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Trends in prices are favorable for average household food access

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mali
  • October 2016 - May 2017
Trends in prices are favorable for average household food access

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In general, there are average to good cereal production prospects, pointing to average food availability across the country in 2016-2017. According to the government, production forecasts exceed the five-year average by 32 percent. However, there are reportedly large shortfalls in crop production in localized riverine areas of the Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao regions due to the flooding in those areas. 

    • There are adequate market supplies in all parts of the country. Household food access is steadily improving with the availability of freshly harvested crops, cereal prices below the five-year average, and favorable terms of trade for livestock/cereals from the standpoint of pastoralists.

    • However, by March, food security is likely to escalate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels in riverine rice-growing areas of Djenné, Gourma Rharous, Bourem, and Gao departments with the sharp decline in rice production in the wake of the floods between August and September. Households impacted by losses of assets and/or crops from the heavy rains across the country between July and September 2016 will find themselves in the same situation.


    Current situation

    Progress of the growing season

    Forecasts by the Rural Development Sector Planning and Statistics Unit (CPS/SDR) put cereal production 32.4 percent above the five-year average. However, the poor rainfall in late September disrupted the normal growth and development of crops in the flowering-heading stage in localized areas around the country, which will reduce crop yields in these areas. In addition, the losses of croplands due to the heavy earlier than usual flooding will reduce rice production along the Niger River, particularly in Djenné, Bourem, Rharous, San, Bla, and Mopti departments. The availability of early harvests of pulses, peanuts, and cowpeas ended the lean season for agropastoral populations and is improving the food access of poor households until the main harvest season in October-November.

    In general, an examination of pastoral conditions shows lush pastures. There are average to well-above-average levels of plant biomass production all across the country. On the whole, there are average levels of animal production, generating average household incomes. There have been no reported epizootic outbreaks and the vaccination campaign for livestock continues with the help of a number of development partners, mainly in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions.

    Operation of markets and prices

    There are average market supplies of cereal crops from the growing sales of remaining cereal stocks in high-production areas. Cereal supplies are up from last month in crop-producing areas and stable elsewhere in the country. Market supplies in unstable areas of the northern Mopti and the Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal regions remain dependent on trends in the security situation in these areas but suffice to meet consumer demand.

    Millet prices on markets in regional capitals fluctuate, but tend to have stabilized since last month in all regional capitals. Millet and sorghum prices are close to or below the five-year average on all markets in regional capitals across the country. More specifically, they are under the five-year average by five percent in Kayes, 16 percent in Ségou, 12 percent in Koulikoro and Gao, and two percent in Timbuktu.

    There are average supplies on livestock markets. Prices for goats, the animal most often sold by poor households, are below the five-year average by 17 percent in Bourem and 13 percent in Ansongo, close to the average in Gao, and above the five-year average by seven percent in Rharous and by more than 30 percent in Timbuktu. Terms of trade for goats/millet exceed the average by nine percent in Gao and Rharous, five percent in Goundam, and 18 percent in Mopti. The approximately 20 percent below-average terms of trade in Bourem are curtailing the market access of pastoral households.

    Humanitarian assistance

    The last distributions of free food assistance to more than 700,000 recipients in the Gao, Timbuktu, Mopti, and Kidal regions by the Food Security Commission through partner NGOs involving 11,428 metric tons of cereals were made in the month of September. According to the National Food and Nutritional Security Survey (ENSAN) conducted in September 2016, approximately 30 percent of households across the country have benefited from distributions of free food rations. There are also ongoing government-subsidized food sales programs in the Gao, Timbuktu, and Kayes regions. In addition to improving food availability for recipient households, these operations have helped buffer rises in food prices on local markets.


    There have been reports of major physical damage and human fatalities from the heavy rains between July and September in certain parts of the Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu, Koulikoro, and Kayes regions. The resulting losses of homes, assets, equipment, livestock, and storehouses stocked with food crops contributed to the erosion in household livelihoods in these areas. According to the DGPC (the Civil Defense Agency), as of the end of September, the government and certain humanitarian partners had supplied an estimated 18,000 or more recipients with food and nonfood assistance. The erosion in their livelihoods and losses of crops caused by flooding problems are heightening the vulnerability of poor flood-stricken households to food insecurity.

    Security situation

    There are continuing reports of security incidents in northern and central areas of the country, which are interfering with the movement of people and goods in these areas. The unstable security situation has disrupted herd movements in Tenenkou and Youwarou departments, for example. The economic recovery in these unstable areas is being disrupted by the contraction in economic activity and income-earning opportunities for poor households.

    Food security situation

    Most agropastoral and pastoral households across the country have average food access bolstered by an average stream of income from their usual types of labor, in-kind wage payments in farming areas, and below-average cereal prices. The above-average terms of trade for livestock/cereals from the standpoint of pastoral households are helping to give them average market access to meet their food needs. According to the National Food and Nutritional Security Survey (ENSAN) conducted in September 2016, 10 percent of households around the country had poor food consumption scores (FCS) at the end of the lean season in September and six percent of households had poor HHS (household hunger scale) scores. The SMART survey conducted in July 2016 put the global acute malnutrition rate based on weight for height measurements at 11.5 percent, compared with 12.4 percent in 2015 at the same time of year. There should be an improvement in current food consumption compared with the situation back in September with the better food availability from recent harvests. Accordingly, most households are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    There is a continuing flow of DPs and refugees returning to their home areas. As of the end of September 2016, there were reportedly 33,042 internally displaced persons, including 29,525 in the north and 3,517 in the south. These poor displaced households struggling to rebuild their lives (build homes, find new jobs, start new businesses, etc.) and households whose livelihoods were damaged by the heavy rains and floods are having difficulty meeting their food and nonfood needs and, thus, are in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity.


    The most likely food security scenario for October 2016 through May 2017 is based on the following underlying assumptions with regard to trends in conditions across the country.

    Farming activities

    • Granivorous bird situation: There will be the usual crop damage from bird infestations in rice-growing areas along the Niger River from the Office du Niger irrigation district in Ségou to the Gao region and in the Western Sahel between October 2016 and February 2017. The large availability of wild grasses should limit the extent of the damage to these crops. By March 2017, the usual drying up of seasonal lakes and ponds will cause these bird populations to head to off-season rice-growing areas, causing minor to average damage to those crops.
    • Flooding of rivers: Current high-water levels on rivers and streams are above to well-above figures for the same time last year and the multi-year average. According to forecasts by the OPIDIN (the flood forecasting agency for the Inland Niger River Delta area), water levels will continue to rise through the month of November, which will put them close to figures from 1964, posing a serious threat to local populations. The size of the flood zone which, on average, covers an area of 14,000 ha, will be close to 22,000 ha this year. The rapidly rising floodwaters at different gauging stations are beginning to trouble agropastoral as well as fishing households, causing varying amounts of damage according to the specific location. The drop in water levels at the end of the month will limit the extent of the damage in affected areas.
    • Crop production: The combination of a more than 20 percent above-average overall cropping rate for the country as a whole and good pattern of rainfall should translate into average to above-average levels of crop production at the country level. Production forecasts by the Rural Development Sector Planning and Statistics Unit (Cellule de Planification et de Statistique du Secteur de Développement Rural) show a larger cereal surplus than in 2015. However, the flood-induced crop losses from heavy rains and runoff between July and September will reduce crop production in localized flood-stricken areas across the country, particularly in the Inland Niger River Delta and the river valley in the Timbuktu and Gao regions, where flood-irrigated rice production could be reduced to as low as 30 to more than 50 percent below-average.
    • Off-season crops: Based on the levels of reservoirs (lakes and seasonal lakes and ponds) and rivers, there are average to above-average production prospects for off-season crops harvested beginning in October in the case of market garden crops and in March in the case of rice and flood-recession crops in flood-recession farming areas of Timbuktu, Kayes, Mopti, and Gao. Ongoing assistance for crop diversification purposes and, in particular, for the socio-economic reintegration of households in northern regions of the country impacted by the security crisis will improve crop production through the distributions of high-quality seeds and equipment by the government and its partners.
    • Farm labor: In general, there will be average to above-average employment opportunities for farm labor in the main harvest between October and February, for the planting of off-season crops between January and March, and for field clean-up work and the spreading of fertilizer between April and May in farming areas across the country. Their average incomes and food supplies from in-kind wage payments will improve the food access of poor households engaged in these activities.

    Other sources of food and income

    • Herd movements and animal production: There will be a normal pattern of return migration by transhumant livestock herds beginning in October. The surplus pasture production, supplies of crop residues, and good levels of animal watering holes will help maintain livestock in good physical condition between October and March. However, the complete inundation of bourgou grassland areas in the Inland Niger River Delta will limit the availability of pasture for grazing livestock between December 2016 and June 2017. In general, there will be average levels of animal production (milk, meat, and butter) owing to the expected good pastoral conditions in normal dry-season holding areas for livestock between February and May (farming areas and areas surrounding bourgou grassland pastures in riverine and lake areas). There could be minor disruptions in herd movements in the Kidal, Timbuktu, Gao, and northern Mopti regions from the ethnic fighting in these areas.
    • Fishing: Current projections put fish catches across the country at or above the average based on the above-average levels of rivers and streams for the flooding of fish breeding areas. A sustained consumer demand for fish for domestic sale and export to neighboring countries and assistance programs for fishermen providing equipment and helping with the processing of fish will help improve catches during the fishing season between November and May, are raising the incomes and improving the diets of fishing households across the country. However, the limited availability of fishing equipment and diminishing fish stocks will preclude especially good fish catches, on par with flooding levels.
    • Migration and population movements: The usual flow of labor migration since September to urban areas and major farming areas of the country for work in the harvest and into neighboring countries will continue. The mining sites reopening with the end of the farming season are the destinations of choice for many migrants from the Kayes and Sikasso regions. The average incomes and food supplies sent or brought home by these migrants between March and May will help meet household food and nonfood needs during that period. There is a steady flow of DPs (estimated at 33,042 people) and refugees returning to their homes, which is in sharp contrast to the new population movements in conflict areas, particularly in Kidal, Tenenkou, and Youwarou departments. These displacements will further weaken the livelihoods of affected households struggling to recover from the after-effects of the security crisis.
    • Non-farm labor: Households across the country will routinely engage in their usual types of nonfarm labor and small trades between October and May. The average levels of income generated by these activities will help improve the purchasing power of poor households dependent on these occupations, particularly in areas with production shortfalls, where they will be scaled up. However, the fewer job opportunities for unskilled labor (in construction, small trades, etc.) in northern areas as a result of the unstable security situation in these areas, which is limiting investment, will translate into below-average incomes.


    • Cereal prices: In line with normal season trends, prices will move downwards as of October with the availability of crops from average to above-average harvests and the slowdown in consumer demand from households in farming areas. The unloading of remaining inventories in October in expectation of good crop yields will help bring down prices through February 2017. Institutional stock-building needs engendered by the distributions of food rations during the lean season between June and September 2016 (by the OPAM (the Malian Produce Board), WFP, etc.) will create a larger than average market demand by March. The average to above-average volume of crop production and large stocks in high-production areas and large trader inventories will mitigate the impact of this high demand on cereal prices, which will stay below the five-year average between October and March and near or close-to-average between March and May 2017.
    • Livestock prices: The supply of livestock will rapidly increase with the return of transhumant herds and sales of animals by pastoralists looking to purchase cereal supplies beginning in October to meet a growing demand with the approach of the year-end holiday season. This will help keep livestock prices high, which will stay above the five-year average throughout the outlook period from October 2016 through May 2017. Though driven down by the growing supplies of animals from pastoralists looking to meet their food needs as of December-January and the deterioration in the physical condition of livestock between April and May, livestock prices will remain above-average. This price trend will be sustained by good pastoral conditions, keeping animals in satisfactory physical condition, and average to good levels of crop production, preventing households from atypically resorting to thinning their herds. Terms of trade for goats/millet will continue to be over five to as much as 20 percent above-average throughout the outlook period.

    Other important issues

    • Impact of floods: The shortfall in crop production and erosion in livelihoods due to the floods between July and September in the Sikasso, Koulikoro, Ségou, Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, Ménaka, and Kidal regions affecting more than 18,000 residents will impair the ability of poor households to adequately meet their food and nonfood needs.
    • Security situation: In spite of the localized skirmishes between armed groups and the military, there should not be any escalation in security problems during the outlook period. However, there will continue to be localized disturbances throughout the outlook period, particularly in the Kidal, Timbuktu, Gao, and northern Mopti and Ségou regions, which will curtail the movement of people and goods in these areas.
    • Nutritional situation: There should be an improvement in nutritional conditions compared with the situation during the lean season (June through September) with the availability of freshly harvested crops, better dietary diversity, and food prices promoting average household food access between October 2016 and February 2017. By March, as usual, the deterioration in sanitary conditions due to water shortages, the increasing heavy market dependence of Malian households, the normal contraction of available supplies of animal products, and the implementation of stock management strategies will adversely affect the household nutritional situation. The 11.5 percent global acute malnutrition rate based on weight-for-height measurements should come down in line with normal seasonal trends between October and March. This downward trend will be followed by a seasonal rise between March and May. The generally satisfactory nationwide food security situation and active pursuit of screening and treatment programs for malnutrition should keep the GAM rate close to the average (between eight and 14 percent) throughout the outlook period.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The availability of early crops is putting an end to the lean season for agropastoral populations across the country. Access to home-grown crops and below-average cereal prices are helping to give most households average food access. Food access will further improve with the main harvest season extending through the month of December, allowing for the rebuilding of household food stocks. Food supplies from in-kind wage payments for work in the harvests of better-off households and the ensuing decline in prices will help further improve the food access of poor households with average incomes from their usual types of farm and non-farm labor, work in small trades, and other strategies.

    Pastoral households will reap the benefits of average levels of animal production which, in addition to improving food consumption, will generate income to give them average market access. The good physical condition of livestock will help keep prices above-average between October 2016 and May 2017, maintaining above-average terms of trade for livestock/cereals for the entire outlook period, which should help give pastoral households average market access.

    The average food access of pastoral and agropastoral households across the country from the generally average availability of cereal crops, average levels of income-generation from normal household activities, and above-average terms of trade for livestock-cereals will enable most households to continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between October 2016 and May 2017. However, poor households stricken by floods triggered by the heavy rains and/or runoff from rivers in Djenné, Gourma Rharous, Bourem, Gao, San, Bla, Sikasso, and Ségou departments will be unable to meet their food and nonfood needs without resorting to atypical coping strategies such as migration, wage labor, and borrowing, for example. According, these households will be in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity as of March.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes for October 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes for October 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Terms of trade for millet/goats (kg/animal)

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Terms of trade for millet/goats (kg/animal)

    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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