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Cereal prices in the Sahel continue to stabilize, approaching seasonal averages

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • January 2013
Cereal prices in the Sahel continue to stabilize, approaching seasonal averages

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity across the region is stable at IPC Phase 1:  Minimal levels, except in flood-affected areas of northern Nigeria,  poor-performing agropastoral zones in North-Central Mali and western Niger, and localized pockets in southern Mauritania, where very poor and poor households are classified in IPC Phase 2: Stress. These populations will require well-targeted  and technically appropriate assistance to build resilience before seasonal price increases  during the lean season.

    • Food security continues to steadily improve off-season harvests and cereal price stability. In general, cereal prices (millet, sorghum, and corn) are unchanged or decreasing from last month, though still above the seasonal average (by 37 to 60 percent) on certain markets, particularly in the case of millet.

    • Restrictions on travel and trade following the closing of Libya’s borders with Chad and Niger, escalating conflict in northern Mali, and the evolution of Nigerian market response to both flooding and heightened unrest require monitoring, with specific attention to the impact of these factors on commercial flows and pastoral systems.

    • Malian markets, which had gradually been rebounding, have been further disrupted by the resumption of hostilities in the north. The impact of insecurity on regional flows of trade and labor is a key factor to monitor in the coming weeks.

    Overall situation

    As of January, food security in the region is marked by progressive harvests of off-season crops, improving household food availability and dietary diversity and complementing the average to above-average household cereal reserves from the good 2012 cereal harvest.

    Economic activity and migrant remittance flows are largely in line with the norm, with a sustained demand for labor in rural areas for market gardening activities. The poor harvests of market garden produce last year due to flooding have driven prices for crops such as onions up to record levels across the region this year. The decision by the Libyan government in December to close its southern borders with Niger and Chad due to internal unrest in the southern part of that country will restrict the free movement of travelers and goods between regional countries and limit cash remittances to normal recipient households in Niger and Chad. A similar situation is observed in northern Mali, compounded by ongoing military conflict. The official resumption of hostilities in northern Mali could impede the already slow rebound in the local economy and further heighten food insecurity levels, already aggravated by the closing of the Algerian border.

    In general, food availability is good and income generation is favorable across the region, with cereal and livestock markets running smoothly. Cereal supplies on markets are sufficient in all trading basins due to the sharp increase in trade between surplus and deficit areas.  Shipments of cereals  to market by farmers have increased  with the end of the harvest season and the end of cash crop (cowpeas, groundnuts). such as cowpeas and groundnuts. Moreover, unlike in 2012 at this time, market and institutional demand appear to be stabilizing, placing less pressure on supply.

    In general, cereal prices (millet, sorghum, and corn) are unchanged or have decreased compared to last month, in line with seasonal trends following a good harvest like that of 2012. This favorable price trend is bringing levels steadily closer to seasonal averages. Millet prices in the central basin, which were 65 to 94 percent above-average last October, were down to only 17 to 40 percent above-average as of December.  In general, millet prices in the eastern basin have stabilized, but were still well above the seasonal average by 37 to 60 percent in December, compared with October price levels 40 to 60 percent above-average.

    December prices for corn have dropped to within  average levels on certain reference markets such as the Sikasso market in Mali (+2 percent), the Kara market in Togo (-6 percent), and the Bol market in Chad (-5 percent). Rice prices in all CFA franc countries are stable and hovering around the seasonal average (ranging from 11 percent below to eight percent above the seasonal average). On the other hand, rice prices in non-CFA-franc countries are above seasonal averages by 49 percent in Accra (Ghana), 56 percent in Bodjia (Nigeria), and 36 percent in Nouakchott, in Mauritania (Figure 2). This could be attributable to the depreciation in the currencies of these countries. However, in Nigeria, elevated prices  on the Bodjia market, up by 25 percent, between November and December, may be attributable to rice crop losses following severe flooding earlier in the year.

    Food security situation

    Market conditions are typically the main driver for the deterioration of  food security at a regional level during this time of year. At present, however, no significant, negative market anomalies have been observed, such as speculation or spiking prices as there were in January of last year, when prices increased weekly with atypically heavy pressure on the market. In general, households have normal access to income in all parts of the region (except for northern Mali and northern Nigeria), which is helping to provide most households with regular food access and a diversified diet, including very poor households.  Thus, food insecurity levels across the region are stable at IPC Phase 1: Minimal levels, except in flood-stricken areas of northern Nigeria, certain poor-performing agropastoral areas of North-Central Mali and western Niger, and localized areas of southern Mauritania, where very poor and poor households are classified in IPC Phase 2: Stress. These populations will require well-targeted humanitarian assistance and resilience-building programs before seasonal price increases begin  during the lean season.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Comparison of rice prices in December 2012 with December 2011 prices and the 5-year average

    Figure 2

    Comparison of rice prices in December 2012 with December 2011 prices and the 5-year average

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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