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Response to the food crisis threatened by instability and civil security problems

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • March 2012
Response to the food crisis threatened by instability and civil security problems

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface
  • Updated food security outlook

  • Preface

    Since the publication of this report, military, political, and economic tensions have escalated.
    The impacts on food security are rapidly evolving.

    Key Messages
    • Crop production and pasture deficits and exceptionally high prices for local grain crops at harvest time will put poor households in IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase 2 (Stress) between April and June of this year (Figure 1). 

    • Even with markets functioning normally, ineffective implementation of the emergency plan will put certain households in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) between July and September, when grain prices are at their seasonal peak and household reserves and farm income are at annual lows (Figure 2). 

    • The numbers of food-insecure households in what are expected to be crisis areas (IPC Phase 3) between April and September will increase with the influx of IDPs fleeing the fighting in the north (in Gao, Kidal, and Timbuktu). It will be easier to gauge food insecurity risks once the effects of the sociopolitical and military crises are more clearly delineated.

    Updated food security outlook

    According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Planning and Statistics Unit (CPS/MA), the revised assessment of Mali’s 2011/12 grain harvest puts aggregate output at 5,778,000 metric tons. This production figure, adjusted upwards from the November 2011 forecast, does not fully reflect the impact of climatic hazards. It is 27 percent above the five-year (2006-10) average. Any visibly below-average grain harvests were limited mostly to the western Sahelian area of Mali (the northern reaches of the Kayes, Koulikoro, and Ségou regions and the Inner Niger Delta in the Mopti region). In general, agropastoral production and fish catches in these parts of the country are 50 percent below-average and, in certain localized areas, as much as 80 percent below-average, particularly in the western Sahel.

    The grain balance sheet as of March of this year shows a net 1,716,320 metric ton across-the-board grain surplus with projected commercial imports and exports and inflows of food aid.

    Apparent per capita grain availability is estimated at 342 kg/person/year, compared with an average need of 214 kg/person/year. A comparison of this grain balance sheet and the response plan approved by the Food Security Program Monitoring and Coordination Committee and the Malian Government reveals a paradox. Moreover, the unusual pattern of market trends suggest smaller harvests and lower reserves than estimated in the balance sheet. However, the balance sheet does not consider grain consumption by livestock, which is expected to be well above-average. It also underestimates the larger volume of exports to neighboring countries like Mauritania in 2011/12.

    Updated estimates as of March 2012 already put the volume of commercial imports and inflows of food aid at 258,537 metric tons, equivalent to the five-year (2005-2009) average for total annual imports. This breaks down into 176,000 MT of rice, 73,020 MT of wheat, and 8,724 MT of coarse grains. Projections of commercial imports and inflows of food aid for 2012 are well above-average to mitigate the effects of a growing domestic grain demand and soaring prices. Since 2007/08, imports have ensured adequate market supplies, particularly of rice, the main substitute grain for poor households in the Sahelian zone.

    Production shortfalls in structurally deficit areas and dubious harvest forecasts for this past growing season forced farmers in localized crop-producing areas in the central and southern part of the country to hold onto their inventories (particularly carry-over inventories from the record 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons) in spite of the highly attractive prices commanded by these crops late last year and early this year. Institutional procurements and a protracted high demand in affected regions and countries have helped keep prices high. Supplies of certain grain crops such as sorghum, millet, and corn on assembly markets coming out of the harvest season have been smaller than usual, comparable to 2004/2005 supply levels. In spite of the many petty controls, markets are supplying structurally deficit areas and are able to meet local demand. Though failing to prevent a larger than usual volume of exports, particularly of sorghum, informal trade barriers are increasing the cost of grain in destination areas.

    Average millet prices in February of this year were 60 to 80 percent above last February’s relatively low prices and the five-year average. There are reports of exceptionally high prices in western Mali, in Sahelian areas of the Kayes and Koulikoro regions. The average price of sorghum in Nara in February of this year was 170 percent higher than at the same time last year (Figure 3). Differences in prices for local rice between this and last year are relatively smaller (between 10 and 20 percent). 

    The physical condition of livestock has been affected by the lack of pasture or poor balance of pasture and water. The price of animal feed is roughly 15 percent higher than last year. Most large-scale purchasers of animal feed are Mauritanians having sold off part of their herd to marshal the necessary resources. Though the rate of such purchases has declined since February, this buying continued into March, though at a slower pace.

    Cattle supplies are larger than last year, bolstered mainly by imports from Mauritania, which are helping to meet local demand in major cities across Mali and, at the same time, sustain exports to Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. Prices for small animals have been stable, but supplies will mount as the physical condition of livestock continues to deteriorate. This will drive prices for livestock in pastoral areas down sharply, beginning as of March, while grain prices are expected to stay very high. As a result, the already weaker terms of trade for millet/livestock from the standpoint of pastoralists compared with March of last year will further decline, thereby complicating food access for both pastoralists and agropastoralists.

    In line with the revised assessment of food security conditions in Mali by the national Early Warning System (SAP) and the recommendations made in the action plan approved by the Food Security Program Monitoring and Coordination Committee and the Government of Mali, since February of this year, 49,721 metric tons of free food aid have been distributed to households in 111 target municipalities (“communes”), including seven new municipalities. Likewise, since February, 84,177 and 88,012 metric tons of grain, respectively, have been sold at a subsidized price of 15,000 XOF per 100 kg sack to households in 85 municipalities classified as facing “food difficulties” or “economic difficulties.” These operations have been ongoing since January, but may not prove as successful as originally hoped due to the added needs of victims of the armed conflict in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions. 

    The highest risk groups for acute food insecurity are very poor and poor households dependent on farming (affected by shortfalls in on-farm production and the lower demand for farm labor) and net consumers of grain purchased on the market. The latter are concentrated in rainfed millet and sorghum-growing areas of the western Sahel (in northern Kayes and Koulikoro), emergent wetland areas of the Mopti and Gao regions in livelihood zone 04 (Millet and transhumant livestock rearing), rice-growing areas of the Delta in the Mopti region and, to a lesser extent, localized areas of the Niger River Valley in the Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu regions in livelihood zone 06 (Niger Delta/Lakes – rice and livestock rearing (agropastoral.)) The deterioration in security conditions in the northern part of the country (in the Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal regions) and, to a lesser extent, along the Mauritanian border with the armed conflict between Malian government forces and rebel groups will heighten food insecurity risks and add to the areas already expected to experience stress and crisis levels of food insecurity. A strengthened monitoring system will be needed to meet the humanitarian needs of growing numbers of IDPs as the fighting drags on and continues to spread. 

    Figures Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Trends in average sorghum prices

    Figure 2

    Trends in average sorghum prices

    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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