal increase of staple food prices during the peak lean season. Nevertheless, current levels of terms of trade between daily agricultural wage labor and sorghum are generally above average. In Gadaref market, for example, terms-of-trade between labor and sorghum are 20 percent higher than in September 2016 and 10 percent higher than the recent four-year average. By contrast, terms-of-trade between goats and sorghum in Gadaref market in September 2017 were 20 percent lower than in September 2016 and 40 percent lower than the recent four-year average.

    According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) of Sudan government, the monthly inflation rate has increased from 34.61 percent in August to 35.13 percent in September. Sudan’s inflation rate has been steadily increasing over the past, and increases in prices for non-staple foods and non-food items are reducing the purchasing power of the poor households. The Government of the United States of America recently lifted economic sanctions on Sudan, but the impact of this has not yet materialized.

    Ceasefires by the Government of Sudan and most armed groups have continued to result in significantly less conflict and related displacement in Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan during the first nine months of 2017 than during the same period in previous years. A reduction in inter-communal tensions and related displacement in the area has also been reported. In Darfur, about 12,200 people (70 percent of them were verified by humanitarian agencies) were newly displaced across Darfur this year, which is only 10 percent of the number displaced in 2016 and less than 5 percent of the five-year (2012 to 2016) average of annual new displacement in Darfur. The relatively improved security conditions in some parts of Darfur have also encouraged the return of refugees and IDPs. An Inter-agency assessment conducted in August 2017 indicated that approximately 13,000 people have returned to their home villages in Sirba and Kulbus localities in West Darfur state over the past two years. The return areas include Kondobe, Bir Dagig and Ardamata IDPs camps and refugees from Chad. A similar pattern of returns was also reported in the Beida locality in West Darfur state, with the bulk of returnees composed of refugees from Chad.

    For the first time in several years, aid agencies were able to conduct a rapid inter-agency assessment in East Jebel Marra locality in South Darfur state in September 2017. Field reports suggest more than 100,000 people living in 46 villages continue to be displaced, face significant difficulty accessing land for cultivation, and remain dispossessed of productive assets lost during displacement in 2016. This population includes approximately 62,000 people from the host community, 42,000 protracted IDPs and 1,000 returnees.

    By mid-September 2017, approximately 461,250 refugees from South Sudan have arrived in Sudan since December 2013. About 40 percent of these arrived in 2017 due to insecurity and extreme acute food insecurity in South Sudan. Most new arrivals in 2017 have taken refuge in White Nile, East Darfur, South Darfur, South Kordofan, West Kordofan and North Darfur states.

    The Food Security and Livelihoods component of the 2017 Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan remains only 6 percent funded.  A total of 12.3 million USD has been committed out of estimated requirements of 209.2 million USD, according to UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service. The overall HRP appeal of 804 million USD is approximately 38 percent funded.  


    The most likely food security scenario for October 2017 through May 2018 is based on the following assumptions:

    • 2017/18 harvests. National cereal and cash crop harvests for the 2017/18 season are likely to be average, with pockets of below-average production in Kassala and parts of northern Gadaref, North Kordofan, and North Darfur.
    • Pasture, water, and browse are likely to last their seasonally normal amounts of time in most western areas of Sudan. In eastern and central Sudan, atypically high numbers of livestock are expected to migrate from Kassala and Gadaref starting in October, 2-3 months earlier than normal, in search of pasture in the southern cropping areas and to irrigated scheme in New Halfa, putting additional pressure on resources in those areas.
    • Agricultural labor demand. Seasonal agricultural labor demand is likely to be near average in most areas, but below average in high-producing areas of northern Gadaref where seasonal progress was particularly poor.
    • Conflict. Conflict between rival factions of the SPLM-N in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states is expected to increase following the end of the rainy season in October and will drive additional displacement through May 2018. Sporadic fighting between SPLM-N and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) is likely to continue in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, which is likely to drive additional displacement in October/November. Tribal conflict in Darfur is expected to be lower than in recent years, resulting in less displacement. However, competition over national resources could drive some conflict in North, South, and Central Darfur.
    • Displacement. IDPs in conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Darfur, and Blue Nile states will remain displaced, leading to limited harvests and reduced access to agricultural labor opportunities.
    • Locally produced staple cereal prices. Sorghum prices are likely to decrease by 15-25 percent between October and December, and start to increase seasonally between December 2017 and May 2018. Sorghum and millet prices are expected to remain 15-20 percent higher than the recent five-year average and 10-15 percent higher than during the same period last year, due in part to increased production costs.
    • Agricultural labor wage rates. Daily labor wage rates will likely be 5 to 15 percent higher than the same period last year and significantly above the recent three-year average, and will follow seasonal trends.
    • Labor to cereals terms-of-trade. Terms of trade between daily labor and sorghum during the first half of the scenario period are likely to remain similar to current levels, but will begin seasonal decline during the second half of the scenario period.
    • Livestock prices. Prices for key livestock, such as goats and cattle, are expected to follow seasonal trends and be approximately 25-30 percent above average during the scenario period.
    • Livestock to cereals terms-of-trade. Terms-of-trade between livestock and sorghum likely to remain similar to last year and near or slightly above the recent five-year average.
    • South Sudanese refugees. Flows of South Sudanese refugees into Sudan are expected to continue between October 2017 and May 2018 and are expected to be similar to the same period last year.
    • Macroeconomic situation. FEWS NET assumes macro-economic conditions related to the high inflation rate and local currency devaluation are likely to persist and will continue to push prices of basic food and services upward during the scenario period. 

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Starting in October, food security for most households in relatively secure areas of Sudan will improve thanks to improved access via own harvests and/or through market purchase from income earned through agricultural labor and the sale of crops. Staple food prices are also likely to decline between October and January as harvests arrive on the markets, further easing household food access. As a result, most areas of Sudan will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between October 2017 and January 2018. However, in areas of Kassala, northern Gadaref, North Kordofan, and North Darfur where seasonal progress in 2017 was worst, reductions in household access to milk from livestock, significant reductions  in income from seasonal agricultural labor, and reduced harvests are likely already leading to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in smaller areas. In Jebel Marra and SPLM-N-controlled South Kordofan, continued restrictions on household cultivation are limiting improvements in household food access from own production and market purchases from agricultural labor income. Food access has improved from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the peak of the lean season, but many IDP households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2018.

    Between February and May 2018, households in most areas will begin to exhaust their food stocks and households will shift to market purchases as their main source of food. During this time, staple food supply will increase seasonally. In addition, households will supplement their income with the collection and sale of firewood, increased sales of livestock, and non-agricultural labor. As a result, most areas of Sudan will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. However, poor households in the areas of Kassala, North Kordofan, and North Darfur are the worst affected by the poor 2017 rainy season performance, and will continue to face large livelihood protection deficits and moderate food consumption gaps, and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Meanwhile, IDPs and poor households in areas of Jebel Marra and SPMN-N-controlled South Kordofan that are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies will likewise continue to face food consumption gaps and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2018. 

    Figures Current food security outcomes, October 2017

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, October 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. CHIRPS-estimated rainfall anomaly, percent of average (1981-2016), June 1-September 30, 2017

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. CHIRPS-estimated rainfall anomaly, percent of average (1981-2016), June 1-September 30, 2017

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. eMODIS/NDVI anomaly, percent of median September 21-30, 2017

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. eMODIS/NDVI anomaly, percent of median September 21-30, 2017

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Nominal wholesale sorghum prices, Gadaref market

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Nominal wholesale sorghum prices, Gadaref market

    Source: 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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