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Without large-scale aid, area-level Emergency (IPC Phase 4) likely during 2021/22 lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Madagascar
  • June 2021
Without large-scale aid, area-level Emergency (IPC Phase 4) likely during 2021/22 lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that could change the outlook
  • Key Messages
    • A significant scale-up of sustained assistance across southern Madagascar is required to prevent high levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality, particularly in Ambovombe and Ampanihy districts, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected during the 2021/22 lean season, with some populations expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Ambovombe. Leading up to the 2021/22 lean season, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in these districts with households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Other areas in southern Madagascar will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes throughout the outlook period, with a significant number of poor households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • Three districts in the southeast are also expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from October 2021 to January 2022 as a result of a severe rainfall deficit in January 2021 that negatively affected rice crop development at the transplanting phase. This led to lower household food stocks and lower income earning, forcing very poor households to sell more productive assets and livestock than usual.

    • The persistence of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in southern Madagascar is driven by below-normal staple crop production, high food prices, and low labor opportunities resulting from successive years of drought. Rainfall forecasts call for below average precipitation between October and December 2021, the start of the 2021/22 rainfall season, lowering expectations for significant recovery.

    National Overview

    Current situation

    Rainfall performance and staple food production

    Main rice harvests have begun, putting downward pressure on prices in many parts of the country. National rice production is estimated to be 10 percent lower than last year and average levels. Rainfall deficits at the beginning of the cropping season in the main producing areas of the highlands, the southeast, and the middle south drove the slight reduction. Maize production is also estimated at below the five-year average due to the rainfall deficits, FAW infestation, and lack of seeds across the south. Cassava production is estimated to be near average nationally but below average across the south.

    Rice imports

    Madagascar imports 400,000 MT of rice per marketing year (MY) on average, mainly from India and Pakistan, to meet local demand and preference and to fill localized gaps. In MY 2020/21, which spans from June 2020 to May 2021, Madagascar imported approximately 375,000 MT of rice, eight percent below the five-year average and 15 percent below last year. As is typical, the most significant quantities were imported in December 2020 and January 2021 to cover gaps in southern Madagascar resulting from the below-normal staple production and in urban areas affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

    Vanilla exports

    Madagascar exported 1,780 MT of vanilla during the 2020/21 season, five percent above the previous year. However, the farm gate price of green vanilla was sharply reduced by the government by 75 percent relative to prices observed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The lower prices are negatively affecting producers’ access to income. In addition to the already low set prices, most local buyers have begun purchasing vanilla from small-scale producers at half of the imposed price, further reducing small-scale producers’ income.

    Food prices

    In May 2021, staple food prices were above the five-year average and last year due to lower supply. Local rice prices increased by between 20 and 50 percent from last year and 35 and 40 percent from the five-year average for both rural and urban areas. Imported rice increased between 10 and 25 percent from last year. The main drivers for the increases are the rainfall deficit, increased international prices, and the unfavorable exchange rate. In most markets, the price of dried cassava increased 20 to 100 percent compared to last year. Maize prices were 20 to 45 percent above last year in monitored markets, except in Toamasina I, where they were 20 percent below last year due to sufficient local supply. Price increases were even higher in urban areas previously affected by COVID-19 restrictions, including Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa, where local rice prices were 30 to 50 percent above average. Finally, sweet potato prices remained stable in urban areas compared to last year and decreased in Ambovombe due to a temporary supply increase.

    Labor conditions and opportunities

    A continued decline in mining, textile, and tourism activities due to COVID-19-related impacts has resulted in high unemployment. Though some large companies like Ambatovy and Tulear Sand resumed activity, they have reduced their staff. Some previous employees from these large companies shifted to self-employment or to agriculture. Still, others adopted coping strategies to meet their daily needs like spending savings, borrowing money, or begging. The loss of income among those who previously worked in the tourism sector – largely middle-income households – further reduced local demand for informal labor, as many of these households previously employed poor households for laundry and cleaning services. In rural areas, the number of people seeking on-farm labor opportunities has increased due to urban exodus of those who lost their jobs. However, labor demand has declined due to lower harvests. Off-farm activities mainly consist of petty trade and poor households engagement in these activities is above average.


    During the first quarter of 2021, macroeconomic indicators from the Institut National de la Statistique (INSTAT) continued worsening because of COVID-19 related restrictions. Export revenues fell by 26 percent compared to the first quarter of 2020, driven by a drastic decline in revenue from mining exports (-77 percent) and vanilla exports (-8 percent) and a sharp reduction in tourism (-100 percent).

    Public health emergency

    As of the end June 2021, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had reached around 42,240 with around 915 deaths. The number of new daily cases significantly reduced compared to before the second lockdown in March 2021. Since early June, almost all restrictions have been lifted apart from restrictions on large meetings, international travel, and a nightlife curfew. As a result, economic activity and migration have gradually recovered. Transport costs remain stable within large cities but are relatively high to and from more remote areas.

    Humanitarian food assistance

    Large-scale humanitarian assistance, including food distribution and cash transfers, have been ongoing since April. Food and cash assistance consist of an approximate half ration. According to a SMART survey conducted in April/May 2021, fewer than 25 percent of households reported receiving humanitarian assistance in Bekily, Betioky, Taolagnaro, and Tulear II. In other districts where WFP, CRS, ADRA, ACF, and FID mainly operate, like Beloha, Tsihombe, Ambovombe, Ampanihy, and Amboasary, humanitarian assistance reportedly reached 25 to 50 percent of households. Contrary to typical food assistance deliveries in past years, nearly 30 percent of households in Betroka were also assisted due to successive droughts in the area.  

    Current food security situation

    In southern Madagascar, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes existed during the October 2020 to April 2021 lean season, with a significant number of households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and some worst-affected households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These outcomes occurred in the presence of large-scale humanitarian food assistance that prevented more extreme outcomes. The food security situation has slightly improved since April due to cereal harvests and reduced cereal prices, while large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to play a key role in improving outcomes. According to the April/May SMART survey, the proportion of households reporting a poor food consumption score across surveyed areas of southern Madagascar decreased by approximately 10 percent (to 45 percent) relative to the peak of the lean season. Households that adopted high food coping strategies (rCSI >=19) generally decreased across the south. Fewer households were suffering from moderate hunger in May compared to February, except in Tulear II and Betroka. Severe hunger decreased in Ambovombe and Tsihombe but increased in Amboasary to five percent. Overall, widespread Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected across the south in June, considering the available but below-average harvest as well as large-scale humanitarian assistance distributions. In Amboasary, Ampanihy, and Ambovombe, some households face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, and a small number of worst-affected households face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Available evidence suggests that most households have moderately inadequate food consumption and have adopted coping strategies indicative of Crisis or Emergency. An HEA Outcome Analysis conducted by FEWS NET further supports this conclusion, suggesting that very poor households are not able to cover some their survival and all their livelihood protection needs even in the presence of humanitarian food assistance. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes were also observed in southeastern parts of Madagascar due to below-normal cumulative rainfall. Some poor households working in sectors most affected by the COVID-19 restrictions also faced Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to the loss of income despite slight recovery.

    Nutritional situation in the far south

    The results of the April/May 2021 SMART survey, conducted during the extension of the 2020/21 lean season, showed widespread ‘Alert’ and ‘Serious’ levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) as measured by the weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. ‘Critical’ GAM (WHZ) levels were reported in Ambovombe (26.3 percent) and Bekily (16.1 percent) districts, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. The nutritional situation in southern Madagascar generally deteriorated from the November 2020 SMART survey, conducted at the start of the 2020/21 lean season, when widespread ‘Alert’ levels of GAM (WHZ), indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, were reported. Mass MUAC screening results collected between January and March 2021 indicated relatively more widespread ‘Critical’ outcomes than the 2021 SMART results, although the two methodologies (WHZ recorded in a SMART and MUAC measured in a mass screening) are not directly comparable.

    While the GAM (WHZ) prevalence in Ambovombe and Bekily remains critically high, the Crude Death Rate (CDR) pointed to a somewhat less severe situation in most cases. The CDR was between 0.5 and 0.99 people per 10,000 per day in Ampanihy, Beloha, Tshihombe, Bekily, and Amboasary, indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes per the IPC reference table. The CDR was below 0.5 people per 10,000 per day, indicative of Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, in five of the ten districts, including Ambovombe. According to key informants, high GAM (WHZ) prevalence in Ambovombe may be due to lower access to treatment. However, some level of treatment is likely ongoing given relatively low mortality rates. While mortality is considered a lag indicator and could increase in the coming months if high malnutrition is untreated, uncertainty remains as data from past surveys often show somewhat seemingly contradictory malnutrition and mortality outcomes.


    The most likely scenario for June 2021 to January 2022 period is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • 2021/22 rainy season: Between June and September 2021, NMME forecasts near-normal rainfall across most of the country. However, while total seasonal rainfall is forecast to be average, including in the south, below-average rainfall is forecast in southern areas during the October to December 2021 onset of rains.
    • Tuber production: National sweet potato and cassava production are expected to be near average and similar to last year. However, localized harvests in the central, southern, and western highlands will be slightly below average, and FEWS NET estimates that production across the south will be around 30 percent below average.
    • Rice imports: Rice imports are expected to be near average, between 15,000 to 25,000 MT per month, from June to September 2021. Most imported rice will be sold at a subsidized rate by the government in COVID-19 affected urban areas. Monthly imports will likely seasonally increase between October and January and will likely be above the monthly average of 40,000 and 50,000 MT to meet demand following consecutive years of poor harvests across the south. More than 400,000 MT of rice will likely be imported during the first half of the 2021/22 marketing year.
    • Staple food prices: According to the FEWS NET price projections, staple food prices will likely remain above the five-year average throughout the outlook period. Local rice prices will likely be 50 percent above average due to the reduced supply and effects of government interventions in response to COVID-19, particularly in urban highland areas. Imported rice prices will likely be 40 percent above average due to the below normal supply, increased international prices, and the unfavorable exchange rate. Tuber prices will likely be 90 to 110 percent above average in the south, where production decreased significantly. Finally, maize prices will likely be 60 percent above average due to below-average national production.
    • Vanilla exports: This season’s vanilla farm gate prices have been fixed at 75,000 MGA per kilogram (equal to 20 USD), one-third of last year’s price, while the FOB price is fixed at 250 USD. Vanilla prices and export revenue are expected to continue to decrease due to the decline in international demand and prices. Small-scale vanilla farmers will likely shift to increased engagement of non-agricultural activities.
    • External trade and exchange rate: According to INSTAT/TBE, aggregate national exports in Q1 2021 were lower than Q1 2019. Exports will likely remain below average through the end of 2021 due to the reduced quantity of mining exports and the reduced value of cash crops. In addition, tourism and any linked activities such as transportation, hospitality and dining, and handicraft selling will remain below normal as borders will likely remain closed until September. Beyond September, provided an increasing rate of vaccination, international borders will likely open for tourists. However, considering the high domestic demand for food and non-food imports and the high price of those commodities (cooking oil and sugar), the value of MGA will likely continue depreciating (by an estimated three percent) through January 2022.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Large-scale humanitarian assistance is planned and funded through mid-July in southern Madagascar, and beneficiaries will continue receiving a half ration through mid-July. Beyond that date, only medium-term projects of CRS in Beloha, Mahora projected in Tsihombe, and ADRA in Ampanihy will likely continue distributing food assistance.
    • Conflict events: Dahalo attacks in Atsimo Atsinanana, Menabe, and Betsiboka will likely increase from current levels and be above average during the outlook period given the increasing unemployment in urban areas because of COVID-19 restrictions. However, in Atsimo Andrefana, Androy, and Anosy, Dahalo attacks will likely decrease from current levels in the coming months but rise again at the start of the rainy season in November. Given the rainfall deficit in 2021 which has negatively impacted livestock herds and resulted in massive sales and poor livestock body conditions, the number of attacks starting from November is expected to be lower than those reported in 2019 and 2020 and below average. Decreased attacks result from fewer assets, like livestock, available to steal after two consecutive years of drought. Nevertheless, based on historical patterns, all Dahalo activities will likely be more violent than in previous years.  

    Most likely Food Security Outcomes

    National food supplies and inflation remain near normal, allowing most poor households to meet their basic food needs and support Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from June 2021 through January 2022. However, some districts in the south affected by the dryness that led to below-normal production will likely be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the outlook period, including Tulear II, Betioky, and various districts in MG22 livelihood zones. Poor households throughout the country working in tourism sector that have experienced significantly reduced income since March 2020 and small-scale vanilla farmers in North: Vanilla, Clove, Coconut Tree (MG02) livelihood zones following the drop of vanilla prices will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity from June 2021 to January 2022.

    In Ambovombe, a district in the cassava, maize, and livestock rearing livelihood zone (MG 24), food consumption will likely stabilize between June and September with the expected cassava harvest. The zone will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between June and September 2021. With the start of the lean season, the area level food security outcomes will likely deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) between October 2021 and January 2022, driven by poor production, limited income-earning opportunities, and expected above-average prices. Based on historical data and the IPC analysis, the prevalence of acute malnutrition will likely stabilize between June-September at levels similar to April-May, then seasonally deteriorate between October and September, remaining at ‘Critical’ levels. Given how high the acute malnutrition is currently, though, there remains a risk it could deteriorate to ‘Extremely Critical’ levels.

    In Ampanihy district of Southwest: cassava and small ruminants (MG 23), 80 percent of households reported in April/May to be adopting coping strategies like accumulating more debt, selling land, or engaging in illegal activities such as making charcoal or mining. Results from an HEA Outcome Analysis conducted by FEWS NET also suggest that very poor households are likely to face a moderate to significant survival deficit (unable to meet their basic food needs) in the projection period. From June to September 2021, food consumption will slightly improve during the cassava harvest except for the poorest households, as cassava production will be below average and delayed for these households. Food assistance will partially fill food consumption gaps until July, after which programs are expected to end. However, new food and income sources will largely compensate for the loss of assistance, including the harvest and purchases from other income sources (mining, charcoal, and red cactus selling, remittances, and local agricultural labor); however, these sources will still be below average and insufficient to meet poor households basic food needs. As such, Ampanihy district will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between June and September 2021. Some worst-affected households will face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. From October 2021 to January 2022, with the below-normal rainfall forecast that will likely drive lower agricultural labor relative to normal, exhausted dried cassava stocks, increasing food prices, and lower livestock prices, it is expected that poor households’ consumption gaps will increase. Moreover, poor households will likely start selling their assets again, including livestock. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in MG23 because poor households in this area realized relatively poorer production and are expected to face much higher prices when compared with neighboring districts where somewhat less severe outcomes are expected at the start of the lean season.  

    In MG 26: Anosy cassava, maize, and livestock, between June and September, poor households will likely maintain Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as food from the cassava and sweet potato harvests in August will increase food availability, though availability will still be below average and poor households are likely to deplete crops within one month. Increased income from local agricultural labor, mining, charcoal, and remittances will further support food access. From October to January, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist as poor households will earn income from land preparation labor during this time, though overall income will still be below-average based on the forecast for a below-average start to the rainfall season. Other labor income will also be available, though, including from construction and charcoal/firewood sales but are not sufficient enough to support meeting all basic food needs. Based on historical trends, acute malnutrition will likely remain within the range of ‘Serious’, nearing ‘Critical’ threshold, due to lower food access at the start of the lean season and the increase of waterborne diseases.

    Finally, during the June to August harvest period, food security will improve slightly for poor households in Southeast: Coffee, litchi, cassava (MG 19) but will still likely be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as the main harvest is expected to be below average, a result of the rainfall deficit. During the lean period (October-January), when prices will be higher than average and food stocks will run out faster than usual, access to food will deteriorate and the southern part of the zone will likely return to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Events that could change the outlook

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

    AreaEventImpact on food security
    NaitonalRe-implementation of COVID-19 restrictions (restricted inter-regional travel, curfew) after the Independence DayLockdown and limited movement of people between regions will likely lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in restricted areas.



    Figure 1

    Madagascar Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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