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2016/17 main season crops are developing normally

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Liberia
  • June 2016 - January 2017
2016/17 main season crops are developing normally

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Key Messages
    • Seasonally normal food access and livelihoods will enable most households to maintain typical food consumption patterns between June 2016 and January 2017, in line with Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    • Off-season harvests of palm nuts, cassava, plantains, pineapples and local vegetables are ongoing though they typically decrease between June and September. However, during this time period, food consumption will continue to be seasonally normal due to rice imports and sufficient cassava products (ex. gari, fufu) on local markets.

    • Main season 2016/17 crops (upland rice, cassava, corn, peanuts beans, etc.) are growing normally, despite irregular rainfall over Liberia in April and May. Meanwhile, work related to swampland clearing for rice cultivation in July/August and the rehabilitation of tree crops (cocoa, coffee, rubber and palm) are providing poor households with daily labor contracts at seasonally normal levels. Main rice harvests are expected to be average and start on-time in August and September.

    • Along coastal areas, fish availability and incomes are currently below average due to atypically rough seas. Similarly, some rubber tappers have recently lost their jobs as local rubber production scaled down due to low international prices. For affected populations, these shocks are expected to negatively impact household purchasing power and food consumption, though households are still expected to meet minimum food requirements. A small number, making up less than 20 percent of the total population in affected zones, will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW
    Current Situation
    Economic recovery

    Liberia’s economy recovery after the Ebola outbreak is ongoing but slow. According to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), GDP growth rose from 0.7 percent in 2015 to about 2 percent increment during the first quarter of 2016. The improvement is due mainly to a reduction of public expenditures by 21.7 percent, a rise in tax revenues by 4.5 percent and an increase in personal remittances by 7.8 percent.

    Even though commercial activities have resumed fully, most small and medium businesses are still struggling to recover lost revenues, customers, and support services including credit, transport, processing and storage facilities. Building Markets reported in January 2016 that inabilities to acquire loans and use other financial opportunities are preventing better performance and expansion of the small Liberian businesses.

    Additionally, international iron ore and rubber prices, two key exports for Liberia, have been declining over the past several years (Figure 1). This has resulted in reduced local operations and prices, as well as job losses for workers in these sectors.

    Rural livelihood activities

    Planting activities for 2016/17 main season crops (rice, peanuts, beans and cassava) are ongoing across the country with sufficient rainfall levels for current activities, despite below-average rains to date across most of the country (Figure 2). Meanwhile, preparations for swamp rice cultivation in July/August and the rehabilitation of tree crops (cocoa, coffee, rubber and palm) are taking place, creating daily labor opportunities for rural households, especially the poor. Off-season harvests of corn, cassava, palm nuts/oil, plantains, vegetables, and fruits are also continuing although the availability of these products on markets is beginning to decline as most farmers are too busy planting rice and transportation becomes more difficult during the rainy season.

    Fishing activities along coastal areas have almost stopped because of atypically strong winds and waves over the Atlantic Ocean in April and May. This has caused contract labor and in-kind payments on fishing boats, as well as related activities (ex. fish drying, firewood sales and transport), to come to a standstill. To cope, affected households are intensifying various other livelihood activities including selling charcoal, bush products (ex. bamboo for construction), and fishing baskets, planting cassava, and hunting crabs.

    Many small producers and workers in the rubber industry, especially in Bomi, Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Monterrado, have not resumed full-scale operations due to atypically low rubber prices. During a FEWS NET field assessment conducted in April 2015, many affected poor households reported that they were intensifying other livelihood activities, such as palm oil and charcoal production, farming, and petty trade, to offset the effects of lost incomes from rubber production. In addition, iron ore operations are still at below-normal levels, causing financial hardships for workers and their households.

    An estimated 4,000 West Point residents were displaced in April because of rainstorms and rough seas. According to media reports, these households have been relocated to temporary shelters in VOA outside Monrovia by the Government through the National Housing Authority (NHA). Additional losses due to strong winds in May and June have been reported by the media, although the extent of damages or impacts on livelihoods is unknown.

    Humanitarian Assistance

    Various kinds of support including cash-based transfer programmes are targeting Ebola-associated orphans (est. 8,900 individuals) and survivors (est. 6,000 individuals) across Liberia. Ten thousand households in Bomi, Maryland, Grand Kru, and River Gee Counties are also benefiting from the World Bank’s 10 million USD loan for poverty reduction and social protection through the Liberia Social Safety Nets Project (LSSNP) at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP). In addition, the WFP Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) pilot project launched in June, completed the first feeding round for 1,900 schoolchildren in two districts (Ganta and Saclepea) in Nimba County, while the regular USDA supported school feeding programme is also continuing. However, these programs will be disrupted soon as schools across the country are closing for their normal break from June/July to September.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for the June 2016 to January 2017 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    Agriculture:
    • Rainfall: Current NOAA forecasts are indicating an increased probability of below-average rainfall during the remainder of the rainy season in Liberia. Given these forecasts and below-average rainfall levels to date, FEWS NET assumes total rainfall levels will be roughly 1,540 to 1,820 mm in Nimba County, 1,800 to 2,210 mm in Maryland County, and 2,000 to 2,300 mm in Lofa County[1]. Rainfall will peak between June and September in central and northern areas, and in October in southern bimodal zones. This will be sufficient for normal crop growth and development.
    • Agricultural harvests: The main season rice harvests will start on time between August and September in the Southeastern Region and in October in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, other crops including cassava, plantains, peanuts, corn, beans, and vegetables will be harvested in July and August to ease food accessibility constraints during the lean season.
    Markets and trade:
    • Value of the Liberian dollar: Following recent trends, the value of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar will likely depreciate causing imported goods to become slightly more expensive. Currently, the CBL official exchange rate is down from 91 L$ against 1 USD in April to 94 L$ presently in June.
    • Rubber production and prices: Local production and prices will remain low compared to past years, in line with global price projections.
    • Imported fuel prices: Due to an oversupply at the global level and weak local seasonal demand, currently low fuel prices (L$270 or USD2.96 pump price per gallon) will be maintained or increase slightly.
    • Imported rice availability and prices: Imported rice will be available at average levels throughout the scenario period since imported rice stocks in Monrovia are replenished regularly and expected below-average to average international rice prices.  
    • Local staple food availability: During the June to September lean season, local rice supply will be at seasonally low levels. Supply levels will then improve after main rice harvests start in August in the Southeastern Region and become widespread across the country by October. Cassava will also be adequately available, maintaining seasonally average prices through at least January 2017.
    • Transport availability and costs: Though currently low fuel prices are likely to continue through the end of 2016, worsening road conditions and the remoteness of rural areas will seasonally limit transport and increase transportation costs between June and September. This will drive a seasonal increase in staple food prices (ex. imported rice) in rural areas during this time period.
    Livelihoods:
    • Labor demand: Demand for agricultural workers will continue at seasonally normal levels throughout the scenario period. Heavy rains in July and August are expected to slow down activities during this time period although opportunities will then rise again from September/October (the beginning of main season harvests) through January (the start of the next cropping cycle). In coastal areas, labor demand for fishing-related activities is expected to be below seasonal normal levels between June and September due to a significant reduction in the availability of contracts on fishing boats and for work relating to fish processing. However, as sea conditions typically normalize in September, the resumption of active fishing and fish processing/smoking activities will cause demand for workers to rise back to seasonally normal levels through January.
    • Fish availability and prices: The availability of local fish will be at below-average levels while prices will rise to above-average levels between June and September because fishing activities have mostly stopped due to abnormally rough seas. However, the start-up of fishing activities again in September, along with imports, will help prices normalize prices between September and January 2017.
    • Firewood supply and prices: In coastal areas, firewood supply will be at below-normal levels between June and September due to limited access as most of the wood is brought in by boats that have been disrupted by the atypically rough seas. However, due to limited fish drying activities, prices of firewood will remain at normal levels. Outside of coastal areas, demand and prices will be at seasonally normal levels through January 2017.
    • Remittance flows: Remittances flows will remain seasonally normal throughout the scenario period. Flows will increase between June and September as household members send back additional cash to improve food access during the lean season, as well as cover non-food expenditures such as school fees and clothing for Independence Day celebrations. Another increase will be observed in December for Christmas celebrations.
    Other key drivers:
    • Ebola virus disease (EVD): Ebola virus transmissions will remain under control with very few to no new cases during the scenario period.
    • Civil insecurity: Stability will be maintained after UNMIL withdrawals in June 2016, despite expected rallies relating to the October 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.
    • Flood related displacement: Rainstorms and flooding between June and September are likely to displace people in low-lying neighborhoods, especially in Monrovia and areas near the coastline.
    • Refugees and food assistance: WFP will distribute food rations to estimated 16,000 Ivorian refugee population in camps located in Nimba, Maryland and Grand Gedeh Counties between June and July. Meanwhile, the Liberia Refugees Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) estimates that 20,000 refugees in Liberia will participate an ongoing voluntarily repatriation process that is expected to continue through the end of the year.  
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    All areas of Liberia will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between June 2016 and January 2017 due to normal incomes and food sources. Although supply levels of local rice across the country and of imported rice in certain rural areas will be seasonally low between June and September, households will still be able to access food through 1) market purchases using incomes from typical sources 2) harvests in July and August of cassava across the country and of peanuts, corn and other vegetables in Lofa, Bong and Nimba Counties, and 3) wild foods, including bush yams, palm nuts, and snails. The main rice harvests, starting by August and September in the southeastern counties, will also improve food availability and consumption during the second half of the outlook period (October 2016 to January 2017).

    In coastal areas, certain poor households (making up less than 20 percent of the total population in affected zones) are expected to have below-average incomes from daily wage contacts on fishing boats and firewood sales between June and September 2016. During this time period, they will face difficulties meeting their basic non-food expenditures and are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. However, the resumption of active fishing activities in September will return these households to Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    Likewise, poor households who have lost their jobs due to reduced rubber operations and associated incomes, especially in Bomi, Margibi, Bong, Nimba and Monterrado, are coping through increased charcoal production, migration, remittances, and borrowing. Though making up less than 20 percent of the total population in affected zones, they will also face difficulties meeting basic non-food expenditures and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the scenario period.

     

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.


    [1] Estimates based on rainfall modeling using historical CHIRPS rainfall data.

     
    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes for February 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes for February 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Historical TSR20 international rubber and iron ore prices (in USD)

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Historical TSR20 international rubber and iron ore prices (in USD)

    Source: World Bank Commodity Price Data (Pink Sheet)

    Figure 2. CHIRPS rainfall anomalies between March and May 2016 (mm)

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. CHIRPS rainfall anomalies between March and May 2016 (mm)

    Source: USGS

    Figure 3. Historical Liberian dollar to US dollar exchange rate

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Historical Liberian dollar to US dollar exchange rate

    Source: OANDA

    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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