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Delays extend annual lean season in the Grand South; seasonal improvements likely to be minimal

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Madagascar
  • April 2022
Delays extend annual lean season in the Grand South; seasonal improvements likely to be minimal

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are persisting throughout most of the Grand South as harvests have been delayed following poor rainfall throughout the agricultural season amidst the third consecutive drought. Large-scale humanitarian assistance, however, is expected to continue mitigating worse outcomes through May. The severe drought has also negatively impacted poor households in southwestern regions, where purchasing power has been constrained by reduced income and high prices, resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Meanwhile, households in the southeast are still recovering from multiple cyclone and tropical storm strikes and will likely continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through at least May. In most northern and central parts of the country, where 2020/21 production was near normal, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are prevalent as most households continue to consume own-produced food, supplemented by market purchase.

    • Across much of the country, crop stages range from reproductive to maturation with significant delays in crop maturation in parts of the Grand South, delaying harvests and prolonging the annual lean season. Typically, households would have started accessing main cereal harvests by early April. However, the delayed onset of the 2021/22 rainfall season, coupled with significantly below-average rainfall, negatively impacted crop development throughout the season.

    • Severe drought in the Grand South, delays in the harvest, and crop losses in the north and east due to storm damage continue to dampen agricultural labor demand and migratory labor opportunities. As a result, household income remains significantly below average, especially in the hard-hit Grand South, constraining household purchasing power and access to food.

    • In Antananarivo, local rice and sweet potato prices declined on both monthly and annual bases in March 2022 due to improved availability of these foods in the market. In contrast, prices of maize, dried cassava, and imported rice increased in March, with year-on-year changes of 7, 16, and 27 percent, respectively. Substantial increases in global prices for oil, food, and other commodities are expected to raise import and production costs in Madagascar moving forward.


    The main harvest for the 2021/22 agricultural season in the south has been delayed due to delayed onset and poor performance of rainfall earlier in the season. Across much of the north, maize is at the maturation stage, while in most of the Grand South, which has been hard hit by multiple years of drought, the crop is still in vegetative or reproductive stages (Figure 1). In areas where there is significant maturation, households are accessing green harvests, at least a month later than in a typical year. Key informants confirm that the maize harvesting has started in only 11 regions.

    In the primary rice-producing areas, rainfall improved after January 2022, covering the majority of the growing season. Remote sensing data from USDA shows vegetation is close to normal in these areas, and key informants indicate that rice harvests have begun across most regions. In the southeastern cyclone-affected regions, however, rice harvesting has not yet commenced. Significant crop losses, including total write-offs, have been reported in areas affected by flooding and households are increasingly planting sweet potatoes to compensate for the loss in rice production. Nevertheless, since the bulk of rice production is in Central Madagascar, national totals are likely to remain near-normal.

    While pasture availability between October and December 2021 was poor and below average, significant improvements in rainfall between January and March have improved pasture availability and the availability of water for livestock in most areas outside of the Grand South. Across the south, total cumulative rainfall remains below average, limiting seasonal improvements and resulting in a continuation of poor cattle, goat, and sheep body conditions and reduced herd sizes. Atypical livestock sales have also been reported as households sell out of desperation to cover high prices, especially with the extension of the annual lean season.

    Agricultural labor opportunities and income, especially from harvesting labor, are continuing at below normal levels due to the severe drought in the Grand South, delays in the harvest, and crop losses with the passage of multiple cyclones and tropical storms. Southeastern rice and northern vanilla crops were worst-affected by the cyclones, negatively impacting agricultural and migratory labor opportunities. Below-average labor demand and resulting reduced income is hurting poor households’ access to food by constraining purchasing power.

    Madagascar’s annual inflation rate was stable at 6.34 percent in February of 2022 (Figure 2). On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.71 percent in February, the second-highest rise in prices in the past six months, following a 0.64 percent gain in the prior month. Local rice and sweet potato prices in Antananarivo declined on both monthly and annual bases in March 2022 due to improved availability of these foods in the market. In contrast, prices of maize, dried cassava, and imported rice increased in March, with year-on-year changes of 7, 16, and 27 percent, respectively. The war in Ukraine sparked substantial increases in global oil, food, and other commodity prices, which are beginning to be seen in Madagascar.

    In total, more than 960,000 people have been negatively affected by cyclones and tropical storms since January. According to the National Office of Risk and Disaster Management (BNGRC), at least 470,000 people continue to be in urgent need of food assistance in Votively, Fitovinany, and Atsimo Atsinanana regions. In addition, impacts from Tropical Storm Jasmine, which made landfall near Tolliara in Atsimo-Andrefana region on 26 April, are still being assessed. WFP has so far assisted 370,040 of the planned 459,570 people in cyclone-affected areas. This assistance includes general food and unconditional cash distributions under the WFP Madagascar cyclone response for areas along the southeastern coast of Madagascar. WFP has begun its second round of distributions as it works to complete its first round of distributions, reaching 11,335 people as of mid-April 2022. A total of 1,085 MT of food and 1.2 million USD of cash has so far been distributed. 

    Meanwhile, humanitarian assistance is continuing in most districts in the Grand South, where WFP and partners are targeting close to 2 million beneficiaries, including in Androy, Anosy, Atsimo Andrefana and Atsimo Atsinanana. The assistance includes both food distributions and cash transfer programs, covering up to 100 percent of kilocalorie needs for portions of the populations in Ambovombe, Beloha, Tsihombe, Amboasary, Betroka, Toalanganaro, Ampanihy, Toliara II, Vohipeno, Mananjary, and Nosy Varika. In addition, approximately 50 percent of kilocalorie needs are being met through assistance in Bekily, Betioky, Farafangana, Vangaindrano, and Manakara. Key informants indicate that similar coverage is expected to extend through May.


    Most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the Madagascar Food Security Outlook for February to September 2022 remain unchanged except for the following:

    • Total rice production is expected to be close to the five-year average, despite a late start to the season, below average rainfall between October and December 2021, and crop losses. However, in the southeastern areas impacted by consecutive cyclones and tropical storms, production is expected to be significantly below normal.
    • In cyclone-affected areas in the southeast, above-average cropped area and production of sweet potato is likely as farmers look to compensate for the loss of local rice paddies.
    • Prices of most food commodities including cassava, rice, and maize are expected to increase following international trends. These price pressures are expected to be transmitted into Madagascar through imported rice, fuel, and fertilizer.
    • Increasing production costs in the short and main rice production seasons, as well as global trends in increased consumption and trade and decreasing stocks are likely to result in higher rice prices. Near-average local production is unlikely to be able to meet local demand given production deficits in other crops such as maize.


    In most drought-affected areas of the Grand South, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist through May, when currently programmed humanitarian food assistance is likely to be scaled back. In the absence of continued humanitarian assistance, areas in Atsimo-Andrefana and Androy districts are likely to deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4), despite harvesting between May and June. Rainfall in these areas was received too late into the season for some planting to begin and for crop recovery in the areas already planted. Significantly below-average harvests are therefore expected. In Anosy district, where rainfall in late December allowed for some crop recovery and additional agricultural labor opportunities, harvests, and relatively better income are likely to somewhat improve outcomes to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of humanitarian assistance from May through September. In southeastern areas negatively impacted by cyclone and tropical storm strikes, cyclone recovery is likely to gradually improve outcomes from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the course of the outlook period. Although migratory labor opportunities to vanilla or coffee producing areas are likely to be below-average this year, due to cyclone-related damage, these negative impacts will likely be disproportionately felt by southern households, who rely on this income and who had been anticipating its return this year after COVID-19 restrictions have been reduced. Across Central and Northern Madagascar, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are most likely through September as most crop production will remain near-average, and many households still have reserves from earlier harvests amidst near-normal income levels.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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