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Households are resorting to markets early for cereal supplies

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Niger
  • April 2022
Households are resorting to markets early for cereal supplies

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  • Key Messages
  • CURRENT SITUATION
  • UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS
  • Key Messages
    • Following the poor harvests of the previous growing season, cereal stocks in the majority of households are low to non-existent. At the same time, food consumption needs are increasing with the additional effects of the Ramadan fast, driving high demand in markets.

    • The prices of dry cereals and consumer products (milk, oil, wheat, and their derivatives) are continuing to increase compared to the five-year average, reducing the purchasing power of poor households. The income earned from field preparation work, maintainence of irrigated crops and livestock care is lower than average due to a higher-than-average supply of labor from agricultural producers facing shortages.

    • The security situation remains volatile, with persistent attacks and killings, but at lower levels than in 2020 and 2021. People continue to be forcibly displaced and their livelihood activities are affected by looting, theft, and taxation by armed groups.

    • The irrigated crops planted in October and November 2021 are currently being harvested, but yields and income are estimated to be lower than average due to the scarcity and high purchase price of agricultural inputs. 

    • Public and partner humanitarian interventions are underway to meet the food needs of beneficiaries, including those in conflict areas in the Diffa and Sud Maradi regions. Persistent security restrictions and terrorist attacks in the Tillabéry region and northern Tahoua are hindering adequate coverage of the population's food needs and interventions.


    CURRENT SITUATION

    The current food situation in the country has inherited lower-than-average cereal production from the previous agricultural growing season. This below average production will contribute a maximum of two months to the food consumption needs of poor households according to the final results of the evaluation of that season, compared to an average of three to four months. As a result, household stocks in April 2022 — including poor households – are depleted as are the markets, on which households rely for 58 percent of their food, according to calculations based on Household Economy Analysis (HEA) profiles, currently supply 100 percent of food supplies for the majority of poor households, who have not had stocks for four months (since December 2021).

    Market supplies are still available but are well below normal in April for local food products including millet, sorghum, and maize because of low cereal stocks and additional needs associated with the Ramadan fast. Demand for household food consumption is very high in the markets, where cereal prices are similar to those usually observed during the lean season, with higher-than-average increases of 27 percent. This upward trend could increase further and reach record levels as a result of the pressure on consumer demand for local products (millet, sorghum, and maize) due to the decline in local production, cross-border trade and the substitution of imported products (oil, wheat, wheat flour, pasta, and milk). Availability of imported products will decrease in response to the security crisis in Ukraine/Russia, which is adversely affecting imports. Conflicts and insecurity are causing disruptions to food supplies from source countries and exacerbating the decline in the availability of consumer goods. The additional effects of the crisis in Ukraine are having a direct impact on other common consumer goods, such as pasta and vegetable oil, the availability of which has decreased. Moreover, prices that were increasing at a rate of 5 to 10 percent before the crisis have suddenly increased by almost 50 percent compared to past months and years. 

    Seasonal income-generating activities for poor households mainly consist of agricultural jobs tending to irrigated crops, self-employment such as the sale of hay, firewood, or charcoal, and gold mining. Ongoing irrigated crops work provides food and income-generating opportunities for poor households. However, this work is rare because there is a surplus of labor, resulting in lower earnings.

    According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report of March 31, 2022, Niger has 264,257 internally displaced persons and 250,238 refugees as a result of ongoing conflicts and insecurity within the country and in neighboring countries. The deterioration of the security situation is more pronounced in the Tillabéry region, which has had more attacks (60 compared to 30 to 35 in Tahoua and Diffa) and victims in recent months, and is home to nearly 40 percent of internally displaced persons in the country.

    Livestock feeding and drinking conditions have deteriorated further as a result of low rainfall in the last growing season, which has prevented good fodder production and replenishment of watering holes. According to the results of the evaluation of the growing season by the Ministry of Livestock Farming, the availability of pasture is only 30 percent of the seasonal average, although food supplements are available in government-subsidized markets to support livestock feeding.  Livestock are in average physical condition and their overall market value has increased by 8 to 19 percent compared to the five-year average for bulls and rams. Terms of trade for goat/millet remain generally favorable in most markets, with the average price of a goat more than one year old allowing a poor farmer to obtain 112 kg of millet, compared to 118 kg in the same period of 2021.

    Activities related to the implementation of the government’s emergency plan to assist food-insecure populations from November 2021 to March 2022 mainly involve free, targeted food distributions. These targeted distributions reached the majority of people in food insecurity in Diffa and Sud Maradi, with 100 kg of cereals, 10 kg of pulses, salt, and 5 liters of oil handed out per household per month, reaching 330,000 people. Security constraints in the Tillabéry region and Nord Tahoua made it impossible to reach the majority of people in need.


    UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

    The projected FEWS NET scenario assumptions for February to September 2022 have not changed, except for the following updated assumptions:

    •  Violence perpetrated by armed groups is expected to increase to above-average seasonal levels and will lead to further internal displacement. This will occur as large-scale military operations in Mali continue, forcing armed groups to seek refuge in Niger, where their terrorist activities will be more intense.
    • Given the decline in agricultural production, persistent insecurity and the disruption in the cereals trade, supplies will diminish sharply and result in a continuation of the upward trend in prices.
    • Other consumer products such as pasta, vegetable oil, wheat, and wheat flour are usually imported via France, Algeria, Nigeria, and Ghana. The disruption of international trade linked to the crisis in Ukraine has resulted in a slowdown in imports, with some countries such as Algeria closing their borders to protect local availability and consumption. This has led to a sharp drop in exports to Niger, where the availability of these products is significantly lower than average. These product shortages will persist while the crisis in Ukraine continues and could lead to substitution with local products, leading to a general rise in prices and higher-than-expected prices.
    • The effect of substituting imported products, such as wheat and pasta, with local products may lead to costs being passed on and a further increase in food prices. This situation significantly restricts poor households’ access to staple foods.
    • Rising fertilizer prices will lead to limited use in agricultural production during the rainy season and for irrigated crops, leading to lower production of crops such as local rice, pepper, onion, and especially irrigated rice, for which technical services anticipate a 10 to 15 percent reduction in yields.
    • Agricultural sources of income will provide access to lower-than-average incomes as a result of the disruption to agricultural and pastoralist activities caused by the limited use of inputs, leading to a decline in areas under cultivation and demand for agricultural labor.
    Figures

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    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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