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Agricultural prospects generally favorable, except in flood-affected areas of Sudan

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • October 2019 - May 2020
Agricultural prospects generally favorable, except in flood-affected areas of Sudan

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • High staple food prices resulting from significant macroeconomic difficulties, combined with persistent insecurity in conflict-affected areas and flooding late in the rainy season, are contributing to higher than normal emergency food assistance needs in Sudan in late 2019. These needs are expected to persist into at least May 2020, particularly as the lean season approaches in agricultural and agropastoral areas.

    • Agricultural harvests starting in October 2019 are expected to be average to slightly above average at the national level. In the near term, these harvests should contribute to improvements in food access. Between October 2019 and January 2020, most areas of Sudan will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, although parts of South Kordofan, Jebel Marra in Darfur, parts of Red Sea White Nile and northern Kassala will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    • Increased number of IDPs and poor households in areas most affected by insecurity will face increased difficulty meeting their food needs as the lean season approaches. Continued depreciation, increasing staple food prices, and early exhaustion of staple food stocks in flood-affected areas are likely to drive the need for increased humanitarian assistance February and May 2020. Parts of South Kordofan, Jebel Marra in Darfur, and parts of Blue Nile, White Nile, North Darfur, South Darfur, Kassala, and Red Sea states will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    According to CHIRPS and Sudan Metrological Authority (SMA) Rainfall in Sudan has been persistently above average throughout most of the 2019 season, and the season has continued in October past its normal end in September. According to CHIRPS satellite-derived rainfall estimates, rainfall during the first half of October has been more than 45 percent above average and field reports indicate rainfall has continued into late October.

    According to preliminary findings from the recently conducted inter-agency mid-season assessment, which covered 14 out of the 18 states in Sudan, area planted in sorghum and millet in these states is estimated to be eight percent lower than last year, but slightly above the five-year average. Compared to last year, the reduction in the area planted for cereals is correlated to a significant expansion in the area cultivated for cash crops. This is reportedly due to significant increases in the prices for cash crops. The area planted sesame and groundnuts, two key cash crops, is expected estimated to be approximately 10 percent higher than last year, and 70 and 49 percent higher than the five-year average for sesame and groundnut respectively.

    Above-normal rains continue to facilitate favorable crop development in agricultural and agropastoral areas of Sudan. Crop growth is varied between crop types and areas according to sowing dates. As of September, most cereal crops in the rain-fed semi-mechanized and irrigated sectors were at the early vegetative growth but were at advanced vegetative growth in the rain-fed traditional sector. Sesame and groundnuts are at the flowering and at the pod and fruit setting stage.

    Above-normal rains continues to facilitate favorable pasture regeneration and improved availability of water for animals in pastoral and agropastoral areas of Sudan. As of late October 2019, much higher than normal vegetation conditions have been reported across the eastern and western parts of the country including most parts of Darfur region, Kassala, Jazeira and scattered areas in Gadaref and Sennar as a result of appreciable rainfall amounts during early and mid-August.. However, drier than average conditions during late July in parts of North Kordofan and the White Nile states caused widespread deterioration in vegetation development in early and mid-August. Also, much higher than average rainfall during end-August resulted in increased flooding and waterlogging and caused below normal vegetation performance. However, the expansion of cultivated areas into grazing lands and closure of some of the main animal seasonal migratory routes in many areas including greater Kordofan, Greater Darfur Sennar, Blue Nile White Nile and Kassala states, has significantly constrained seasonal migration of animals. This has led to overgrazing and increased animal infections as a result of waterborne disease.

    Intensive heavy rains during August and September resulted in above-average flooding and waterlogging in many of the major flood-prone zones of Sudan. This includes areas in parts of Khartoum, Kassala, El Gezira, Red Sea, River Nile, Greater Darfur, and Greater Kordofan states. In these areas, reports by the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) and OCHA have indicated flooding has caused loss of lives and livelihood assets including livestock, damage to homes, infrastructure and considerable damage to cropped areas.. As of September 19, 2019, an estimated 364,200 people have been affected by heavy rains and flash floods across 17 states and the Abyei area of Sudan according to Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) and partners in Sudan. In total, an estimated 45,104 homes have been destroyed and 27,742 homes damaged. According to the preliminary findings of the recently conducted mid-season assessment, over 2,293,000 feddan (963,445 hectares), or approximately 4 percent of total area cultivated this season, has reportedly been affected by flooding this season as of September 2019. Losses of livelihood assets, including livestock, have been reported in some of the affected areas.

    Despite the formation of transitional government in August 2019 following eight months of social and political unrest in Sudan, poor macroeconomic conditions persist in October 2019. Shortages of fuel and cash continued to be reported, alongside continued depreciation of the Sudanese Pound and high inflation. The official exchange rate in October 2019 is 45 SDG/USD, but on the parallel market the exchange rate is 76 SDG/USD. This compares to a parallel market exchange rate of 69 SDG/USD in September 2019, and 70 SDG/USD in April 2019. The continued local currency depreciation and increased shortage of hard currency continues reducing the ability of both the private sector and the government to import required essential food and non-food items including wheat flour, fuel, and medicine.

    The retail prices of the main staple foods, sorghum and millet, has shown mixed trends in Sudan during September and October, which marks the end of the lean season and the beginning of the harvest season. Sorghum and millet prices have increased seasonally by 10-20 percent in most markets, although a few markets saw stability or even slight decreases in prices. In general, sorghum and millet prices remain 50-75 percent higher than in October 2018 and 225-275 percent above the recent five-year average (Figures 2 and 3).

    The retail price for locally produced wheat remained relatively stable in most markets while increasing 5-15 percent in the main wheat consumption markers and slightly declined in markets with low demand during September 2019. Current wheat prices remained 56 percent above last year and 265 percent above the five-year average. This is despite the fact that international wheat prices are approximately 17 percent lower than at the same time last year. High prices for imported wheat in Sudan are being driven by high transportation costs, as well as impacts on prices due directly to the reduced value of the Sudanese Pound. and shortages and associated high cost of wheat and wheat flour import due to the continued depreciation of the Sudanese pound prices of imported wheat and wheat flour.

    Agricultural labor opportunities and wages have increased with the progression of agricultural season. Labor opportunities have increased due to replanting in areas affected by flooding and waterlogging as well as in areas where harvests of sesame and groundnut began earlier than usual. Labor wages increased 10-20 percent between September and October in El Obied and Kassala while remained stable in El Fasher. Labor wages in October 2019 are 20-30 percent higher than in October 2018 in most markets. In some markets such as Kosti, Nyala and Kassala, labor prices are almost double their October 2018 levels and 250 percent above the recent five-year average. As a result, the labor wage-to-sorghum terms of trade (ToT) increased 10-20 percent in most markets between September and October 2019, as labor wages increased, and sorghum prices remained stable or decreased slightly. Nevertheless, labor-to-sorghum ToT remained 30-50 percent below average as cereal prices remain well above average (Figure 4).

    Following its significant increase during June and July, livestock prices either remained stable compared to last month, or increased 10-20 percent across most markets during end-September due to the relative decrease in demand for both export and local consumption following three months of high demand during Haj period. However, current livestock prices remained 100-150 percent above last year and 280-330 percent above the five-year average. The high price of livestock is related to the overall increase in prices resulting from the continued deterioration of macroeconomic factors, including the high cost of feeds and animal services and the high cost of transportation and road fees. Food prices are increasing at greater rates than livestock prices. As a result, the livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are lower than last year and the five-year average.

    The security situation has remained stable in the main conflict-affected areas of Sudan in 2019. No direct confrontation between conflicting groups has been reported in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and the Darfur states since the beginning of the year and no major new displacements have occurred since beginning of 2019. According to UNHCR, approximately 15,551 refugees from South Sudan have arrived in 2019, including 477 in September.

    In September 2019, WFP provided food assistance to approximately 2.1 million beneficiaries in Sudan, through various modalities (in-kind and cash) including general food distributions (GFD). Among those receiving GFD, it is estimated the average ration is between 50 and 100 percent of the required 2,100 kilocalories. Beneficiaries reached were primarily protracted and new arrivals (2 years) IDPs in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as South Sudanese refugees and residents in drought and conflict-affected areas in Kassala, Red Sea, Al Gedarif, North Darfur, and North Kordofan, in addition to flood affected population. It is anticipated that this assistance is improving food security among beneficiaries.

    Based on the results of the S3M assessment collected in November 2018, the overall national level of global acute malnutrition (GAM) by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) is anticipated to be ‘Serious’ (GAM(WHZ) 10.0-14.9%), though there is likely wide variation in the severity. At the state level, ‘Critical’ (GAM(WHZ) ≥15%) levels are likely in areas where past surveys identified this level, including North Darfur, Northern, Red Sea, South Darfur, River Nile States, while ‘Alert’ (GAM(WHZ) 5.0-9.9%) or ‘Serious’ (GAM(WHZ) 10.0-14.9%) levels are likely in the remaining states. Although the critical level of acute malnutrition remains possible in some localities of states such as Central and East Darfur, West Kordofan, and Khartoum.

    Overall, the food security situation started to improve seasonally during October 2019 relative to the peak lean season period of September 2019 due to the increased availability of own households' production of earlier maturing crops from the ongoing 2019/20 summer season, in-kind payments from agricultural labor and market purchase with relative stability and/or decline of staple food prices. However, the persistent poor macroeconomic conditions and continued above-average prices of essential food and non-food items during this year are driving worse food security outcomes than are typical during the start of the harvest period. Additionally, the high prices of non-food commodities and services including agricultural inputs, transportation and medicine have limited poor households’ ability to maintain their typical livelihoods. Therefore, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are prevalent in many areas while Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity outcomes exist in conflict-affected areas and areas hosting IDPs in Jebel Marra; SPLM-N areas of South Kordofan and southern Blue Nile; in addition to the northern parts of north Darfur, parts of North Kordofan, northern Kassala, and Red Sea states.


    The October 2019 to May 2020 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Favorable crop yields are expected following above-average seasonal performance during the 2019 season, particularly in areas of rainfed agricultural sector. The overall 2019/20 harvestable area is expected to be average to slightly above average.
    • Favorable seasonal performance are expected to generate above-normal levels of agricultural labor opportunities, particularly during the harvest period between November 2019 and February 2020. Labor wages are expected to be higher than last year. A labor shortage is expected in some parts of traditional sector because there is competition with traditional gold mining.
    • Pasture and water availability are expected to be above average into late 2019 and early 2020, following good performance of the 2019 rainy season. This is likely to help sustain good livestock body conditions. Nevertheless, the reported wide expansion of cultivated areas into grazing lands, and the closure of some main animal seasonal migratory routes, will affect seasonal migration of livestock. Earlier than usual feed gaps are expected in parts of Sudan later in the scenario period.
    • The transitional government in Sudan is expected to introduce new economic policies attempting to attract external investments and engage with the international community to curb the deteriorating macroeconomic situation. Nevertheless, the macroeconomic crisis is likely to persist in the form of local currency depreciation, high inflation and shortages of hard currency required to meet imports of essential items such as wheat flour, medicine, fuel, and agricultural inputs. Based on FEWS NET’s integrated projections, it likely that the exchange rate of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) relative to the USD in the parallel market will remain at its current high levels of over 70 SDG/USD through the first half of 2020. The exchange rate likely to be slightly above its 2018/2019 levels and of 100-150 percent above average (Figure 5).
    • Based on FEWS NET’s price projections, staple food prices are anticipated to follow seasonal trends between October 2019 and May 2020. Sorghum and millet prices are anticipated to seasonally decrease by 5-10 percent through beginning of the post-harvest period in March. However, prices are likely to remain 10-15 percent above last year and around 200-250 percent above the five-year average (Figure 6). The price of locally produced wheat will follow a similar trend and likely to remain over 250-275 percent above the recent five-year average and 25-45 percent higher than last year. The price of locally produced wheat is similarly expected to remain over 300 percent above average and 75-100 percent higher than last year.
    • Livestock prices are expected to remain at current high levels between October 2019 and May 2020 due to improved animal body condition with favorable pasture conditions, high costs of transportation, and seasonal decreases in animal supply to markets. Meanwhile, demand for formal exports to Gulf states as well as for informal cross-border trade with neighboring countries is expected to remain high.
    • Based on projected sorghum and goat prices, goat-to-sorghum TOT is anticipated to increase slightly compared to last year due to the projected 5-10 percent reduction in sorghum prices, while goat price likely to continue to increase or remain relatively stable. TOT will remain slightly higher than last year but at near average levels. TOT will begin to deteriorate seasonally towards the beginning of lean season and remain above last year, but slightly below the five-year average as sorghum prices increase (Figure 7).
    • Agricultural labor wages are expected to increase 10 to 20 percent between November to January 2020. Wage labor is likely to reach 25-35 percent above last year but 15-20 percent below the five-year average. TOT will deteriorate seasonally towards beginning of the lean season with the expected increase of sorghum prices and reduce access to agricultural labor by the end of harvest.
    • The security situation is expected to remain relatively calm in conflict-affected areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile. However, the potential for increased tension and periodic clashes remains. The number of displaced people in Sudan is expected to remain around 2.0-2.6 million throughout the projection period. The number of refugee arrivals from South Sudan is expected to remain limited during rainy season due to poor roads and will increase during the dry season. Overall, the number of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan is expected to be remain between 900,000 and 950,000.
    • Based on WFP’s Operation Plan for humanitarian food assistance from June 2019 to January 2020, it is expected 3.7 million beneficiaries will be reached with over 167,000 MT and 41.7 million USD. The majority of beneficiaries are in Darfur, and the ration is expected be greater than 50 percent of kilocalorie needs.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    October 2019 to January 2020 is the harvest season in Sudan, when access to food and income typically improve with improve food availability from own households' production, access to in-kind payments from agricultural labor and support from relatives. Likewise, income from agricultural labor and the sale of cash crops will support market purchases of food during a time in which staple food prices seasonally decrease. Although food access will improve, food security outcomes are expected to be worse than is typical during this time of the year. While many areas will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2), high staple food prices and lower than normal income, particularly from labor, will drive higher than usual food assistance needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity outcome is likely among IDPs in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan, IDPs and conflict-affected households in Jebel Marra in Darfur, and among populations in North Darfur, North Kordofan, Northern, Red Sea, South Darfur, River Nile States.

    February to May 2020 marks the period following harvests and prior to the peak of the lean season. During this period, food security outcomes typically begin to deteriorate in April as the lean season approaches, as households' food stock diminish, in-kind payments from agricultural labor, cash crops, and livestock are at seasonal lows, and more households rely more heavily on market purchases for food during a time when staple food prices begin to increase seasonally. Persistent macroeconomic difficulties resulting in above average prices of food and non-food items will continue to drive higher assistance needs than in a typical year. Poor and conflict-affected households in conflict-affected areas, including areas affected by flooding this year, will face food consumption gap during this period. As a result, many in North Darfur, parts of White Nile, southern Blue Nile, parts of North Kordofan and, northern Kassala, and much of northern Red Sea will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between February and May 2020. IDPs and conflict-affected people in parts of SPLM-N areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, IDPs in parts of Jebel Marra without humanitarian assistances and poor groups in parts of North Darfur, northern Kassala, and much of northern Red Sea states will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    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 Sudan seasonal calendar for a typical year illustrating the beginning and end of seasons.

    Figure 1


    Figure 1. NDVI graphic showing good vegetation conditions across Sudan.

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. eMODIS 250m percent of median Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), October 11- 20, 2019

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2. Retail sorghum prices in Al Gadaref are above average.

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Retail prices of sorghum, Al Gadarif

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 3. Retail sorghum prices in El Obeid are above average.

    Figure 4

    Figure 3. Retail price of sorghum, El Obied

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 4. Labor to sorghum terms of trade are generally below average.

    Figure 5

    Figure 4. Labor wages-to-sorghum terms of trade (ToT) versus retail price of sorghum in key markets

    Source: FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 5. FEWS NET integrated projection of Sudanese Pound to U.S. Dollar exchange rate. Sudanese Pound is expected to deprec

    Figure 6

    Figure 5. FEWS NET integrated projection of SDG/USD exchange rate on the parallel market

    Source: FEWS NET, FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 6. Projected sorghum prices in El Gedaref are expected to remain high near current levels.

    Figure 7

    Figure 6. Observed and projected sorghum price, El Gadaref

    Source: FEWS NET, FAMIS/FMoA data

    Figure 7. Goats to sorghum terms of trade in El Obeid are expected to remain stable over the scenario period.

    Figure 8

    Figure 7. Observed and projected goat-to-sorghum terms of trade, El Obied

    Source: FEWS NET, FAMIS/FMoA data

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

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