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Poor rainfall will again lead to below-average main staple harvests in Southern Madagascar

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Poor rainfall will again lead to below-average main staple harvests in Southern Madagascar

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    • National rice production will likely be 3.6 Million MT which is 17 percent higher than last year and near the 5-year average. Overall national maize production will likely be 264,000 MT which is 6 percent lower than last year and 21 percent below the 5-year average. National cassava production will likely be 2.6 Million MT which is 3 percent higher than last year but 7 percent below the 5-year average.

    • There was unexpected rainfall in Southwestern Madagascar during the first week of June although the rainy season usually ends in May. Between 10 and 30 mm fell in Tulear II, Betioky and Ampanihy which allowed farmers to prepare lands and plant off-season crops of sweet potatoes and pulses in localized communes.

    • Prices for most staple food prices stabilized in April/May. Imported rice prices remain the same as last year at the same period but are 23 percent above the 5-year average. Local rice prices are 11 percent higher than last year and 31 percent above the 5-year average. Maize prices are 15 percent lower than last year but remain 17 percent higher than 5-year average.

    • Most humanitarian assistance ended in May 2018 despite continued needs in the south. Planned humanitarian assistance is minimal for the outlook period of July 2018 to January 2019 and is expected to cover less than 20 percent of the population living in areas of concern.

    • The current food security situation is improved compared to previous months due to ongoing harvests, but areas of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) remain in the District of Beloha (part of Livelihood Zone 24) and in the Mahafaly Plain (Livelihood Zone 23). Other parts of the country including the Southeast of Madagascar (Livelihood Zone 19) and in the part of the Southwest included in Livelihood Zone 20 are currently in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress

    • 2018 rainy season: The CHIRPS Anomaly since October 2017 shows that northern Madagascar received 126 to 150 percent above average rainfall. This was favorable for agriculture, particularly for rice and cash crops for export. The Southeast also received acceptable rainfall this year an improvement from the rainfall deficit of last year. Agroclimatic patterns seemed to return to in the central highlands as well. However, the southwest and the far south suffered from another year of below normal rainfall. The least rainfall was observed in Morombe district with only 50 percent of normal rainfall. In the south, recorded rainfall in Anosy region was just below 600 mm since January, which is lower than a normal year and near to rainfall totals from 2015-2016 during the El Nino drought. Androy region received acceptable rainfall between November and April except in Beloha. Following the usual end of the rainy season, between 10 to 30 mm of rain unexpectedly fell in Atsimo Andrefana region during the first week of June. This provided water to planted cassava and allowed farmers to prepare their land for off-season crops.
    • Export cash crops: Vanilla, Madagascar’s most important export cash crop, was severely damaged by Cyclone Enawo in March 2017 and the main production area was damaged again during its recovery period by Cyclone Ava in January 2018. The resulting drop in exports from Madagascar, which is the largest producer of vanilla in the world has led to a global vanilla shortage and a drastic increase in prices. Vanilla exports were valued at USD 202 million in January/January 2018 compared to USD 135 million in January/January 2017. Vanilla exports typically account for 40 percent of total export revenues for Madagascar but since end 2017 this has increased to 50 to 60 percent. Coffee exports are minimal (less than one percent) but domestic sales provide important income to smallholder farmers in the Southeast. Coffee production is decreasing in Madagascar because of decreasing productivity as most of the plants are old and less productive and the area in which coffee is grown has been impacted by successive cyclones. Domestic coffee prices have continued to increase since last year due to increased domestic demand while supply is low. However, export revenue from coffee is decreasing from MGA 4,498 million in January 2017 to MGA 445 million in October 2017 and near zero in 2018 (Source: TBE INSTAT).
    • Staple production: Maize is mainly produced in the Southwest, Central Highlands and Middle West of Madagascar. Rainfall conditions were favorable to maize development in Central Highlands and Middle West. However, Fall Army Worm (FAW) damaged 15 to 65 percent of crops according to FAW Prevalence Assessment in Madagascar Mission Report by FAO in April 2018. In the Southwest, the combined effects of rainfall deficit and insects’ infestation also drastically reduced production. By contrast, maize crops in the southeast received sufficient rain and were less infested by FAW so production is expected to increase compared to last year.

    Markets and trade

    • Rice imports: Around 87,000 MT of rice have been imported between March and June 2018, which is half of last year and 30 percent below the 5-year average, likely due to expected near normal local rice production that reduces the amount of rice that is imported.
    • Market supply: Despite the expected increase in rice production, the quantity arriving in markets is lower than expected and is not enough to return prices to normal levels. Traders are currently trying to gather rice as much as possible to prepare for the lean season when demand will increase.
    • Prices: In mid-May 2018, OdR data showed that the average price of imported rice remained the same as April and last year at the same period. Nevertheless, it is 23 percent above the 5-year average. High rice prices persist because of general inflation in Madagascar from the depreciation of the local currency (Ariary) and the increase of fuel prices despite good supplies of staple foods such as maize, local rice or dried cassava at the markets. Prices for local rice remained the same as last month, 11 percent higher than last year due to less arriving on markets than expected, despite the increased production. Maize prices are 9 percent higher than in April because of the end of the harvest, though it is 15 percent lower than last year in some markets of eastern South and Southern Central Highlands due to higher supply. Overall prices are 17 percent higher than the 5-year average because supplies were not higher enough in the Southeast and in some cities like Antananarivo, Antsirabe I and Mahajanga I to have returned prices to normal after last year’s rainfall deficit. Average dried cassava prices stabilized in April. Availability of sweet potatoes slightly improved and prices were stable compared to previous month but lower than last year in Ambovombe and Amboasary which suggests a better supply. It also remains 17 percent above the 5-year average.

    Other key factors

    Humanitarian assistance: Between March and May 2018, humanitarian assistance was mostly allocated to Southern Madagascar where food needs were expected to be the greatest since the beginning of the year. Globally, more than half of the population living in that vulnerable part of the country received food aid and cash, and 40 percent received agricultural supports. These proportions may overlap. More than 9 million dollars of cash and more than 2.5 million MT of food were distributed.

    Humanitarian assistance contributed to alleviate food gaps of poor households in some places where its coverage was widespread such as in Tsihombe. Post-cyclonic responses after Cyclones AVA and Eliakim in the northeast and southeast were sporadic because responses came late and and did not have important impact on food security in the targeted zones, except in Mananjary.


    The most likely scenario for the July 2018 to January 2019 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Agroclimatology: According to NMME probabilistic forecasts for Africa and the Madagascar National Bureau the rainy season is expected to be normal between July and September 2018 in many parts of the country except in Eastern Madagascar where below normal rainfall may compromise the development of cash crops such as litchis at their flowering stage and cloves at their maturation stage. Between October and December 2018, better rainfall is also expected in most of the country which will allow for the timely planting of cereals and legumes in the South and main rice planting in North and Central areas. Nevertheless, deficit rainfall is forecast for Northeastern Madagascar during the period when vanilla crops are at their flowering stage.
    • Rice Production: Main harvests of staple foods such as rice, maize, cassava and sweet potatoes will likely continue until July 2018 throughout Madagascar. Rice production will likely increase in Vakinakaratra region, the largest rice producing region in Madagascar in recent years. Despite the floods that affected this area at the beginning of the year after Cyclone AVA, rice production will likely be above the 5-year average of 715,000 MT due to the expanded planting areas and the intensification of rainfed crops. Meanwhile, production will also likely increase in other main producing areas such as Itasy, Alaotra Mangoro and Boeny regions which received sufficient and favorable rainfall and were not affected by any severe shocks.  Southeast regions also recovered from the severe rainfall deficit of 2017 and a slight increase is expected in their rice production despite the low availability of seeds at the beginning of the season. Rice production in the Southwest will likely be below-average because the area only received 40 percent of normal rainfall. Urban production around Antananarivo will also decline because of reduced cultivated areas due to flooding after Cyclones Ava and Eliakim. Overall national rice production will likely be 3.6 Million MT which is 17 percent higher than last year and near the 5-year average.
    • Other main staple production: Overall national maize production will likely be 264,000 MT which is 6 percent lower than last year and 21 percent below 5-year average. As for cassava, the main producing areas in the South was also affected by 40 percent rainfall deficit. Nevertheless, production may increase in other parts where conditions were more favorable like in Haute Matsiatra Region. Therefore, overall national cassava production will likely be 2.6 Million MT which is 3 percent higher than last year but 7 percent below 5-year average.
    • Imports: Rice imports will be at lowest in June because of the peak of main rice harvests, then it will slightly increase between July and September and will drastically increase during the lean season.  Normal quantities of rice will likely be imported in 2018 because of expected near normal local production. A total of 260,000 MT is expected for 2018 of which 66,000 MT from July to September and more than 136,000 MT from October to January 2019. Nevertheless, the pre-electoral period may lead to more rice imports which will be distributed by candidates to vulnerable populations. Rice imports serve to alleviate below normal staple production in deficit areas such as the Southwest, the Southeast and the main cities with high demands. The exchange rate of Ariary/USD will slightly improve during the first part of the outlook period which will slow down imports, then it will decrease at the current level which will allow more rice imports.
    • Staple food prices: According to FEWS NET price projections, prices of maize in the Extreme South of Madagascar will be near normal due to the slight increase of production. It will likely decrease in March with the coming harvests to be around 640 Ariary/kilo in June. Prices of cassava will continue increasing until January and start decreasing in April when the fresh harvest will start. Prices of imported rice will likely be stable between January and April although the first harvest of rice and other staple food. Then, it will decrease starting in May with the coming harvest of local rice but will remain above normal at 1,500 Ariary the kilo. Overall, prices of local rice will likely remain above normal. In the southeastern, it will likely be stable at the above 1,850 Ariary/kg until May 2018 because of below normal and irregular supply in the area. In Antananarivo, the reference market of urban cities, it will likely decrease slowly starting January but will remain at above normal level over 2,250 Ariary/kg up to June.
    • Cash crop production: Vanilla production is expected to be near normal this year (1,500 MT) as it was less affected by cyclones. Prices may decline due to loss of quality last year, as immature beans were combined with the vacuum packing of semi cured beans, but it will remain at historically high levels. Coffee prices will likely increase starting July and will continue increasing within the outlook period (Source: SISAV data). Revenue from exports will likely continue to remain at near zero. As for cloves, prices are going down and production will also likely below normal due to the many hazards to recently affect the producing areas.
    • Labor demand and income: Labor demand is likely to increase between July and September compared to the current period because of upcoming harvests of many staple foods as well as cash crops such as coffee. As the area planted and the expected production is lower than normal in south, labor income will also be below normal. The period of October to January corresponds to the main rainy season in Madagascar and is typically a period of relatively higher demand for casual labor work, particularly within agriculture but also within cash crop export processing. Labor demand will likely be higher for land preparation with the expected near normal rain. The majority of workers will likely both work more hours and earn more income than they currently do. Nevertheless, the use of unpaid family labor may also be important because of limited ability of richer households to engage workers, thus limiting the opportunity for casual labor employment.
    • Livestock: With the below normal rainfall in the South, pastures will likely deteriorate earlier than normal, and animal conditions will worsen during the dry season. Transhumance to northern districts such as North Amboasary, Tulear II or Bekily will be intensified. Livestock sales at below normal prices will increase and will be above normal given the below normal expectations for agricultural production. As a result, livestock herd sizes will likely continue to decrease, even though they had not yet recovered to their normal size following the El Nino drought years from 2015-2017. Insecurity has decreased because most herds are very reduced or are composed of only younger animals.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: Humanitarian assistance will likely concentrate in the South following the poor agricultural production due to rainfall deficits this year. Less assistance will likely be focused on other vulnerable areas such as the Southeast where the situation has been near normal in recent months and where no specific shock is expected to occur within the outlook period. Nevertheless, humanitarian assistance in the South will remain below normal and below the El Nino years because of lack of timely declaration of emergency and difficulty to mobilize resources. Less than 20 percent of the population in Ambovombe and Tsihombe are planned to continue receiving food from WFP up to end July and half of population in 5 Communes of Taolagnaro will likely receive full ratio food up to September.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    For households throughout Madagascar, no major recent climatic, economic and social shocks have been identified to drive atypical impact that would suddenly worsen food insecurity situation to change the classification phase although some rainfall deficit rainfall, high food prices, Fall Army Worm, and temporary high Global Acute Malnutrition were reported in some areas. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is likely outside the areas of concerns.

    In the Mahafaly Plain: Cassava, Goats and Cattle (MG 23), reduced consumption of own-produced tubers, supplemented by expensive purchased foods and/or high consumption of wild foods continue to make it difficult for poor household to meet their food needs. About a 14 to 18 percent food gap was recorded for poor and very poor households in the area in May 2018. Higher proportions of households continue to migrate or oversell animals at low prices. The prevalence of GAM in the area is in Crisis phase with some pockets of severe undernutrition. Most humanitarian assistance ended in May and its coverage reduced beginning in June. Considering this, poor and very poor households in MG23 are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity in June 2018. Below normal production of cassava, sweet potatoes and maize is expected in the coming months. Stocks from own production will deplete earlier than normal and households will continue to atypically rely more on markets. Staple price increases will slow down because of harvests in source zones and livestock prices will stabilize. GAM prevalence will likely vary between 7 and 12 percent according to past reference years so the zone may remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between July and October 2018. From November onwards, the area will likely be in its lean season. Staple consumption will deteriorate with the depletion of stocks from harvests. Staple prices will increase again, and livestock prices will decrease again. More agricultural labor opportunities are expected because of the beginning of the next cropping season and the expected near normal rainfall between October and December 2018. This will slightly improve household food access. Therefore, the zone will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between November 2018 and January 2019.

    Androy Semi-Arid Cassava, Maize and Livestock (MG 24) Many households have depleted their own stocks and are currently relying more on markets. Staple prices remain at above normal levels. Adopted coping strategies include animal over-sale, non-mature crop consumption and wild food consumption, practicing unusual activities. Income reduced due to lower than usual prices for livestock on firewood sales. Food gaps are greater in the western part of the zone, which will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity situation in June 2018 while the eastern part of the zone will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Between July and October, food access will improve because of sweet potatoes and cassava harvests in July-August, but food consumption gaps will persist due to below normal production. Very poor and poor households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between July and September 2018. From October onwards, food consumption will deteriorate again because of own stock depletion. Households will be able to access other sources of food such as yellow cactus and other wild food, in addition to markets. Poor and very poor households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between October 2018 and January 2019.

    In the Southeast: coffee, litchis, cassava (MG 19), the main rice harvest is ongoing allowing many households to access food from their own production, while prices of rice, sweet potatoes and cassava remained high but are decreasing. Income is excepted to increase from cash crop sales, like coffee. GAM prevalence is less than 10.4 percent in the area. Post cyclonic humanitarian assistance ended in May 2018. The poor and very poor are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity in June 2018. Between July and October, prices will likely to start to increase following normal seasonality patterns and food consumption gaps will also be minimal due to better availability and access to food in the northern parts of the zone. Households in southern areas will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, while northern areas will likely experience  Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. From November onwards, populations in the south will likely remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the lean season and in Minimal (Phase 1) acute food insecurity in the rest of the zone.

    In Rice and lima bean - Tulear II (MG20): Households in the area are currently facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity and will likely experience the same phase within the outlook period because of below normal production between July and October, and of near normal rainfall for normal agricultural labor demand and lower availability of seeds.


    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 Current food security outcomes, June 2018

    Figura 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2018

    Fuente: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figura 2

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Fuente: FEWS NET

    CHIRPS rainfall anomaly from Oct 2017 to June 2018 showing drought and dryness conditions along the southwestern coast of Mad

    Figura 3

    Figure 1. CHIRPS Anomaly October 2017 – June 2018

    Fuente: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. NDVI Anomaly Dekadal June-10, 2018

    Figura 4

    Figure 2. NDVI Anomaly Dekadal June-10, 2018

    Fuente: USGS/FEWS NET

    Map showing local rice prices greater than 25 percent above average in most of the country

    Figura 5

    • Figure 3. Local rice prices (percent change of May 2017 compared to 5-year average)

    Fuente: OdR/FEWS NET

    NMME rainfall forecast showing mostly average to slightly above average rainfall expected from October to December 2018

    Figura 6

    Figure 4. NMME Forecast October to December 2018

    Fuente: NOAA

    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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