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Favorable terms of trade maintaining market access for agropastoralists

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mali
  • September 2013
Favorable terms of trade maintaining market access for agropastoralists

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  • Key Messages
  • Progression of market activity in the north since June 2013
  • Current Situation
  • Market Context and Development
  • Outlook updated to December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The availability of green-harvested maize, tubers, and rice marks the end of the lean season in southern and northern growing areas, where poor households are seeing improved access to food products thanks to continued humanitarian aid, the availability of milk and gathered foods, and especially favorable terms of trade. Agricultural zones in the southern part of the country are experiencing Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).

    • Households in pastoral areas, where the lean season ended in late July, will be in IPC Phase 1, Minimal acute food insecurity, in October. This improvement is due to good grazing conditions, the ready availability of milk, and especially favorable terms of trade, in addition to humanitarian assistance.

    • Normalized operation of key livestock and staple food markets in the north, despite fluctuations in trade flows from Algeria, has allowed for sufficient market supply. The continuation of this trend is allowing northern regions to benefit from the return of livestock wholesalers coming from both Mali and neighboring countries. A high demand for animals at present is causing prices to increase up to  35 percent above average.

    • Continuation of rainfall through late September as forecasted will improve prospects for average agricultural production country-wide, and is also reflected in the staple food availability on consumer markets. However, production of rainfed crops will fall below average in Gao Cercle and in localized areas in the Kayes, Koulikoro, and Ségou regions due to poorly distributed rainfall.

    • Prices for staple cereals are stable or declining slightly in the south, preserving household access to food, especially since no major anomalies are affecting the usual income sources. Prices are remaining 5 percent above average in Rharous and 15 percent above average in Timbuktu, compared to at most 10 percent above average on the southern markets.

    Progression of market activity in the north since June 2013

    Favorable security conditions in the northern regions are encouraging displaced populations and refugees to return to their home areas. According to the EWS commissions, as of September 15 more than about 75 percent of the displaced persons had returned to their home areas, which has revived economic activities with the support of gradually opening northern banks. Additionally, the gradual reopening of markets in pastoral zones since June has expanded access among pastoral households for livestock sales and food purchases. These previously poorly-functioning markets have had a boost from the increasingly noticeable arrival of the usual Malian traders and from neighboring countries.

    Increased demand for cereals due to the return of large internally displaced populations and refugees has revitalized this economic sector, which recently lagged due to reduced demand. The flow of goods from south to north has improved as demand has increased. The availability of off-season products—rice in July and flood-recession rice in September—improved the market supply of rice, reducing household dependence on markets in the Timbuktu region. Goods are again starting to flow in from Algeria after a period of disruption, ensuring an appropriate supply of various products and fuel on the markets. Prices have fluctuated since June, but are moving toward stability. Livestock prices have continued to increase and are exceeding the average by up to 35 percent. Terms of trade have followed the same trends and remain favorable to pastoral and agropastoral households.

    Current Situation

    Even though cereal prices are significantly above average, pastoral and agropastoral households have good access to food, dueto favorable terms of trade for goats/millet, which are more than 30 percent above average, and to increasingly available employment opportunities. Food security has improved for northern populations with the availability of milk and milk products, income from the usual activities as displaced populations and refugees return, and the harvesting of gathered foods and millet in the Ansongo and Menaka rainfed-crop areas. Food and cash distributions by to more than 50 percent of northern residents until December 2013 will further this trend.

    Progression of the season

    Rain continues to fall in southern agricultural areas, in line with ACMAD’s weather forecasts, supporting a likelihood of at least average production. In northern regions, rainfall is tapering off, marking the end of the season. Soil moisture and anticipated rainfall in southern production areas should allow crops to complete their growth cycle. However, north of Kayes and in some parts of the Mopti, Koulikoro, Ségou, and Timbuktu regions, rain shortages have affected crop development, which will likely reduce yields at these locations. In the river basin of Gao Cercle and in Timbuktu, shortfalls explain the atypical delay in planting flood-irrigated rice and stress observed in some dune-production areas.

    Plant health continues to be good overall. The migratory locust activity remains quiet, despite favorable reproductive conditions. However, security conditions in these northern areas do not allow for constant observation. The risk of an infestation is currently thought to be low according to monitoring agencies in growing areas. The high availability of plant biomass in breeding areas in the Kidal region is currently limiting southward movement of insects, though slight to average damage has been observed in pastures. According to the FAO, the intertropical front’s retreat from the Sahelian zone at the end of the rainy season will encourage the locusts migrations to southern Algeria and Libya beginning in November.

    Northern seed shortages reported in the July outlook were mitigated through significant assistance from the government and humanitarian agencies (ICRC, FAO, and others) in the form of free seed (rice, sorghum), fertilizer, and fuel, which allowed farmers to plant flood-irrigated and irrigated rice. Flood-irrigated rice is now being replanted due to insufficient rain. Thanks to the availability of production inputs, crop prospects are average overall despite the delay in flooding required for planting. In the river corridor from Taboye to Bara in the Gao region, where additional irrigation was needed for germination before the flood’s arrival, the farming season in general and rice production in particular are shaping up to be average to below average. This will reduce availability for affected households, who will revert to markets earlier than usual, in February. Millet crops still require more rain to properly complete their growth cycle. Fortunately, the rains are forecast to continue until mid-October in the central and southern parts of the country.

    Pastoral conditions are marked by well-filled ponds and plentiful dune-grown and flooded pasture. However, biomass remains below average in some parts of the north and in the eastern part of the Ségou region. Most herds are in their usual winter pastures. Both the condition of the animals and milk production are average. Income among pastoral and agropastoral households is improving as small ruminant prices rose by more than 10 percent from July to August with the approach of the Tabaski holiday. Such livestock price increases have favored market access by pastoral and agropastoral households by boosting the terms of trade for goats/millet to more than 30 percent better than average.

    Market Context and Development

    In the South

    The nearly 19 percent decline in cereal supply between June and July was tied to variable rainfall early in the growing season (OMA). This retention effect on market supply and prices was alleviated by the fact that local traders had large stocks on hand and were looking for buyers. The availability of legumes and maize reduced market dependence among agropastoralists. New hope brought by the resumption of the rains in late July freed up producer and trader stocks, especially of maize, the harvest of which is now underway in southern production areas. Short-cycle maize from the Ivory Coast arrived in smaller quantities than usual but also helped improve availability of this commodity (OMA, July). In addition, the usual opening of community cereal banks from August to September is helping to improve local availability and acting as a buffer against seasonal price increase.

    Increased demand in the north since June 2013, due to the return of displaced populations, and an unusual increase in demand from Niger, helped to resume cereal flows from the southern regions. The month of Ramadan contributed to a typical increase in millet prices throughout the country. Demand was atypically below average in the southern part of the country due to high production in consumption zones, and to food assistance that reduced demand in the north, which experiences structural shortages. Markets responded to increased demand in Ségou and Mopti, however, due to the purchase of 4000 MT of cereals by OPAM to replenish the national safety reserve in June and July, adding to the roughly five percent seasonal increase on the Monimpé and Koutiala markets. While most markets were stable during this period, some wholesale markets showed downward fluctuations, as with maize in Sikasso and millet in Bankass. Millet prices were 3 to 10 percent lower than average on the production markets in Koutiala, Bankass, Monimpé, and Bla. Markets in the regional capitals are posting prices that are 17 to 35 percent lower than last year but still above the five-year average; millet prices are about 4 percent lower in Sikasso and 12 percent in Bamako, and sorghum and maize prices are 4 to 10 percent lower.

    In the North

    The main northern markets are increasingly resuming normal operations, thanks to the return of relative stability and the economic revival. Food availability is average to good overall, and will show continued improvements with the current harvest of flood-recession crops (sorghum, rice, legumes) and off-season rice crops, along with regular inflows from Mopti and San. The same is true of the interior markets, in particular Bourem, Bamba, and Rharous in the river corridor, which are ramping back up to their usual volume with the resumption of river travel by Compagnie Malienne de Navigation boats.

    Regular trade flows in the south allowed for an appropriate market supply from June to September. The resumption of imports of food products, rice, food pastes, and milk from Algeria, and the partial opening of the border after a reduction in trade tied to conflict among the main importers in August, ensured sufficient market supply of these products and a return to normal price trends. Prices increases of 10 to 15 percent for these products were observed on the Gao and Timbuktu markets. Cereal prices are stable compared to last month and remain 11 to 16 percent higher than the five-year average. Prices for food products, millet, and rice were stable compared to July except in Timbuktu, where millet prices decreased by four percent from the previous month, thus preserving household access to food. The price of rice is nearly 20 percent below average in Timbuktu and four percent above average in Gao.

    The number of livestock traders from Mali and neighboring countries returning to the markets in both sedentary and migratory pastoral areas, on the increase since June 2013, has contributed to the increase in demand that is providing good sales opportunities for pastoral and agropastoral households. High demand for livestock in Niger, Benin, Nigeria, and the southern part of Mali partially explains the continuing rise in animal prices, which have risen to over 35 percent above average since markets opened in June. This jump is much appreciated by pastoral and agropastoral households; it is significantly improving incomes and therefore their access to food, for which prices are remaining stable. The terms of trade are also improving significantly, being 30 percent above average and 10 to 25 percent above last month.

    Outlook updated to December 2013
    Northern Mali (Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions)

    Food and nutritional conditions will continue to improve in northern areas, including pastoral zones, thanks to the likely continuation of humanitarian aid until December 2013 and to increasing animal prices, especially small ruminants, with the approach of the Tabaski holiday. The holiday, consumption by military forces, and significant exports to neighboring countries will contribute to rising demand on the various markets. Prices that are more than 30 percent above average will positively contribute to household income for pastoralists and agropastoralists. Food distributions scheduled through December, cash transfers to both resident households and vulnerable returning households, and migrant transfers, which have increased more than usual, will enable households to meet their food needs (EWS 2013). The opening of banking structures will revitalize commercial operations as much as one would wish, which will jump-start all related activities such as brokerage, materials handling, animal herding, and small capital transactions for poor households.  The first millet harvests in Gourma in late September and the availability of gathered foods will provide relief for poor households, wwo depend on them during this period, especially in livelihood zones 2 and 4. Residents of northern regions who will be Stressed in September will see their food insecurity level drop to Minimal beginning in October, in view of the significant improvements mentioned above and the rice harvests expected in November. In the river corridor municipalities of Gao that suffered from the lack of rain, households will turn to their adaptive strategies, such as increased market gardening, more fishing, and out-migration to mitigate the negative effects of any notable drop in production.

    Southern Mali

    The lean season has nearly ended for residents of the south as green-harvested corn, legumes, and tubers have become available, and conditions will improve even further as more harvesting is done. The food security outlook of Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for most southern residents beginning in September is confirmed despite the slight to average delay seen in the growth of the country’s crops. The usual activities continue to bring in average income for poor households, which are less and less reliant on the markets for their food supply. Able-bodied workers are beginning to depart in growing areas. Various forms of humanitarian aid (food, cash) for displaced populations and flood victims, particularly in Ségou and Bamako, will continue, allowing these households to meet their food needs.


    • The latest weather forecasts from ACMAD predict that the rains will continue until mid-October in the country’s production areas, which should allow crops to complete their growth cycles and yield average cereal production throughout the country. 
    • Expectations of an average season will encourage sell-offs in the country’s growing areas beginning in October. Cereal prices will drop from the previous month and will remain close to the average. The presence of large trader stocks will help limit the impact of institutional purchases by the government and humanitarian agencies on normal price trends.
    • In the north, markets will continue to meet demand for both southern food products and Algerian products. Food conditions should improve everywhere in the country as initial cereal harvests become available and harvesting gets into full swing. This will reduce poor households’ reliance on the market in mixed agropastoral and pastoral zones. As agricultural and non-agricultural labor picks up, income from these activities and fishing will improve poor household market access. Stressed northern populations should reach a Minimal level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) beginning in October.
    Figures Figure 1. Map of current food security results, September 2013

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Map of current food security results, September 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3: Terms of trade for millet/goats on urban markets for September

    Figure 2

    Figure 3: Terms of trade for millet/goats on urban markets for September

    Source: EWS, FEWS NET

    Typical seasonal calendar

    Figure 3

    Typical seasonal calendar

    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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