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Below-average second (main) season rice harvest is expected in May-June

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • February - September 2017
Below-average second (main) season rice harvest is expected in May-June

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The central high plains and southeastern Madagascar experienced severe dryness and drought in January and early February. In the south, however, although the rainy season was approximately 5 – 7 weeks late overall levels of precipitation were near average during the month of January.

    • Food prices, particularly for both domestic and imported rice, increased rapidly on key references markets in January and February as traders reacted to prospects of a potential second consecutive rice crop failure. In Antananarivo, rice prices increased by 25 percent during the last week of January and the price of maize doubled. In February, prices remained high. All urban centers were affected as well as some communes of the southeast that rely heavily on market purchases.

    • Half rations assistance distributed in the south by WFP, ADRA and CRS is still playing an important role in reducing food consumption gaps until May 2017. Despite the near average rain and the expected near average harvests of maize and pulses, areas in the south that were affected by drought in the past 3 years will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the remainder of the lean season.


    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress

    Cropped areas: Madagascar has many different agricultural seasons, depending on the crop, location and irrigation infrastructure available. Rice for the main rice cropping was planted 1 to 2 months late in the central highlands, the north, the agropastoral Mid-West, Ankaratra, and in the Southeastern forest corridor, compared to the normal agricultural calendar. Cassava planting is underway in the area of Tamatave, the southern highlands, and the west. In most northern and central areas of the country, including Haute Matsiatra, Alaotra Mangoro, Analamanga, Itasy, Vakinankaratra and Bongolava, key informants indicate that the area planted during the on-going cropping season is expected to be lower than last year’s levels due to dryness episodes in December-January. In the South, observations from partners suggest that land preparations are covering the same areas as last year, though these are smaller than in normal years. This is due to a lack of seeds and other inputs as a result of farmers’ limited capacity to invest in inputs following three consecutive below-average harvests.

    Export cash crops: Vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and essential oils account for a large share of Madagascar’s export value and are currently selling at high prices on international markets. The price of vanilla, for which Madagascar is the world’s leading producer, continues to rise: from August to December 2015, farm gate vanilla prices rose 200 percent and are now at 70,000 Ar/Kg to 120,000 Ar/Kg, which is about 7-12 percent above 2015/2016 levels. These high prices are helping to provide favorable incomes for the roughly 200,000 people employed in Madagascar’s vanilla sector. Post-harvest handing of export cash crops from the northeast and along the eastern coasts harvested in October and November, is underway throughout the first months of 2017. Other cash crops, including pulses, sugarcane, and khat, are also currently being harvested with normal production levels expected. Cloves and coffee, which are mainly planted on the eastern coast of Madagascar are suffering from the January 2017 dryness period and may have lower than average production.

    Crop production: Since Madagascar doesn’t have a single agricultural season, large markets enjoy an almost continuous supply of domestic food products. First season (secondary production, harvested December-March) rice harvests throughout central and northern Madagascar are underway, and production levels are expected to be at the same as last year’s level. However, partners indicate that the second season (main production, harvested May-July) is expected to be lower than average. Overall rice production in 2017 is expected to be lower than the five-year average (4.0 million MT), by at least 10 percent. Cassava planting is ongoing both in the South and in other areas, and is expected to produce normally.

    Livestock: According to partners, the delay in rains across the country has had a negative effect on pasture conditions. As a result, livestock conditions have begun to decline. In the South where 3 years of below average rainfall and drought have occurred, natural vegetation has yet to return to normal, despite the rains having begun in January. Overall, Madagascar has seen a declining trend in its total herd size due to civil insecurity and forest fires with the cattle population passed from 9.7 million in 2005 to 6.5 million in 2016, according to Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, as quoted by the 2016 CFSAM report. Herd sizes in the south have also diminished over the past four years due to stress sales caused by food insecurity. 

    Markets and trade

    Rice imports: The 2016 CFSAM estimated a need of about 272,000 metric tons of imported rice to fill the overall gap in domestic rice production in Madagascar during the 2016/2017 marketing year. This is up 13 percent compared to average. Observatoire du Riz (OdR) reported that the total volume of rice imports in 2016 was 197,723 metric tons, accounting for 73 percent of expected imports and 5 percent of national production. This is also 31 percent below the five-year average and 28 percent below last year. The decrease in rice imports has been driven by the depreciation of the Malagasy Ariary in recent years. Domestic demand has also declined as poor households increased their consumption of cheaper staples such as maize and cassava. The December price of imported rice was above the 2011-2014 average at all markets (ex. +20 percent in Ambovombe and Tsihombel; +17 percent in Toamasina I and Tulear I, and +11 percent in Manajary).

    Prices for locally grown food products: Rice, maize and cassava prices usually peak in January and February during the height of the normal lean season. In December 2016, Gasy rice prices on large reference markets increased by 30 percent in Vondrozo, Ihosy and Vangaindrano, and by 20 percent in Morondava, Amboasary-Atsimo, Fianarantsoa and Tulear, and by more than 10 percent in the South compared to the 5-year average. Additionally, the INSTAT CPI (Consumer Index) reports a price increase of 7 percent at key markets between December 2015 and December 2016. Rice prices are particularly high compared to past years due to an early start of the lean season in the south in 2016, and to dryness episodes observed in early 2017 in the southeast and in the main rice producing areas of Madagascar. Maize and cassava, the most commonly consumed staple foods in the south, have also experienced price increases. In December 2016, maize prices in Betioky were 85 percent above the four-year average, while cassava prices were 50 percent above the previous year’s price.

    Humanitarian assistance: Food assistance to drought-affected areas of the south is currently being provided by WFP, ADRA and CRS, and targets 750,000 beneficiaries, between 60 and 80 percent of the population in the region. WFP, CARE and FID/World Bank/ONN also currently have cash distribution programming targeting more than 100,000 households until March 2017. This figure is doubled compared to number of beneficiaries from June to September 2016.

    Assistance is also helping to alleviate the unusual high levels of depleted agricultural assets, from three consecutive years of below average harvests during which time households sold agricultural assets to purchase food, and improve agricultural production levels. FAO is supporting vulnerable pastoralists with 450 metric tons of provender and 18,000 cattle deworming pills particularly in the district of Ampanihy. From December 2016 to February 2017, FAO distributed around 6,506 agricultural tools such as spades, shovels and wheelbarrows. FAO, CRS and GRET gave more than 111 metric tons of maize, pulses, rice, millet, sorghum, and vegetable seeds and about one million meters of sweet potato and cassava cuttings to more than 51,000 households in southern Madagascar. Humanitarian assistance is likely playing an important role in preventing more severe food insecurity during the current lean season in both Livelihood Zone 24 and Livelihood Zone 23.


    The most likely scenario for the February 2017 to September2017 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Rainfall: The Department of Meteorology forecasts suggest that southern and western Madagascar will receive average to above average rainfall from February to May 2017. Normally, the rainy season ends in April. Northern and eastern Madagascar, including some main producing areas such as Alaotra Mangoro, Boeny and Sofia regions, are expected to receive below average rainfall which will affect the second cropping season (main production) of rice.
    • Cyclonic Activity: The 2017 cyclonic season affecting Madagascar, driven by a positive SIOD, is expected to produce one to three large storms.
    • Agricultural Production: Rice production, which mainly takes place in central, western and northern Madagascar, is expected to be below average due to lack of rains. Some government estimates (Ministry of Agriculture) indicate that yields could be below 2013 production levels when 3.6 million MT of rice were produced (more than 10 percent below the 2011-2015 rice production average of 4.0 million MT). This will most strongly affect the main season rice which is planted from December to March. The harvest, which normally takes place in June and July, is expected to be delayed due to forecasted below average rainfall, which is likely to also yield below average production. Maize and cassava, which are mainly produced in the south, will likely have better yields than last year, but still below the 5 year average, as a result of the delayed start of rains in December 2016 and the long-term effects of the 2016 drought during which farmers utilized coping strategies that depleted their seed stores. Humanitarian assistance distribution of seeds may not cover the entire deficit of these depleted stores. As a result of farmers’ struggle to find both adequate quantity and quality of seeds, the area planted is also expected to be slightly lower than average.
    • Cash crops: Cash crops in eastern Madagascar (vanilla, cloves, litchi) may be adversely affected by the recent rainfall deficit. According to specialized commodities trading projections (AgraNet, BusinessWire and AusHachmann Canada), the outlook for the vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and essential oils sectors are positive, due to expectations for continued high international prices. In the recurrent drought-affected areas of the south, income from cash crops such as watermelons, cowpeas and black-eyed peas that - depending on location - are harvested from February to May are expected to be normal to slightly below normal depending on availability of seeds.
    • Livestock: With the December 2016 start of rains in the south, and the on time start of the rainy season in the central west of Madagascar, pastures are expected to be normal by the end of March. Households will start restoring their livestock herds after the heavy depletion that took place in the past three years. Herd sizes will improve but will still below average.
    • Labor income and availability: Agricultural labor will be below average in most of the country due to the reduced area cropped following the rainfall deficit in the main producing areas of Madagascar. Urban casual labor such as IT multiservices, hairdressing, welding, fishing and dairy product vending will also be below average as a result of increasingly frequent electrical blackouts in many cities. As a result, labor wages will be below normal. Fishing and handcraft sectors will remain similar to last year’s levels.
    • Macroeconomic context and imports: An increase of rice imports is expected despite the continuing depreciation of the Ariary /US Dollar exchange rate, due to the expected low rice production. Around 40 000 MT will be imported in February 2017 about 4 percent higher than the five-year average of imports in February.  Also, import parity prices are low and global markets are well supplied.
    • Cereal prices: Despite the surge in rice prices recorded in the last week of January 2017 across Madagascar, particularly in Antananarivo (+ 25 percent), the price of local rice is expected to follow a downward trend until June, when the rice harvest reaches its peak. However, as a result of expected below average production this year, prices will not decline as much as usual and will remain above average. In fact, higher volumes of imported rice will fill the consumption gap, but will not affect the local price on markets, although international prices will remain low. The time series of data recorded by OdR since 2006 shows a parallel trend between the prices of local rice and imported rice on local markets that is not always in tandem with international price trends.
    • Livestock prices: Prices will remain high, with better pastoral conditions and stock recovery by households, if livestock reproductive cycles return to normal.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: Over 750,000 persons will be provided half-rations of food assistance through March 2017 and more than 100,000 households will be provided the cash equivalent of a food basket (30,000 to 60,000 MGA). FAO and CRS also are continuing to provide seeds to vulnerable farmers.
    • Security context: Local sources indicate that activities by well-armed dahalo groups are not expected to disrupt trade flows between cities on the high plains and the Bara Plateau in the south. No large scale livestock robberies are expected, as livestock herds are now very reduced and people are only beginning to restore them.
    • Nutrition: GAM will decline in many part of Madagascar due to the end of lean season and to the coming harvest period. Many actors including WFP and ACF will continue malnutrition prevention programming. Massive MUAC screenings will be pursued monthly until September 2017 in the south by the Ministry of Health. A SMART survey is also ongoing through the beginning of March and results are expected by the end of March.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the Extreme south: cassava, maize, and livestock rearing livelihood zone (MG 24), food insecurity is expected to be elevated due to the impacts of several consecutive years of below-average production on food and income sources. As a result of this, and with continuing food assistance distribution until March 2017 that will help to offset food deficits, households will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in Tranovaho and Kopoky communes of Beloha, and Imongy, Anjampaly and Nikoly communes of Tsihombe, until the harvest of pulses in March 2017 and the harvest of maize in April 2017. Although agricultural production will improve, it is expected to still be below average. Food security outcomes are expected to improve for most households between April and September. However, the recovery process will be slowed by below-normal staple food production and agricultural incomes and assets (e.g. livestock) that were depleted during the particularly difficult lean season. As a result, despite the harvest period, most households in this livelihood zone will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes between April and September 2017.

    In the Southwest: cassava and small ruminants (MG 23), the effects of the 2016 drought were slightly less severe but the zone received less humanitarian assistance (food, cash and seeds). This may elevate the levels of food insecurity there, particularly with the early exhaustion of household food stocks, the reduction of livestock herds, and high prices of cassava and maize on local markets. Most households in this zone will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity from February 2017 until cassava and maize crops can be harvested in April 2017. However, some communes such as Beheloka, Itampolo and Androka may face Crisis (IPC 3) during the same period, though not large enough populations to change the Phase classification of the entire zone. These areas have more pastoralist households that have had depleted livestock herds since the beginning of the lean season in October. With the expected sufficient rainfall up to March, the remainder of the Outlook period until September will most likely observe normalized food consumption when households will return to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    In the Southeast: coffee, litchis, cassava (MG 19), rainfall deficits delayed rice planting. This area is highly dependent on cash crops (litchis, cloves or coffee), which are normally harvested in November-December. In a normal year, households also produce and consume their own main staple food. Nevertheless, it is a highly vulnerable area as cyclones frequently hit this part of the island that is directly facing the Indian Ocean. It is characterized by a high rate of poverty and large households. The high economic vulnerability of households in MG 29 was aggravated by high food prices on the markets earlier this year. This will make this area experience worse outcomes this year than usual and may experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity from April 2017 to August 2017.

    Households throughout Madagascar, despite the expected below-average rice crop production, which will mostly affect poor urban households, households will continue to have relatively normal access to food due to normal income levels, crops from own production and regular market supplies from 2017 harvests and rice imports. As a result, the majority of the country will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between February and September 2017.

    Figures Current food security outcomes for February 2017

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes for February 2017

    Source: FEWS NET


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Evolution de Valeur de l’Ariary malgache par rapport au dollar américain (MGA/USD) dans le temps

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Evolution de Valeur de l’Ariary malgache par rapport au dollar américain (MGA/USD) dans le temps

    Source: Banque centrale de Madagascar

    Figure 2. Évolution des importations de riz (MT)

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Évolution des importations de riz (MT)

    Source: Ministère du commerce de Madagascar

    Figure 3. Prix du riz local (changement du % en décembre 2016 par rapport à la moyenne quinquennale)

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Prix du riz local (changement du % en décembre 2016 par rapport à la moyenne quinquennale)

    Source: Horizon OdR, décembre 2016

    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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