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Below normal staple production leads to a severe early lean season in southern Madagascar

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • June 2020 - January 2021
Below normal staple production leads to a severe early lean season in southern Madagascar

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The Government of Madagascar has lifted many of the measures previously enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19, allowing economic activities to resume to some degree. The movement of people is not restricted, except to and from Analamanga and Antsinanana regions.

    • Income sources among poor households are below average in several areas. For example, remittances in southern Madagascar remain lower than normal as laborers cannot migrate as usual to western and northern Madagascar, as these areas are only accessible by national roads that pass through locked-down cities.

    • On average, prices remained steady or decreased minimally from April to May in the south despite the onset of the harvest period due to expected below-average production. Staple food prices in urban markets also decreased, by 10 percent, but remain above average.

    • Most areas of the country are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), including in the three major cities, where ongoing humanitarian food assistance is sustaining Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes. In southern areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes exist and are anticipated to persist through October, after which food security will moderately deteriorate with the onset of the lean season.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    With the confirmation of its first positive case of COVID-19 in March, the Malagasy Government declared a public health emergency and took measures to contain the spread of the virus. The measures which most strongly affected the economy and income-generating activities among poor households included the ban on international travel to Madagascar, curfews in main affected cities, and the restriction of public transportation to and from locked-down cities. As of June 29, the number of confirmed cases had reached 2,138, with 20 recorded deaths. Government measures have been lifted in some regions around Fianarantsoa, Antananarivo, and Toamasina but travel to and from the latter two cities remains banned.

    Due largely to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, during the first quarter of 2020, the Institut National de la Statistique (INSTAT) reported that export revenues fell by 2.4 percent compared to the previous year, driven by falling prices for common exports and a sharp reduction in tourism. This is in addition to the fall in export earnings between 2018 and 2019 estimated at around 52 percent due to a reduction of ore, vanilla, and shrimp exports. In terms of value, export cash crops and ores are the most affected, having reduced around 20 percent for vanilla and 60 percent for mined ores. The tourism sector is also affected: there was a drop in the number of tourists visiting the island by 100 percent between April and June compared to 2019 with the ban on international passenger flights to Madagascar.

    The 2019-2020 agricultural campaign was marked by several hazards including floods in the central and northern parts of the country, insects including FAW mainly in southern and mid-western areas, and significant rainfall deficit since the end of December in the south. The floods had minor impacts on rice production but notably damaged some agricultural infrastructure like dams, roads, and channels in the west. According to FAO estimates, maize production decreased due to decreased area planted with poor yield expectations, FAW infestations, losses from floods, and drought in the south. Drought has also negatively impacted pulses, and the livestock sector.

    Nationally, 2020/21 rice production is estimated to be near average. Most farming areas started harvesting rice as normal in April. However, other areas, such as Aloatra-Mangoro and the northwest that replanted rice fields after the floods in January and February, began harvesting in May. In the south, the availability of local rice was lower than normal in May because of rainfall deficits in main producing areas like Betroka, Amboasary, Bekily, Betioky, Tulear II, and Benenitra. Maize was most affected by the rainfall deficits in January and February 2020. Household stocks are currently almost depleted, and the volume stocked by wholesalers is very low. For cassava, despite near-normal production during the 2019 harvest period in the south, dried cassava stock was also almost depleted by the end of May.

    Food imports in the first quarter of 2020 decreased about 10 percent from the same period last year, Even with some disruptions at the international level, as a result of COVID-19, resulting in delays of imported goods, supply has now returned to normal levels across Madagascar. Prices, however, remain high, driven by depreciation of the MGA and increased transportation costs. The year-on-year inflation rate in Tulear, the main city in the south, was 12 percent in April 2020, which is considerably higher than the national level of 4.6 percent. Prices, particularly for food, are atypically high for the pre-harvest period. Several markets experienced price increases for maize, local rice, pulse, and cassava price in May, according to the WFP market monitoring report. In addition, in the most remote and non-integrated markets, main staple prices and first necessity products are further above average. The main driver of above-average prices in the south is the poor harvest due to poor 2019/20 rainfall.

    In urban centers, poor households rely on markets to access food and are currently accessing food by reducing non-food expenditures to maintain consumption. The lock-down of cities from the end of March to May/June, halved the incomes of urban poor households who depend on daily labor, petty trade, and access to public transport, as well as those who have lost their stable jobs. Household income dependent on exports and tourism has been almost null since the start of the year because of the decreased demand for certain exports and travel bans.

    In most non-urban areas of the country, poor households currently depend mainly on their own production. In the far south, though, poor households are dependent on markets currently. To purchase food, poor households depend on buying on credit from traders. Poor households typically consume wild food in end May, including cactus fruits, particularly red cactus fruits (O. Stricta) found on the coast, wild tubers, mostly found surrounding forests, and other fruits fill their needs. However, excessive consumption of these foods since November has reduced their availability and current consumption is therefore more limited than is usual. For better-off households, income from livestock and/or cash crop sales reduced while for poor households, opportunities for income diversification were limited. In addition, poor households in southern Madagascar typically send a family member to work to other regions in the event of bad year. Since March, COVID-19 restrictions affected movement, as a result, remittances are also low. While laborers from the south do not typically migrate to the previously locked-down cities, cities in western and northern Madagascar, are only accessible by national roads passing by Fianarantsoa and Antananarivo. By end May, poor households relied more on the sale of charcoal or firewood as an income source.  Even income from informal mines are non-profitable because of lower demand.

    The impact on trade is likely to affect the profitability of food production and food availability. For areas reliant on informal traders for marketing (surplus) production and supplying (deficit) markets, inter-regional trade restrictions have resulted in decreased farm-gate prices in surplus areas, reducing income for producers, and increased market prices in deficit areas.

    Humanitarian assistance in Madagascar is concentrated in the south and the previously locked-down urban centers of Fianarantsoa, Toamasina I, and Antananarivo. WFP’s response in southern Madagascar is currently reaching more than 25 percent of the total population, 220,000 people, with a 15-day ration and supplementary feeding for pregnant/lactating women and for children under two years. CRS assistance programs in Tsihombe, Beloha, and Ampanihy is currently reaching 279,400 beneficiaries for general food distribution. WHH’s cash for work project in the four vulnerable communes of Ft. Dauphin target around 20 percent of poor and very poor households. ACF and UNICEF support nutrition programs for children in severe acute malnutrition in PECMAS centers, by continuing the Nutritional Surveillance System (NSS), and by strengthening the supply chain of nutrition inputs through September 2020. As an emergency response to the COVID-19 impacts, the Malagasy Government, with funding from international donors, is providing cash transfers in previously locked-down cities to improve food and non-food access to the 30 percent of poorest households whose livelihoods are based in informal sector. Around 140,000 households in Antananarivo, 25,000 households in Toamasina, and 20,000 households in Fianarantsoa have received 100,000 MGA per month in May and June. The transfer fills 70 percent of monthly needs.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

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

    NationalCyclones2020/2021 cyclone season will likely start earlier in December 2020. Disturbances may affect Madagascar, potentially on the east coast, which will likely improve rainfall projections but may also damage and flood rice fields and cash crops along eastern costs. Depending on the strength of the cyclone and its trajectory, food insecurity in the affected areas can deteriorate or improve agriculture conditions. If cyclones hit the north, west or east, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes could be expected in localized areas, temporarily, with some households likely expecting Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Conditions would, however, improve if a cyclone hit the south or southwest as increased rainfall would improve crop conditions. The effect on food security would depend heavily on the timing of the cyclone. 
    National New government COVID-19 restrictionsA second wave of COVID-19 infections is possible. Whether, when, and how the government will adopt restrictive measures to face it could have negative consequences for economy, and especially the poor, and the access to income sources and to food. It’s likely that the three most-affected urban centers, and potentially other large cities, would face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity with some households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).



    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 Map indicating current food security outcomes. Green, yellow, and orange shading indicate varying levels of food insecurity.

    Figure 1

    Current Situation for June 2020

    Source: FEWS NET

    October to September cropping calendar for Madagascar.

    Figure 2



    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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