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Exceedingly high cost of living and conflict undermine benefits of harvest

  • Key Message Update
  • Sudan
  • March 2023
Exceedingly high cost of living and conflict undermine benefits of harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Household food security continues to improve seasonally, supported by the availability of own-produced staple cereals from the 2022/2023 main harvest, income from agricultural labor, and a relatively stable to declining trend in monthly cereal prices. Nevertheless, the exceedingly high cost of living amid persistently poor macroeconomic conditions – including significantly above-average prices for essential food and non-food items – continues to constrain household financial access to food. In addition, recent inter-communal clashes and increased displacement in localized areas, such as Abyei Administrative Area, is further disrupting household livelihood activities, causing the loss of productive assets, and reducing purchasing power, resulting in atypical food consumption gaps during the post-harvest period. The share of the acute food insecure population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is expected to notably increase after the lean season begins by April/May, especially in insecure areas of South Darfur, West Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Abyei Administrative Area.

    • According to the annual Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report published in March 2023, national cereal production for the 2022/23 cropping season is slightly higher (12 percent) than the five-year average and 45 percent higher than the poor 2021/22 production season. Total cereal production is estimated at around 7.4 million metric tons (MT), inclusive of 5.2 million MT of sorghum, 1.7 million MT of millet, and a forecast of about 476,000 MT of wheat to be harvested in March 2023. The largest increases compared to the five-year average were in rainfed sorghum output in Central Darfur (3 times higher), as well as in semi-mechanized sorghum output in Sennar, Blue Nile, While Nile, and Kassala (50-100 percent higher). Overall, local cereal production this year will cover about 68 percent of the total national demand, with a deficit of approximately 3.6 million MT, mostly of wheat, to be imported.

    • Sudan’s economic conditions remain poor as low foreign currency reserves and currency depreciation result in high inflation rates and conflict and political instability disrupt business activity. The SDG exchange rate increased slightly from 585 SDG/USD in February to 593 SDG/USD in March on the official market and from 590 SDG/USD to 600 SDG/USD on the parallel market. The ongoing depreciation of the currency is causing the prices of imported goods, including agricultural inputs, to remain at very high levels and is generally contributing to the very high cost of living.

    • Key progress was made this month towards the goal of forming a transitional constitution and returning to civilian government in early April. In mid-March, many of Sudan’s key civil and military actors agreed to draft and sign in early April the final agreement laying out the transition. However, significant immediate challenges remain, including the integration of Rapid Support Forces into the armed forces and engagement with non-signatory groups.

    • Retail cereal prices followed mixed trends in March 2023. In several markets in deficit production areas, sorghum and millet prices increased by around 5-35 percent and were 50-60 percent higher than last year and 500-700 percent higher than the five-year average. By contrast, locally produced wheat prices atypically declined by on average 13 percent across most markets due to the availability of excess wheat from last year and of imported cheaper wheat in the markets. According to FEWS NET's price projections, sorghum and millet prices are expected to rise further through September 2023, reaching almost twice that of last year and over five times the five-year average. Rising food prices will increasingly strain household capacity to access sufficient food, particularly as market dependence increases in the upcoming lean season.

    • Based on updated NMME and WMO forecasts, the June to September rainy season in Sudan is now likely to be near average. Typically, this would be favorable for the main crop production season starting in June. However, there remains uncertainty given the long-range nature of the forecast and the rising likelihood that El Niño will emerge in mid-to-late 2023. Additionally, in the face of exceptionally high costs of production, diminishing profit margins, and rising indebtedness, some cereal producers may struggle to attain new rounds of bank credit and be unable to sustain their farming activities, raising concern for planting and production prospects during the upcoming agricultural season.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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