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Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • October 2014 - March 2015
Assumptions for Quarterly Food Security Analysis

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  • Avertissement
  • Seasonal performance
  • Cross-border conflicts and displacement
  • Ebola outbreak
  • Regional trade and price dynamics

  • Avertissement

    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 October 2014 to March 2015 are based on the following regional assumptions established in late September 2014:


    Seasonal performance
    Outlook for pastoral conditions

    In general, pastoral conditions will be average to above-average across the Sahel. As illustrated in Figure I showing seasonal maximum NDVI anomalies as a percentage of the average (2001-2013), forage availability is above average in most pastoral and agropastoral areas. However, there will be small to moderate localized forage deficits in certain areas demarcated on Figure 1 by the red circles. More specifically, these areas are:

    • the Lake Chad area;
    • an area along the southern border between Burkina Faso and Niger;
    • the southeastern reaches of the Timbuktu region;
    • localized areas in the far southwestern reaches of the Timbuktu region, northwestern Mopti, and the far northern reaches of Ségou in Mali and in southeastern Hodh el Chargui in Mauritania; and
    • northern Senegal and southwestern Mauritania.

    In most cases, these pasture-deficit areas are fairly small in size, which should enable transhumant pastoralists to maneuver around them in search of good pastures and, thus, avoid creating overgrazing problems. However, the region’s worst forage deficits, equivalent to as much as 30 percent of average, are centered around northern Senegal and southwestern Mauritania. The size of this area gives transhumant pastoralists less maneuvering room with which to avoid overgrazing. Animal grazing conditions in these areas could start to deteriorate earlier than usual, by February/March 2015. Conditions in the area around Lake Chad may also prove especially critical with the restrictions on southern migratory movements by transhumant herds on account of the conflicts in northeastern Nigeria and the CAR.

    Desert locust situation and other crop pest and bird infestations

    In general, with this year’s reportedly minor infestations and the measures taken by agencies to ensure any needed treatments, there should be average to below-average crop losses from all types of predators. However, the locally poor rainfall conditions in pastoral areas will mean below-average levels of wild grass production, which could create locally heavy pressure from grain-eating birds, translating into larger than average losses of millet and rice crops in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Nigeria, and Chad.

    Outlook for crop production

    Projected production figures will be made available upon the completion of ongoing crop assessment missions by the CILSS, FEWS NET, FAO, WFP and local governments. However, based on the current pattern of rainfall, crop development, and end-of-season conditions in the various areas in question, there should be generally average to above-average levels of cereal production across the region. More specifically, crop yields should be average to above-average in the eastern basin, above-average in the central basin, and average to slightly below-average in the western basin. However, long delays in crop planting were observed in Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal and as a result, even an extension of the growing season into the first dekad of October will not put millet production in these countries back on track on account of the photosensitivity of these crops. On the other hand, yields for other crops without this same photosensitivity (peanuts, cowpeas, and sorghum) could be average. Moreover, continued rainfall in all three basins through the end of September will create better-than-average conditions for the growing of off-season crops in most areas. With the lucrative market prices of market garden produce, larger than average numbers of households will engage in market gardening and irrigated rice farming activities, pointing to above-average yields from these crops.

    More specifically, the breakdown of crop production forecasts by basin is as follows:

    Eastern Basin (Benin, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad)
    • There will be average to above-average levels of millet production based on the above-average crop yields in major crop-producing areas of Niger (the Zinder, Tahoua, Maradi, Dosso, and central and southern Tillabéry regions), Chad (the Chari-Baguirmi regions and Sudanian zone), and Nigeria (the states of Bauchi, Gombé, Kano, Kaduna, Zanfara, and Katsina) with the good performance of the 2014 season.
    • The good seasonal conditions in major crop-producing areas of central Nigeria and northern Benin will translate into above-average levels of maize production.
    • With the smaller areas planted in both rainfed and flood-recession crops in northeastern Nigeria as a result of the ongoing conflict with Boko Haram, there will be average levels of sorghum production.
    • There will be below-average levels of rainfed rice production on account of the low flood levels at the beginning of the season and extending into July. On the other hand, there will be average to above-average levels of irrigated rice production. Thus, since irrigated rice farming activities account for a larger share of total output than rainfed rice, on the whole, there could be average to above-average levels of rice production in this basin.
    • With the good growing conditions in crop-producing areas between the end of July and the end of September, there will be a larger than average volume of cowpea production.
    • Forecasts for other cash crops (cotton, peanuts, sesame, and soybeans) are predicting average to above-average production levels based on the good rainfall conditions in Sudanian areas of Chad, Nigeria, and Benin between June and August.
    • There will be above-average levels of tuber production (yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava), with an especially large boost in cassava production, whose lucrative selling price is a continuing incentive for farmers with the growing agro-industrial demand for this crop.
    Central basin (Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, and Togo)
    • The generally good conditions in crop-producing areas of Mali and Burkina Faso will translate into above-average levels of millet production.
    • The continuing rains into the first dekad of October in the Sudanian zone should offset the damaging effects of the late start of the rainy season and ensuing dry spells in July and will produce average to above-average yields of maize.
    • These same favorable conditions will also translate into average to above-average levels of sorghum production.
    • There will be below-average levels of rainfed rice production on account of the low flood levels at the beginning of the season and extending into July. On the other hand, there will be above-average levels of irrigated rice production. Thus, with the larger share of total output from irrigated rice farming activities, there should be, on the whole, average to slightly above-average levels of rice production in this basin.
    • In general, there will be average levels of cowpea production in the basin as a whole, with above-average yields in local areas of Burkina Faso.
    • Forecasts for other cash crops (cotton, peanuts, sesame, and soybeans) are predicting above-average production levels based on the large cropped areas and good rainfall conditions between August and September.
    • There will be average levels of tuber production (yams, sweet potatoes, and cassava) based on the large areas planted by farmers with the delayed progress or failure of maize or cotton crops, particularly in southwestern Mali and western Burkina Faso.
    Western basin (Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone)
    • There will be below-average levels of millet, sorghum, and maize production with the late start-of-season, losses of rainfed crops, and generally average harvest forecasts for irrigated and flood-recession crops in Mauritania.
    • There will be an average volume of cowpea production with the poor conditions in central and northern Senegal, which is the main cowpea-producing area in this basin.
    • There will be average to below-average levels of total rice production in Senegal, Mauritania, and Gambia with the poor rainfall conditions and low flood levels in these countries. Crop yields in the other countries in this basin, namely Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, will be average to slightly below-average due to the effect of the Ebola outbreak on labor availability to bring in the harvest.
    • The poor rainfall conditions in major crop-producing areas of Senegal and Gambia will translate into average to below-average levels of peanut production.

    Cross-border conflicts and displacement

    Boko Haram conflict in northeastern Nigeria

    This conflict is expected to escalate, producing growing numbers of armed clashes in affected areas, particularly in light of recent information confirming the occupation of a number of villages by Boko Haram and with the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for February 2015. Residents of areas at the epicenter of the conflict (Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states) will find their livelihoods completely depleted by the effects of the violence in these areas. In addition, there will be a stream of new refugees heading to neighboring areas of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon and further internal displacements within Nigeria between now and March 2015. There will also be below-average rates of market attendance.

    Conflict in the CAR

    The intensity of conflict in CAR should decline between now and March 2015 with the steady progress in the disarming of the different militia groups engaged in fighting. Business activities could also gradually resume over this period. However, local livelihoods, household purchasing power, and government services will not be restored between now and March. The rate of population displacement could slow during this period but, at best, the current number of DPs in different host areas will remain stable.


    Ebola outbreak

    There were 13,703 reported cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as of October 29th. The size of the population expected to be infected with the Ebola virus in the next several months is still uncertain. However, according to CDC and WHO models, there could be a sizeable increase in the number of cases, even with ongoing treatment and control efforts. Based on currently available information, FEWS NET is using for its scenarios a planning figure of 200,000 to 250,000 cases of Ebola in the three worst-off countries by mid-January 2015. Based on this assumption, FEWS NET is anticipating the following:

    • There will be a severe disruption in food availability on local markets on account of the growing fear among traders of contracting the Ebola virus, official and unofficial restrictions on population movements, increases in the cost of doing business for traders and importers, market closures, and the likely depreciation of local currencies.
    • Shortfalls in income will limit household food access, even with continued food availability on local markets. Both rural and urban households will face a sharp contraction in most of their sources of income (farm labor, petty trading, and sales of forest products, bush meat, and crops) as the result of a general economic slowdown and major market disruptions.
    • Farming households will increase their consumption of locally grown cassava, postponing the need to buy food on local markets. However, even with the large areas currently planted in cassava or the large supply of cassava on local markets, the heightened dependence on this crop will only partly mitigate the food consumption problems engendered by the limited operation of local markets.
    • There will be a continued disruption in the flow of livestock trade between affected countries and their neighbors. The ban on hunting and on the sale of bush meat in affected countries will put added pressure on poultry and fish consumption and could trigger atypical rises in the prices of these foodstuffs, particularly in large urban areas. It will reduce sales revenues, as well as intake of essential proteins for child growth and development.
    • The borders between Ebola-affected countries and their neighbors will remain closed until there is an improvement in the results of efforts to eradicate the outbreak. The border between Guinea and Mali which, up until this point, has stayed open, could be closed in the wake of the first case of Ebola in that country in October.
    • There will be a slowing of seasonal migration from other West African countries to Ebola-affected countries to work in the mines or in the processing of cash crops, such as coffee and cocoa, on account of migrant workers’ fears of contracting the virus and the temporary shutdown of a number of processing plants, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
    • Most cases of Ebola will be confined to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and any expansion of the outbreak to neighboring countries will be minor and quickly controlled without having any major impact on the operation of markets or on food security.
    • There could be a slowdown in international maritime trade in affected countries as importers have increasingly less incentive to do business in these countries.

    Regional trade and price dynamics

    Carry-over stocks for 2014/15

    With the general improvement in the food security situation in 2014, there should be average carry-over cereal stocks (household food stocks and trader inventories) in all countries, except for potentially below-average local stocks in parts of northeastern Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic. Traders will have larger than average carry-over stocks of cowpeas from the above-average 2013 harvests of these crops after their continued sluggish sales throughout 2014, with retail prices during the lean season below prices that they paid during the harvest period. As a result, many traders, particularly in Niger and Nigeria, have chosen to hold onto their inventories rather than sell them at a loss.

    Institutional procurements

    There will be normal needs for the annual rebuilding of national food security stocks this year based on the normal draw-downs of these reserves in 2014 and the generally average levels of crop production. There will also be average amounts of institutional procurements.

    Cereal markets and trade

    Conditions on West African cereal markets are currently stable with the marketing of the cereal stocks of traders and large farmers with an optimistic view of the outcome of the 2014/15 growing season. In general, there are no current or expected future restrictions on regional trade between countries, except in border areas of Ebola-affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) and in and around northeastern Nigeria, which will affect supplies of cowpeas and livestock in southeastern Niger, western and southern Chad, and other parts of Nigeria. There will also be a smaller than average volume of trade between Chad and the Central African Republic.

    Supplies on both rural and urban markets should improve over the next few months with the upcoming harvests between October and December. In addition, there will be a normal aggregate cereal demand for human consumption in all basins, with localized pockets of high demand in cereal-deficits areas, which are not expected to put much pressure on supply.

    Business on livestock markets will remain fairly brisk with the growing internal demand in the Sahel and foreign demand from the coastal states in anticipation of the end of the year holiday season and with the steady flow of exports to Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria.

    Breakdown of price trends by basin
    Eastern basin (Niger, Nigeria, Benin, and Chad)
    • Millet prices will continue to fall between October and December, approaching the five-year average, except in conflict areas in northeastern Nigeria and the CAR. Prices could then start to increase as of January 2015, but should stay close to the five-year average through the end of March with the good crop production levels in the Sahelian zone and large availability of market garden crops.
    • Sorghum prices will start to come down in November-December with the later harvests of these crops, but could start to increase as of January 2015, driven by industrial demand in Nigeria.
    • Maize prices will also fall below-average between October and December and could potentially remain stable through March 2015 with the low household demand in the Sahel.
    • Cowpea prices are already coming down and will continue to fall, approaching or, in some localized areas, dropping below the five-year average, but only for a short time, with many farmers already mastering the triple-bagging method of conserving cowpeas, which is helping them to better manage their stocks and market supply.
    Central basin (Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Mali)
    • Millet prices will drop below the five-year average in November/December, driven by the normal interplay of supply and demand, with supply visibly outstripping demand with the widespread harvests between October and December and lack of demand. However, the announcement of institutional procurements and the fairly low prices of these crops will revitalize commercial demand, encouraging them to engage in more active trading to build up their inventories. This demand will put a little more pressure on an increasingly small and localized supply after the end of the harvest season. Thus, prices could inch upwards through March 2015, but will stay below the five-year average.
    • Even with the pressure of demand from Senegal and Mauritania, trends in sorghum prices will follow the same pattern as in the case of millet.
    • Maize prices in this basin will also drop below average between October and December and could potentially stabilize at their December levels through March 2015.
    • Cowpea prices will come down slightly during the harvest season but will stay above average, driven by high urban demand in the central and western basins and the low supplies compared with needs in both basins.
    Western basin (Mauritania and Senegal)
    • Millet, sorghum, and maize prices will come down during the harvest season in Senegal, Mauritania, and Gambia between October and November but will stay above the five-year average. With this year’s expected poor harvests, prices for all three crops will start to rise by December as demand outstrips supply, although any such price increases will be moderated by potential low-cost supplies from the central basin.
    • Peanut prices will be near-average with the expected average volume of production and average supply of these crops.
    • Prices for imported rice and wheat in Senegal and Mauritania could potentially stabilize barring any unforeseen pressure on the international market prices of these crops.
    Figures Figure I. Seasonal maximum NDVI anomalies as a percentage of the average (2001-2013)

    Figure 1

    Figure I. Seasonal maximum NDVI anomalies as a percentage of the average (2001-2013)

    Source: USGS

    Figure 2. Projected wholesale millet prices on the Kano market in Nigeria, in N/100kg

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Projected wholesale millet prices on the Kano market in Nigeria, in N/100kg

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Projected maize prices in Bobo Dioulasso between September and March, in CFAF/kg

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Projected maize prices in Bobo Dioulasso between September and March, in CFAF/kg

    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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