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Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • January 2014
Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis

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  • Preface
  • Seasonal performance
  • Regional trade and price dynamics
  • Cross-border conflicts and displacement
  • Other regional issues

  • Preface
    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET uses scenario development. In this methodology, an analyst uses current evidence to develop assumptions about the future and compare their possible effects. The following report outlines assumptions at the regional level. Assumptions are also developed at the country level; these are likely to be more detailed. Together, the regional and national assumptions are the foundation for the integrated analysis reported in FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlooks and Outlook Updates. Learn more about our work here. FEWS NET’s Food Security Outlook reports for the Sahel and West Africa for January – June 2014 are based on the following regional assumptions established as of late December 2013:

    Seasonal performance
    • Crop production estimates for 2013/14: The November 2013 regional technical meeting by CILSS/PREGEC on projected food balance sheets estimated 2013/14 cereal production in the Sahel and West Africa at 57,462,000 metric tons (Table 1). This production figure is three percent higher than last year’s levels and is 16 percent above the average. Meanwhile, production in the Sahel was estimated to be near average (+1 percent). Final crop production estimates, to be established in March 2014, should be in line with these preliminary figures.
    Table 1. Projected 2013/14 cereal production in West Africa, compared with 2012/13 levels and the five-year average


    Production 2013/14

    (metric tons)

    Production 2012/13

    (metric tons)

    Five-year average production (metric tons)

    Variation in production for 2013/14 compared with 2012/13 (%)

    Variation in production for 2013/14 compared with the five-year average (%)

























    Source: CILSS/PREGEC, November 2013

    • Agroclimatology: The Intertropical Front (ITF) will hover around the equator between December 2013 and January 2014, producing limited, light rainfall in bimodal areas of the Gulf of Guinea countries. However, by February 2014, the ITF will begin its seasonal movements northward, kicking off a normal rainy season across the region. First rains will fall in bimodal areas in late February/early March and somewhat later (May/June) in areas farther north. Cumulative rainfall and rainfall distribution during the 2014 rainy season will both be average, and farming activities for the 2014/15 growing season should get off to a normal start.
    • Desert locusts: Continuing canvassing operations and treatment efforts through December have helped contain localized upsurges in desert locust activity fueled by the good conditions in gregarization areas of Mauritania (Inchiri region, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, southwestern Adrar, and northern Trarza). Though some limited locust breeding activity is still likely in areas of northwestern Mauritania after the mid-December rains that were reported in these areas, surveillance and treatment efforts and the drying up of local vegetation should help keep the locust situation under control in the first half of 2014. Its impact on flood-recession crops and pasture will be limited. Moreover, the risk of an infestation by local locust populations during the upcoming 2014/15 growing season is minor.
    • Outlook for off-season harvests: The good supply of water bodes well for good dry-season crop harvests across the region, except for in Chad’s Sahelian zone and in the Western Sahel and Dogon Plateau areas of Mali where water levels in semi-permanent lakes and ponds are at below-average levels. Thus, food and income from market gardening and flood-recession crops should be average to above-average in most countries across the region, with average to above-average labor rates as well.
    • Outlook for farm labor: Relatively average rainfall levels and distribution, as well as a normal start to the 2014 growing season, should keep farming activities on schedule and create employment opportunities for farm labor. However, with the lure of gold-panning operations, there will be a smaller supply of labor to meet what is expected to be a normal demand in certain areas. This could drive up the price of labor, benefiting poor households who are particularly dependent on this income source.
    • Outlook for pasture production: Pasture production across the region is characterized as average, with large pockets of pasture deficits in northwestern and eastern Niger, central-western Nigeria, eastern and western pastoral areas of Chad, southeastern, northeastern, and western Mali, central and northern Senegal, and southwestern Mauritania.
    • Transhumance and livestock body conditions: The average condition of pastures should help promote normal transhumance movements in most parts of the region during the outlook period. Trends in livestock body conditions and milk availability should be in line with the norm, marked by a seasonal deterioration in livestock conditions beginning in April. However, seasonal migration by transhumant herds in areas with localized pasture deficits (mentioned above) began unusually early this year (in October/November instead of January). In these areas, local livestock body conditions will start to deteriorate by February/March. There will also be unusual transhumance movements due to conflict and/or crime in eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria, and southern Chad, in Central African Republic, and in parts of northern Mali.

    Regional trade and price dynamics
    • Carry-over stocks: Due to good 2012 crop production levels and a large volume of commercial imports during the same year, carry-over cereal stocks levels (for households and traders) are average to above-average, particularly for all types of cereals in the central and western basins and for maize in Benin. These stocks will help bolster local supplies and will help limit expected cereal price increases. It will also help improve cereal access for at-risk households, particularly beginning in March when increasing household demand puts more pressure on local markets. However, carry-over millet stocks in the eastern basin are smaller than usual due to a structural change in millet production in Nigeria over the past few years and due to flooding in 2012. These small carry-over stocks and localized 2013/14 crop production deficits will contribute to a larger number of households than usual without any household cereal stocks in that basin starting in January.
    • Demand: As usual, household food stocks in most areas will begin to be depleted by March, making households more dependent on market purchases during the second half of the outlook period and increasing seasonal household demand on local markets. Households in areas with below-average 2013/14 crop production and in areas with large concentrations of refugees or IDPs will be dependent on market purchases earlier than usual, causing household demand on local markets to be above average. FEWS NET is expecting normal levels of institutional procurements, designed to assist food-insecure households, with only a limited impact on market functioning.
    • Trade flows: During the outlook period, there will be a seasonal increase in trade between the coastal states and the Sahel as household food stocks deplete and local demand grows in Sahelian areas. Trade flows should be unrestricted between most countries in the region, with the exception of trade flows through areas affected by recent security problems (ex. trade between northeastern Nigeria and southeastern Niger, central-western Chad, and southern Nigeria, trade between Chad and the Central African Republic, and trade between northern Mali and Algeria). High transaction costs and the heightened risks presented by the fighting in these areas will limit trade incentives, which will also reduce the volume of trade in these areas to below-normal levels between January and June. In the specific case of Chad, where localized areas of Sahelian zone were plagued by a production shortfall this year compared to average, local supplies will fail to meet market needs and the country will be more reliant than usual on regional (Cameroon) or international procurements.
    • Cereal prices on regional markets: Prices on most markets are expected to rise sharply through June 2014, in line with normal seasonal trends. These price increases will be driven by a growing household dependence on cereal purchases, a seasonal decline in cereal supplies, and the institutional procurements in each country.
      • Millet prices will rise faster than usual and will stay above the five-year average, due to the reported production shortfalls of this crop in all trade basins and particularly in the eastern basin. Starting in January, calls for institutional procurements and the ensuing expectations of business opportunities will trigger an increase in purchases from traders looking to build up their inventories, causing demand to outstrip supply. The eastern basin will experience the largest price increases (of more than 50 percent in certain localized areas). Prices in the central and western basins at the beginning of the lean season in June will also be above last year’s levels and the five-year average, though not to the same extent as in the eastern basin.
      • Sorghum prices will remain stable through March of this year, in line with normal seasonal trends. During this time, prices will be held in check by a sustained market supply from ongoing harvests of flood-recession and off-season crops and low demand by market players who will be more interested in millet and maize at this time. However, localized millet production shortfalls could create an above-average demand for sorghum by May/June, when households will start substituting millet with this crop. Thus, sorghum prices will stay above last year’s levels and the five-year average.
      • Maize prices will start to climb in January and, though rising at a slower pace than millet prices, will also remain above the seasonal average. This trend will continue through March with the end of the main marketing season in the Sudanian zone (January to March), fueled by market demand pressure in the Sahel. Starting in April, there will be a steady rise in prices, in line with normal seasonal trends, with prices peaking in June/July with the imminent start of the lean season in the southern Sudanian zone and a strong substitution effect of millet and sorghum with maize by poor Sahelian households. Thus, maize prices could stay above the five-year average and similar to last year’s levels.  
    • Livestock markets: Prices for livestock are still above-average due to the sustained demand from the coastal states and average livestock body conditions. Thus, even with the high cereal prices, terms of trade will be generally in favor of pastoralists through March. Livestock prices will then start to edge downwards in April (the beginning of the pastoral lean season), leveling off at their respective seasonal averages. However, livestock body conditions could begin to deteriorate as early as March in major pastoral areas of Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Senegal, and Mali, where there are reports of localized pasture deficits, triggering localized below-average livestock prices. In these areas, terms of trade will remain unfavorable to pastoralists, particularly in the eastern basin where cereal prices are above-average and rising.

    Cross-border conflicts and displacement
    • Central African Republic (CAR): Security conditions in the CAR will remain volatile throughout the outlook period, particularly in the northwestern and central-western areas of the country and in Bangui. Due to disrupted trade flows between the Central African Republic and neighboring countries (Chad, Cameroon, and the Sudan) and losses to their crops and/or livelihoods, poor households and IDPs in worst-affected areas will remain dependent on emergency humanitarian assistance.
    • Mali: Despite continuing instability in northern Mali, security conditions have improved in the last few months, increasing trade flows and prompting refugees and IDPs to return to their homes in large numbers. With the exception of trade between Mali and Algeria (where security threats will continue to disrupt business), there should be a more or less normal flow of trade between Mali and its neighbors. Malian refugees currently in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger will continue to return to their homes throughout the outlook period.
    • Nigeria: The continued armed fighting between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram is spreading to the far northeastern reaches of Nigeria. There will be no meaningful easing of this conflict, which will continue to affect trade between northeastern Nigeria and eastern Niger, northern Cameroon, and Chad. Population displacements associated with the Nigerian conflict will continue throughout the outlook period.
    • Libya: The situation in this country is a continuing source of concern with the new outbreak of violence in urban areas. There should be no major change in conditions affecting the movement of persons and goods between Libya and its neighbors during the outlook period.

    Other regional issues
    • Migration and remittances: There will be below-average, intra-regional migration from Niger to Nigeria and from Niger, Mali, and Chad to North Africa due to the security problems in these migrant-receiving areas. However, there will be a larger than usual flow of migrants to West Africa’s coastal states, particularly to Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire.
    • Nutrition: The nutritional situation in the Sahel will be marked by a rise in admissions to treatment centers for acute malnutrition starting in January, in line with seasonal norms. This increase in the number of malnutrition cases will be attributable to poor food access with the depletion of food stocks, rising market cereal prices, and the spread of malaria in children under the age of five. Efforts by governments and their partners to improve the treatment of malaria and step up corresponding epidemiological surveillance activities, as well as the availability of market garden crops for household consumption, should help minimize the impact of these aggravating factors on the nutritional status of local populations. However, already in January, the nutritional situation in production-deficit areas is precarious, particularly in the Sahelian region of Chad, northern Nigeria, northern Mali, and eastern and western Niger. In these areas, above-average rates of malnutrition will be seen during the outlook period.

    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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