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Poor harvests will result in a harder lean season in Southeastern Madagascar

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • June 2017
Poor harvests will result in a harder lean season in Southeastern Madagascar

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Although it is the beginning of the harvest period, food prices remain high in all parts of the country following the agricultural season’s below-average production. Prices of local rice in Mahajanga and Toamasina, areas that were severely impacted by dryness, rose by 28 to 38 percent between December 2016 and May 2017. Nevertheless, prices started to decline by 14 to 21 percent within the same period in other urban areas such as Ihosy and Fianarantsoa where production was near average and the harvest was beginning. 

    • Based on USDA FEWS NET Crop Tour findings regarding the progress of cropped areas and received rainfall, overall national rice production is estimated at around 3.2 million MT which is 20 percent lower than the 5-year average (4 million MT), and 15 percent lower than last year. Maize production is estimated at around 350,000 MT which is 6 percent below the 5-year average and 10 percent higher than last year. Cassava production will likely be around 3 million MT, which is near the 5-year average and 15 percent higher than last year.

    • The Southeast of Madagascar (Livelihood Zone 19), that is already chronically vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty, was affected consecutively by multiple hazards this year: severe dryness since the end of 2016 and then floods following Cyclone Enawo in March 2017. This negatively impacted household livelihoods and crop production and lead to a current situation of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, in a month when the main harvest is taking place. In addition, the district of Vangaindrano was affected by a tornado in May, which damaged many fruit and clove trees. 

    • The situation in the far South (particularly Livelihood Zone 24) has improved compared to last year but remains in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in June 2017. Many households have made some recovered from the past three years of consecutive drought, and although the weather conditions were favorable for agriculture, farmers could not fully plant because of lack of agricultural inputs that were depleted during the years of drought. Thus, staple production is higher than last year but remains below average.

    • In cyclone affected areas, people have recovered from the effects of Cyclone Enawo, particularly with the help of humanitarian assistance. These areas have shifted into Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity although food supply is still below normal and prices remain high.


    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress

    • Cropped areas: In central Madagascar, 90 percent of agricultural land was cropped due to dryness at the time of planting, and the area only received 40 percent of average rainfall during the growing season. Some large producing areas in Boeny and Alaotra Mangoro were more affected and received less rainfall leading to farmers only planting 50 percent of their land. In the Southeast (including Fort Dauphin) farmers planted 60 percent of their land, while farmers in Ihorombe, Haute Matsiatra that were less affected could plant more. In total, roughly 80 percent of rice fields in Madagascar were cultivated, while 50 percent of land for maize was planted in the South. However, cassava fields were expanded. In Anosy Region, when rain finally arrived in march, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) incited farmers to expand the cropped areas. They helped farmers with land labor. This allowed to labor 100 ha more of cropped rice field. MoA also provided 5 MT of subsidized improved seeds which come from Tsiroanomandidy (west Antananarivo) but the use is still very low. Only 5 percent of farmers use improved seeds in that region.
    • Export cash crops: Vanilla, litchis and cloves have the largest share of Madagascar’s export value and are currently selling at high prices on international markets. However, production this year is below average because of damages, caused by Cyclone Enawo in the Northeast, and by flooding and an uncommon tornado in the Southeast. Domestic prices of coffee are currently higher than international prices, having doubled compared to last year. Production has decreased due to various hazards in the southeastern Madagascar.
    • Crop production: Based on USDA FEWS NET Crop Tour findings regarding progress of cropped areas and received rainfall, overall national rice production is estimated at around 3.2 million MT which is 20 percent lower than the 5-year average, estimated at 4 million MT, and 15 percent lower than last year. Rice production has reduced in west, middle-west, north-central and east parts of Madagascar. It remained relatively stable in south-central and southwestern parts. Average yield of rice in Madagascar is 3.1 MT per hectare. It is likely reduced with the insufficient rainfall. In Anosy region for instance, rice yield may reach 2.5 MT per hectare in a good year; this year, the regional department of Ministry of Agriculture estimated 2 MT per hectare because of the delay in rains, say 25 percent of decrease.
    • Maize production: is estimated at around 350,000 MT which is 6 percent below the 5-year average and 10 percent higher than last year. Maize production has increased in the South compared to last year although remaining below normal.  Elsewhere, production remain the same as last year. Average yield of maize in Madagascar is 1.8 MT per hectare. It is most likely near average.
    • Cassava production: will likely be around 3 million MT, which is near the 5-year average and 15 percent higher than last year. It has increased in southern Madagascar and slightly decreased in Southeastern. Production from the central highland remined stable. Average yield will remain at 7.4 MT per hectare.
    • Livestock: Livestock herd sizes have started to improve in Southern Madagascar. Decapitalization has reduced. Overall, the cattle population most likely above 6.5 million in 2017. Livestock prices also improved which are favorable to pastoralists. 

    Markets and trade

    • Rice imports: Rice imports have intensified: current estimates from Madagascar Customs give a total volume of 173,000 MT of rice imports during the first semester of 2017. This accounted for 43 percent of expected imports this year and 5 percent of national production. This is also 7 percent above the five-year average and about double of last year’s rice imports within the same period. The increase in rice imports has been driven by the expected lower domestic production and the stability of the Malagasy Ariary in recent months. According to the Observatoire de Riz (OdR) Horizon, the retail price of imported rice has been higher than the parity price (IPP) during the first quarter of 2017, and this was favorable to imports. Meanwhile, domestic demand for imported rice has risen as prices of other local staples such as maize and cassava also increased. The price of imported rice is currently 20 percent above the 2011-2014 average at all markets particularly in urban markets, except in Antananarivo where it is at average levels.
    • Prices for locally grown food products: Globally, prices of maize and local rice slightly decreased between April and May 2017. As for local rice, the average price in 13 markets was MGA 1,623 due to the decreasing prices in Antsirabe because of the beginning of harvest in the region of Vakinakaratra. Particularly, this region received sufficient rainfall this year, despite a delay in their start. Rice prices are 20 to 30 percent higher than the 2011-2014 average due to expected lower production at the national level. As for maize, the average price has levelled at MGA 870 per kilo. In general, it is 25 percent less than in mid-April. All markets showed a decrease except Tsihombe and Toamasina I. Other maize production is coming from communes where the cropping season was delayed due to the delay of rain at the beginning of the year. As maize was used as the main substitute of rice, maize prices also increased and were 41 percent higher than 2011-2014 average. Prices of maize particularly doubled in this time in Antsirabe I, Toamasina I and Tsihombe. However, they are equal to the 5-year average in Ihosy and in Morodnava, and lower than the average in Amboasary.

    Prices for dried cassava remained stable in Fianarantsoa and dropped in Tsihombe. Its price in Antananarivo and Antsirabe is very unstable and is increasing in Morondava. It increased by 14 percent compared to last month and by 32 percent compared to the 2012 to 2014 average.

    The USDA FEWS NET Crop Tour mission in May in the South revealed an insufficient supply of rice and maize in Fort Dauphin, Ambovombe and Tsihombe markets. However, pulses had started to flow in these markets.

    Other key factors

    •  Humanitarian assistance: Emergency plan ended in May 2017 for El-Nino affected regions. The same for areas affected by cyclone Enawo. A new plan is being developed with the completion of the National IPC Analysis in June 2017 targeting 262,800 persons in emergency of which 142,064 in the South and 120,736 in the Southeast; and 804,600 in crisis of which 440,528 in the South and 364,072 in the Southeast. This plan mainly includes early recovery activities in short term such as immediate rehabilitation activities in pockets of nutritional and food vulnerability, livelihood and/or assets strengthening of livelihoods and / or assets, agricultural revival synchronized with seed protection measures to take advantage of the off-season crop while enhancing improved short-cycle varieties adapted to the conditions Agroecology, strengthening of income-diversification activities (short-cycle farming through close monitoring of animal health, fishing), promotion of post-harvest activities (drying, processing, conservation). In the medium term, the plan will prioritize the scaling up projects for community assets construction or rehabilitation through food / cash-for-work projects, the promotion of good nutrition and hygiene practices programs to manage acute malnutrition, the nutritional supplementation activities through programs to prevent chronic malnutrition and WASH activities related to food security and nutrition.


      The most likely scenario for the July 2017 to January 2018 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    • Upcoming rainy season: According to NMME probabilistic forecasts for Africa, rainy season is expected to be normal to above normal starting in October in Southern and Southeastern Madagascar. It is most likely normal to below normal in central highlands between October and December 2017.
    • Agricultural Production: Main rice harvest is currently taking place throughout Madagascar and is expected to be below average and delayed compared to normal. Maize harvest is also taking place and production is expected to be higher than last year but remains below average. Most of the cassava harvest is expected in August-September and production is expected to be near normal.
    • Cash crops: Cash crops in eastern Madagascar (Vanilla, cloves, litchi) will suffer from the recent rainfall deficit and floods in many districts; and tornado in Vangaindrano. Production will be below average for all of them. Prices will remain higher than normal particularly for coffee and vanilla. However, higher prices will not compensate for the loss of quantity that poor farmers will be able to sell during ML2.
    • Livestock: With the wet season, pastures normally tend to be reduced. Some transhumance and temporary migrations to higher lands will be noticed in the Southern and Western parts of Madagascar by the end of September. Then, pastoralists should come back to their origin places with the start of rainy season. Households will continue restoring their livestock herds. Herd sizes will improve but will still below average.
    • Labor income and availability: Agricultural labor will be near average with the expected weather favorable to agriculture starting in July. Nonagricultural labor will be below average particularly labor in export manufacture due to reduction in cash crop production. Labor wages will remain stable. Brickyard, fishing and handcraft activities will be above, because households will intensify them as livelihood strategies.
    • Macroeconomic context and imports: An increase of rice imports is expected promoted by the stability of the Ariary/US Dollar exchange rate and the low domestic rice production. More than 400,000 MT of rice is expected to be imported this year which is the double of the quantity of last year. This may stabilize the prices of both local and imported rice on the market from October 2017 to January 2018.
    • Cereal prices: Globally, the price of local rice is expected to remain stable at higher levels until September. Prices may increase to over 2,000 Ariary per kilo, according to the price projections in the southeast and some urban areas such as Mahajanga and Toamasina. Prices of maize will continue increasing in the South until January. Prices of cassava will probably decrease during ML1 until the end of harvest in September, then it will increase again but will be below last year levels.
    • Livestock prices: Following the trends of the two last years, prices of both cattle and small ruminants will stabilize during ML1 and then increase again during ML2 with better pastoral conditions and stock recovery by households. Livestock sales will probably be intensified during the lean season.
    • Locusts: Following the favorable weather conditions in the south for locust breeding, large swarms are most likely to form in some districts. This may affect the next plantation of cereals and legumes.
    • Humanitarian Assistance: Humanitarian assistance through WFP and FAO through implementation partners  will probably lead toward some districts where pockets of food insecurity crisis is still found such as in Beloha, Tsihombe, Betioky, Beheloka and Amboasary. However, the coverage may be less than 25 percent of total population.
    • Nutrition: Following normal trends, GAM will increase in the Southeast due to the end of harvest period. It will remain stable in the South with the maintaining of prevention and treatment programs and in other parts of Madagascar.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the Extreme south: cassava, maize, and livestock rearing livelihood zone (MG 24), food insecurity is expected to be reduced with the coming harvest but remain high with the below-average production on food and incomes sources. As a result of this, and winding down of food assistance distribution from June 2017 with the end of emergency plan, households will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with some pocket of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in some communes of Beloha and Tsihombe. Food security outcomes are expected to improve for most between July and September with the cassava harvest and greater labor opportunities. However, the recovery process will be slowed by below-normal staple food production and agricultural incomes and assets (ex. livestock) that were depleted during the second part of the period with the early beginning of the lean season. Thus, most households in this livelihood zone will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes between July and September 2017 and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between October 2017 and January 2018.

    In the Southeast: coffee, litchis, cassava (MG 19), rainfall deficits delayed the rice planting in this area. This area is highly dependent on cash crop (litchis, cloves or coffee) which are normally harvested from November to December but whose production is also reduced. This zone is characterized by high rate of poverty and large size of households and high risk of malnutrition. The high economic vulnerability of households in MG 29 was aggravated with recent high level of 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 July to September with a pocket of crisis in Vohipeno, and then Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between October 2017 and January 2018.

    In the Southwest: cassava and small ruminants (MG 23), less humanitarian assistance such as food, cash and seeds than in MG 24 were distributed. This elevated 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. The area also received irregular rainfall, which was not favorable to agricultural development. Therefore, most households in that zone will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity from July to September 2017, with some pockets of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in some communes such as Beheloka. And in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from October 2017 to December 2018.

    Households throughout Madagascar, despite the expected failure of 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.


    Table 1: Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.




    Impact on food security


    High inflation during ML2 resulted to high increase of rice prices

    Dramatically deteriorate purchasing power of poor people particularly in urban centers and most economically vulnerable areas such as the southeast areas.

    MG 24 and MG23



    Expected crops will be reduced although weather good conditions and food insecurity will increase

    Delayed rainfall

    Agricultural Labor activities will be reduced and lean season will start sooner.

    MG 19

    Rapid degradation of Acute Malnutrition

    Vohipeno and Farafangana could be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4)

    Unusual dryness beginning in August 2017

    Livelihood and income sources of households would be in a serious situation. Coupled with the bad staple food and cash crop production, food insecurity will increase.

    Figures Résultats actuels de la sécurité alimentaire pour juin 2017

    Figure 1

    Résultats actuels de la sécurité alimentaire pour juin 2017

    Source: FEWS NET


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Value of the Malagasy Ariary compared to the US dollar (MGA/USD) over time

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Value of the Malagasy Ariary compared to the US dollar (MGA/USD) over time

    Source: Central Bank of Madagascar

    Figure 2. Evolution of rice imports in first semesters from 2012 to 2017 (MT)

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Evolution of rice imports in first semesters from 2012 to 2017 (MT)

    Source: OdR Horizon Bulletin

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

    Figure 5

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

    Source: FEWS NET/OdR/SISAV

    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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