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Atypically high food prices negatively impact the food consumption of poor households

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Chad
  • April 2023
Atypically high food prices negatively impact the food consumption of poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2023
  • Key Messages
    • Although the off-season harvest ends in April, Chad's poor households are mainly dependent on markets to meet their food needs in the context of below-average agricultural production for 2022/23. In pastoral areas, living conditions for livestock deteriorate seasonally as pastures become scarcer. Acute food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in the Lac region, impacted by civil unrest, as well as in Barh El Gazal (BEG) and Kanem, where high staple food prices are limiting food consumption by households that already have low purchasing power.

    • Typical livelihood activities are limited by persistent insecurity in the Lake Chad region and the ban on gold panning in the border areas with Libya and Sudan. These security constraints limit labor migration and reduce the flow of food products, leading to a drop in market supply. In addition, the influx of Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad following the eruption of conflict in Sudan in April is exacerbating the strain on food resources, particularly in Assoungha and Moudeina. Consequently, the decline in supply and the surge in demand resulting from population movements have adverse effects on household food consumption. 

    • Due to a 1.2 percent decline in agricultural production in 2022 compared with the five-year average, along with the depletion of household stocks, the supply of food products in the markets is falling, while there is a rise in demand due to households increasingly relying on the markets to meet their food needs. This situation has led to higher food prices, which are compounded by higher fuel prices. Thus, in addition to the seasonal rise, prices on the markets are generally significantly higher than the five-year average. 

    • Localized flooding during the rainy season destroyed the grass cover in the affected areas, reducing forage availability in the Sudanian zone. Due to the limited availability of pasture, pastoralists initiated an early transhumance, migrating towards their home areas in the northern region of the country. Given the poor body conditions the livestock, the terms of trade between livestock and cereals are unfavorable for herders in the northern regions. To meet cereal requirements, pastoral households are increasing their livestock sales at below-average prices.

    Current Situation

    Socio-political and security context: The presidential pardon granted in March 2023 to the prisoners of war and demonstrators of October 20, 2022, coupled with the decision of the political players to take part in the constitutional referendum scheduled for November 2023, contributed to the socio-political appeasement.

    Following the escalation of conflict in Sudan in mid-April and the subsequent influx of Sudanese refugees, the Chadian government decided to close its borders with Sudan. This measure has had repercussions on both the movement of people and the cross-border flow of food products, thereby posing challenges in accessing food resources from Sudan. Furthermore, the ongoing presence of Central African refugees has been a source of insecurity, with theft and murders of local people. However, with the presence of the defense and security forces in the Sudanian zone, the situation in the border areas with the Central African Republic has calmed down.

    On the other hand, inter-community conflicts in Mandoul and Moyen Chari are recurring events and have resulted in around ten deaths. There have also been reports of an upsurge in kidnappings for ransom, leading to a strike by the teachers' union demanding greater security for the local population.

    Refugees: At the beginning of 2023, Chad already had more than 400,000 Sudanese refugees. However, the ongoing armed conflict in Sudan has rapidly increased the number of Sudanese refugees fleeing to Chad. Since the start of the conflict on April 15, 2023, around 20,000 new Sudanese refugees are reported to have arrived in Chad.

    Agricultural situation: The effects of the flood have had a negative impact on agricultural production in 2022/2023, which stands at 2,798,642 tonnes, down 1.2 percent on the five-year average. As a result, in the Sudanian zone and Salamat, the production of off-season crops and market gardening is below average. However, in anticipation of the rainy season, with the first rains expected at the end of March, preparatory work on the fields has begun.  Market gardening and winter off-season crops continued with the harvesting of berberé and the transplanting of rice, while cash crops such as niebé, wheat, and maize showed variations of -1.3 percent, -30.2 percent, and -9.9 percent respectively compared with the five-year average. In the Lake region, the agricultural situation in the modern polders is marked by the ripening of beans, funegrec, and wheat. However, beans, which are currently being harvested, are giving a low yield compared with the five-year average.   On the other hand, maize, which is fully mature, contributes to a relative improvement in household food supplies. In Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti, on the other hand, farming activities are limited to the maintenance of off-season vegetable crops that have already reached maturity (e.g., garlic, onions, tomatoes, okra, and cabbage).

    The pastoral situation and livestock movements: Flooding during the rainy season had a considerable impact on the level of plant biomass, leading to a decline in pastures in the Sudanian zone. As a result, the animals are showing poor body conditions, reducing their market value. As a prelude to the new rainy season, transhumant herders returned early to their home areas in the north. In the Lake region, the influx of nomadic herders from the provinces of Kanem, BEG, and Hajar Lamis has resulted in overgrazing, prompting herders to migrate further south into more favorable areas.

    In Ouaddaï, the flow of animals is low due to security problems in the border areas with Sudan. Transhumance only takes the form of livestock movements within departments along an axis oriented from the center towards the crop-growing areas. The oversupply of livestock in the northern zone has led to a decline in livestock market prices. Concurrently, the significant increase in cereal prices has resulted in a decrease in household food consumption. Consequently, the terms of trade between small ruminants and cereals have decreased in most markets within pastoral and agropastoral regions. Compared with the average for the last five years, the terms of trade are 35 percent, 18 percent, 8 percent, and 3 percent lower for livestock farmers in Oum Hadjer, Moussoro, Bol, and Mongo, respectively. This deterioration in the terms of trade in these areas reduces the purchasing power of poor households, thus limiting their access to food.

    Sources of income: The main sources of income for poor households are seasonal agricultural employment, self-employment, and petty trade. Given the total depletion of household cereal stocks and the prospect of the start of the 2023/2024 agricultural season, there is a seasonal increase in the agricultural labor opportunities. The result is an oversupply of agricultural labor in the localities of the Sudanian zone. However, due to the decline in the purchasing power of the better-off and their reliance on family labor, demand is lower than in a normal year. In other localities, such as Mayo Kebbi Ouest, labor on winter off-season rice plots is an important source of household income. Self-employment, such as transporting bricks and water, is also a source of income for poor households and is on the increase due to the lack of other work opportunities. On the other hand, in Ouaddaï, Wadi Fira and Faya, the transfer of migrant workers is reduced because of the unstable security situation on the Libyan and Sudanese borders.

    Institutional stocks: Given the decrease in cereal harvests, both rainfed and counter-seasonal, and the use of stocks for seed requirements, the overall level of cereal stocks currently on the markets remains well below the five-year average. Despite the availability of 52,342 tons of food products out of the 100,000 tons planned, the government launched subsidized sales throughout the country on April 18, 2023. 

    Cereal markets and prices: In general, cereal supplies are low on the markets due to poor production during the 2022/2023 agricultural season, except in the Guera, Salamat, and Mayo Kebi markets, which are supplied by secondary markets.

    However, due to high transport costs, higher fuel prices and lower supply than in a normal year, an upward trend in prices has been observed on all markets (Figure 1). Compared with the five-year average, sorghum prices have risen by more than 40 percent in Barh El Gazel, millet prices by 27 percent in Mandoul and by 30 percent in Moyen Chari. In the Lake region, the situation is exacerbated by the lack of security, which restricts the flow of people and goods. In Kanem, prices rose significantly compared with the five-year average, by 20 percent and 27 percent respectively for millet and maize. Demand for imported food products (e.g., wheat flour, pasta, and vegetable oils) is up in all provinces, particularly in deficit areas such as Wadi Fira, Borkou and Tibesti. This strong demand, coupled with the effects of rising fuel prices and the Ramadan period, is increasing the overall price of imported food products.

    Livestock markets: During this pastoral lean season, pastoralists returned early to their home areas because of the lack of pastures due to the destruction of vegetation cover by flooding. The early return of transhumant herders has reduced the supply of livestock in the Sudanian zone, which is exacerbated by inter-community conflicts in Moyen Chari. As a result, prices remained high, at 19 percent and 37 percent respectively in Moyen Chari and Mandoul, limiting household access to markets for livestock and by-products. However, in the northern zone, the oversupply of animals is leading to a fall in prices on the livestock market. In Kanem, BEG and Lac, on the other hand, the closure of the borders with Nigeria due to incursions by non-state armed groups led to an oversupply of livestock on the Ngouri and Bol markets, which kept prices stable despite transport costs.

    Figure 1

    Sorghum price trends in Barh el Gazel
    Evolution des prix de sorgho dans le Barh elGazel

    Source: FEWS NET

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions in the Food Security Outlook February to September 2023 remain unchanged, with the exception of those updated below:

    • Border security situation: If current conflicts in Sudan continue, the security situation along Chad's borders with Sudan will deteriorate. In addition, there is likely to be an increase in the number of Sudanese refugees over the coming months. In the Lake region, the lull in terrorist armed groups incursions resulting from the drop in the lake's water level, coupled with the post-election calm in Nigeria and the extension of the exchange period for the new naira notes, should improve population movements. In the Sudanian zone, the presence of the defense and security forces is creating relative security, which should lead to an increase in demand for livestock heading for the Central African Republic.
    • The closure of borders between Chad and Sudan, prompted by the armed conflict in Sudan, has resulted in restricted movement of food products between the two countries. This would result in a reduction in the availability of imported food products on the Ouaddaï and Wadi Fira markets. However, domestic supply of early harvests and off-season products is expected to increase, as cereal exports to Sudan have been halted by the closure of borders.
    • Due to off-season harvests, the availability of food products is expected to rise relatively. Cereal prices could fall slightly. In the Lake and the Sudanian zone, the lull in security would add to these factors and relatively improve food consumption by poor and very poor households.
    • In the northern zone, the flow of workers to the gold-mining areas would be substantially limited due to increased insecurity in the area. This situation would lead to a loss of income-generating activities in the area, with a consequent impact on household food consumption. 
    • Refugees: Detailed information on humanitarian assistance up to the end of the lean season is not available. However, the increase in the number of refugees caused by the armed conflict in Sudan would increase the need for humanitarian assistance and have an impact on the food consumption of these refugees.

    Projected Outlook through September 2023

    The late withdrawal of floodwaters in the Lake and Guera regions is anticipated to cause a relative decline in early harvests. This, coupled with increased fuel costs, would result in a limited availability of food products in the market, which is not easily accessible by poor households, until mid-September.

    Additionally, the persistent increase in fuel prices, along with border restrictions in the Lake and Sudan regions, will contribute to sustained high price levels. As a result, very poor households and some poor households in the BEG and Kanem Nord areas, due to their limited income resulting from a lack of seasonal employment prospects, will encounter difficulties in accessing food. Consequently, they are likely to remain in the Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    According to the special seasonal forecast bulletin, average to above-normal rainfall is expected throughout the southern and Sahelian zones. A rise in production in the early stages of the 2023/2024 agricultural season would increase the seasonal availability of food products on markets in surplus areas. Pastoral areas such as Borkou and Ennedi could thus see a relative improvement in the internal flow of food products from local production, but they would remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, due to the availability of early crops and wild produce, the predominantly agricultural livelihood zones in the south will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) between May and September 2023.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Chad Food Security Outlook Update, April 2023: Atypically high food prices negatively impact the food consumption of poor households, 2023.

    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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