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Across-the-board delay in grain harvests affects market supplies

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • West Africa
  • October 2011
Across-the-board delay in grain harvests affects market supplies

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through December 2011
  • Key Messages
    • Though not a source of concern, local market supplies are smaller than normal due to delays in harvests after a late start-of-season. As a result, prices are higher than usual, particularly in the Sahel.

    • Thus, the end of the lean season has been temporarily delayed for market-dependent households. In general, farming households are benefiting from the limited harvesting activities already underway, but supplies of fresh crops are insufficient to adequately stock markets.

    • Grasshopper infestations will further reduce the size of local harvests already compromised by the late start-of-season, particularly in Chad. There are also reports of grasshopper infestations in Niger, whose effects are still undetermined. 


    Updated food security outlook through December 2011

    The month of October normally marks the end of the rainy season in the Sahel, which ends somewhat later in Sudanian areas of the Gulf of Guinea states. As usual, the Inter-Tropical Front has begun moving southwards. Rainfall levels for the month of September in the western part of the Sahel were generally below average. The Sudanian zone could still get more rain, which would allow late-planted sorghum, corn, and cowpea crops to fully mature. In contrast, all late-planted crops in the Sahel will be unable to complete their growth cycle, particularly in areas affected by lags in the start-of-season and drought conditions (east-central Chad, west-central and western Niger, northeastern Mali along its border with Niger, northern Burkina Faso, western Mali, northern Senegal, and virtually all of Mauritania). These areas will be facing large production shortfalls.

    Moreover, local infestations of all types of crop pests, which had stayed within normal ranges up until August, increased in scale at the tail end of the season. Crop losses due to grasshopper infestations and a poor distribution of rainfall in the Sahelian belt of Chad are responsible for the 25 to 50 percent below-average levels of pasture production, crop production, and wild plant products in this area. Though the scale of reported losses in Niger (Maradi) and border areas of Nigeria is not unusual, the grasshopper infestation late in the season is definitely a source of concern, whose effects on crops and pasture are still undetermined. However, the region-wide harvest outlook for 2011 is still optimistic, calling for a generally average to good harvest.

    On the whole, pastoral conditions are poorer than usual, particularly in Mauritania, western and central Mali, western Niger, and other localized areas. However, the impact of pasture and water deficits on the volume and duration of household sources of food and income and the location of the hardest-hit households is still uncertain in the face of the following: mixed results in the distribution and quality of pasture, the approximately 25 percent lower stocking rates than before the 2009/10 crisis in Chad and Niger, and the high reproductive rates for all types of animals for the good 2010/11 season expected to pay off in 2011/12. As of the middle of October of this year, Mauritania was the only country with migratory movements by pastoralists and livestock indicative of critical pasture or water shortages.  Moreover, most pastoral populations will soon be leaving their home bases to begin their normal seasonal migration, sometime between November and January, as crop-growing areas are freed up after the harvest.

    The month of October is also marked by widespread harvests of millet, cowpea, and groundnut crops in the Sahel and corn crops in Sudanian areas. This year’s extremely localized harvests beginning in September did not quickly progress and become as widespread as usual due to the late start-of-season and extremely spread-out growing season, in turn, leading to smaller than usual market supplies. Thus, prices have been unusually high, hovering above the seasonal average, making food access in September more difficult than usual, particularly in the Sahel, as well as in Sudanian areas. However, conditions will gradually improve over the next few months as more and more crops are harvested. Once the harvests are in, market conditions should fall closer in line with normal seasonal trends.

    Rises in international market prices for rice and corn continue to threaten the region’s food security, particularly in coastal areas that regularly import these two grains. However, these price increases have not yet been passed on to many inland markets across the region. Rice prices in most countries are still generally stable and this trend could continue into next month with fresh harvests of locally-grown rice crops. However, there are visible concerns in Mauritania, where harvests have been poor, as well as in other countries like Ghana and Guinea, where prices have been well above seasonal averages since June of this year. Nevertheless, even with the current price levels in these countries, there has been no appreciable change in food access since last month.

    There was no change in the food security situation between the month of September and the early part of October of this year due to the slow start of the harvest season. The end of the lean season has been temporarily delayed for market-dependent households. In general, farming households are seeing a slight improvement in their situation with the limited harvesting activities already underway, though supplies of crops are still insufficient to adequately provision markets. However, visible improvements are expected by the end of the month, continuing into November, as is normally the case. This should solidify the situation of households throughout the region currently in IPC Phase 1 (no or minimal acute food insecurity) through the end of December. However, as of January of this coming year, many households in the Sahel, particularly in the above-mentioned trouble spots, will be facing an earlier-than-usual deterioration in their food security situation with the premature depletion of their food reserves, earlier- and steeper-than-normal rises in prices, and the regression in terms of trade, putting them in IPC Phase 2 (stressed).

    Figures Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Current food security outcomes, September 2011

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Current food security outcomes, September 2011

    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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