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Improved food availability and market access expected in the dry season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Liberia
  • December 2016
Improved food availability and market access expected in the dry season

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  • Key Messages
  • CURRENT SITUATION
  • Key Messages
    • Seasonally normal livelihoods, income sources, food access and consumption will be maintained through current main season harvests as well as through labor opportunities with land preparation, harvests and rehabilitation of cash crop plantations (palm oil, sugar cane, cocoa, coffee, and plantain/banana).  Households across the country will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between January and May 2017.

    • Market access and trade flows will continue to improve as the dry season begins in December and improves the road conditions. Improved transport and trade will allow for adequate stocks of both imported and local foods, including rice and cassava, between January and May 2017.  Prices are reported to be above average, historic levels as depreciation of the currency continues to cause inflationary trends.

    • Some poor households working in the rubber and mining sectors have been impacted by the low international rubber and iron ore prices. This, along with depreciation of the local currency, is reducing their purchasing power and food access. Though these households will be able to meet minimum food needs, they will face difficulties in accessing non-food items, and will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity between January and May 2017. 


    CURRENT SITUATION

    Seasonal progress: Most farmers, especially in the southeastern areas of the country, are taking advantage of normal seasonal dryness to clear land for the 2017 main season cassava and rice cultivation. Cassava and rice harvests from the 2016 season are continuing in the northwestern and central areas, while some farmers are also harvesting tree/cash crops and planting vegetables in the lowland areas. Rice harvest levels are estimated to be slightly below-average, while cassava harvest levels are being reported as above-average. Sufficient rains in the coastal areas are maintaining upland crops, especially backyard gardens in peri-urban Monrovia. Some of the swamp areas, however, were affected by atypically heavy rains and flooding which interrupted land preparations in November and may delay some off-season cropping in peri-urban Monrovia.

    Rural livelihood activities: Normal agricultural livelihoods are continuing across the country with the main season harvests, land clearing, and planting preparations for next season as well as with preparation of lowland areas to plant off-season crops, especially vegetables. Across the country, labor and income opportunities are starting to increase through work with rehabilitating plantations and harvesting of cash crops including palm oil, sugar cane, cocoa, coffee, and plantain/banana.

    In the southeastern and western areas, gold and diamond mining activities are providing typical incomes during the off-season. Palm oil production and processing is providing casual labor employment in the oil palm concession areas of Bomi, Sinoe, Riversess and Maryland, and is expected to create additional jobs related to transport and handling throughout the country.  In urban areas including Monrovia, construction work and petty trading are also providing typical dry season income opportunities.  There have been some trader reports of below-average market activities during the December/ November period due to the economic downturn in the country.  In terms of rubber and iron ore operations, despite slight improvement in November, domestic revenues and export volumes are still atypically low, in line with low international prices. As a result, Cocoa Rubber Plantation in Nimba County, a leading concession in terms of size of operations and workforce, started dismissing all of its 1200 staff in December following a standoff in October over salaries.

    Economic investment and recovery: In order to stimulate the economy, the government with its partners are making additional infrastructure investments, focusing on agricultural development and looking at governance reforms. Investments have also been made to improve the piped water system in Monrovia, to rehabilitate feeder roads across the country, and to complete work on the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant.  The power plant, which was completely destroyed during the Liberian civil war, is being restored to supply cheaper electricity across the country, with some output beginning in December. In addition to these investments, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has set requirements for all personal remittances through money transfer from abroad to Liberia to be paid in both Liberian dollar (25%) and US Dollar (75%) as of December 1, 2016. The requirement is meant to promote usage and strength of the local currency. Importers and citizens who send and receive money transfers are concerned over losses due to the Liberian Dollar (L$) depreciation, which has dropped from L$92 per US dollar in June to L$100 in December 2016.  According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and CBL, consumer prices and inflation rates have risen moderately due to the exchange rate.

    Humanitarian Assistance: Liberia does not have food aid or emergency response programs at the moment so international partners including the World Bank, SIDA, UNDP, FAO, and the WHO are generally supporting economic and EVD recovery efforts. Some recently approved project funding includes a Ministry of Gender led program to improve social protection and reduce violence against women and a Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) program to re-establish its statistics and information management systems. Agriculture and nutrition stakeholders also began a program to better integrate nutrition into the government’s agricultural plan and actions framework.  In terms of assistance around physical security, a UN peacekeeping mission is likely to remain in Liberia to support a peaceful transition to the new government. In anticipation of the 2017 elections, UNDP is supporting an Election Project to ensure capacity for Liberians to hold free, fair and democratic elections.

    UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

    The assumptions used in developing FEWS NET’s October Food Security Outlook remain unchanged.

    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH MAY 2017

    All areas of Liberia will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between January and May 2017 due to seasonally normal incomes and food sources. Stocks from the 2016/17 main cassava and rice harvests as well as the harvests of dry-season cash crops and vegetables will maintain food supplies and incomes through May 2017. Seasonally normal food availability and household consumption levels are expected. Certain poor households (making up less than 20 percent of the population in all counties) whose incomes have been affected by low international rubber prices, will minimally meet food needs and will have difficulties affording non-food expenditures. These households are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through May 2017. 

    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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