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Late start of the rains could delay crop growth in certain areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Niger
  • August 2013
Late start of the rains could delay crop growth in certain areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Nationwide Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Key Messages
    • Consistent with the updated seasonal rainfall outlook, the growing season in the Diffa, Zinder, Tillabéri, and Tahoua areas is lagging an average of 20 days behind schedule compared to the normal start-of-season calendar. Crop production in localized pockets in these zones hinges on the continued good progress and an average to slightly extended end of season.

    • July millet and sorghum prices on markets in Diffa, Zinder, and Maradi were as much as 20 to 50 percent above the five-year average, reflecting the five to 10 percent jump in prices on these markets between June and July. However, food assistance programs are mitigating the effects of these high prices by reducing household dependence on market purchases.

    • Ongoing donations and targeted cereal distributions are keeping food insecurity at Minimal levels (IPC Phase 1) in most livelihood zones. However, the effects of the high prices and declines in seasonal income in the Diffa region are creating food security Stress in that area (IPC Phase 2). By October, upcoming harvests, the usual drop in prices, and the improving seasonal incomes should restore Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) in most of the country.  

    Current Nationwide Situation

    Status of the 2013/14 growing season

    The unusually late start of the growing season in localized areas of Tillabéri, Maradi, Zinder, and Tahoua was followed by 30 to 40-day-long dry spells. Crop planting activities in these areas did not definitively get underway until the end of July or the beginning of August, which is relatively late when compared to the normal start-of-season between May and June. A closer look at seasonal progress shows some disparities in crop growth and development. The most significant disparities noted by the joint mid-season crop assessment mission conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, SAP (the National Early Warning System), FEWS NET,  WFP, and the FAO,  of the developmental stages of where millet crops were observed in the heading/flowering and seed-setting/maturity stages in the southern reaches of the Dossa region in August and in the advanced sprouting/height growth stages in the northern and central reaches of the Tahoua and Maradi regions and the southern reaches of the Zinder region. Ninety-five percent of the 59 farming villages in Nguigmi department (Diffa) had not yet successfully planted any crops as of the beginning of August, by which time crops in that area are normally well established.

    According to the updated seasonal rainfall outlook (by Agrhymet) predicting average to above-average levels of rainfall in July, August, and September and an extension of the rainy season beyond the end of September, good agro-climatic conditions since July are likely to continue through the end of September and possibly into early October. On the whole, the September/October cereal harvests are expected to be average, with good harvests of cash crops (cowpeas, peanuts, sesame, and chufa nuts). However, localized production shortfalls are expected in 20 to 30 percent of the areas planted in millet and sorghum crops in localized areas within Zinder (Matameye and Magaria departments), Tillabéri (Ouallam, Tillabéri, and Téra departments), Tahoua (Bouza, Keita, Tchintabaraden, and Abalak departments), and Diffa (Nguigmi). The expected production shortfall of over 90 percent in the pastoral department of Nguigmi will be mitigated by a greater reliance on animal production and flood-recession maize from the Lake Chad area than on rainfed crops in these areas.

    Conditions in pastoral areas are marked by an improvement in vegetation levels and surface water sources. Improvements in household sources of food and income are also observed, with the rebound in milk and dairy production and increasing livestock prices. The 10 to 15 percent increase in the average price of livestock between June and July was fueled by the good physical condition of animals and high demand. However, terms of trade for livestock/millet are below-average due to the high price of millet.

    Market conditions

    Markets are still stocked with imported maize and sorghum from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Benin and with a growing supply of crops from Nigeria, where security has stabilized since July with the observance of Ramadan. Subsidized crop sales from government inventories and farmer cooperatives are also helping to improve supply. However, markets have been unable to keep pace with the continued strong demand for household consumption and religious gift-giving (Zakat). Prices on the Diffa, Zinder, and Maradi markets rose by five to 10 percent between June and July (compared with average monthly price fluctuations of two to five percent), putting them 20 to 50 percent above the five-year average. In contrast, prices on the Tillabéri and Dosso markets stocked with larger supplies of imports were 30 to 40 percent below-average, particularly with the improvement in rainfall conditions and the promising outlook for the rainy season in the Dosso region.

    The nutritional situation was marked by a 14 percent decline in new cases of malnutrition rates between June and July. However, active screening efforts at the village level revealed seasonal increases in the number of cases of malnutrition in the departments of Magaria (60 percent), Say (101 percent), Loga (97 percent), Téra (41 percent), and Abalak (77 percent). 

    Updated Assumptions

    Trends in food security indicators confirm the projected food security outlook for the period from July through December 2013. However, the outcome of the growing season in some departments of Zinder, Tahoua, Tillaberi, and Maradi depends somewhat on a continuation of seasonal rainfall into October. FEWS NET will update its assessment of the performance of the growing season and its impact on food security upon the release of the latest updated rainfall outlook.

    In general, cereal availability from food assistance programs in the form of donations, targeted distributions, and subsidized cereal sales will keep food insecurity at Minimal levels (IPC Phase 1) between now and October. The upcoming harvests and ensuing seasonal decline in prices and improvement in wage income will maintain and extend Phase 1 conditions (Minimal food insecurity) to most household groups around the country between October and December. In spite of the generally normal start-of-season and the food assistance programs in Diffa region, the poor performance of the growing season in Nguigmi department and the contraction in market supplies are exposing poor households to capacity gaps precluding spending on nonfood needs. However, with the outlook for normal to above-normal rainfall activity, the expected average to good harvest of flood-recession maize crops in the Lake Chad area should significantly improve food availability and boost farm income between October and December. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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