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Unbalanced supply and demand on food markets

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Niger
  • May 2012
Unbalanced supply and demand on food markets

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Very poor and poor households in agropastoral areas of Filingué, Ouallam, Tillaberi, and Téra departments will be in IPC 2 Phase 3:  Crisis into September. Household food access will be insufficient to meet minimum food needs despite likely emergency assistance programs.

    • The rapid rise in grain prices between March and April this year is a cause for concern for food access. In the coming months, with the steady growth in demand associated with the beginning of farming activities and the month-long Ramadan Fast, prices are expected to stay unusually high during the lean season.

    • The larger than usual influx of animals since February towards dry season concentration areas was more significant than normal given weak transhumance from Niger and a significant influx refugees and their animals following conflict in neighboring countries. Nevertheless, supplies of pasture and water, feed aid, and the normal progress of the growing season should suffice to meet minimum basic food needs in concentration areas starting in July.

    • Timely access to adequate quantities of quality seeds is presenting a problem, particularly in agropastoral areas of Tillaberi, Filingué, Ouallam, and Téra, where the 2011/12 harvest was not good.


    Updated food security outlook through September 2012

    Status of the 2012/13 growing season

    The growing season is slowly but steadily getting underway in farming and agropastoral areas of the Maradi, Zinder, Dosso, and Tillaberi regions, where a number of villages have been planting crops since the beginning of May. The situation is troubling, for certain poor, food-short households in the Tillaberi region who are having difficulty gaining timely access to adequate quantities of quality seeds after last year’s production deficits. Thus, as part of the assistance program for food-insecure populations, specialized agencies of the government of Niger overseeing the growing season are mounting an emergency assistance program for the provision of farm inputs (improved millet and sorghum seeds, bags of fungicide, and large quantities of fertilizer, or 6,879 of the required 9,642 metric tons) with the help of partner organizations. Some 450,000 households will benefit from this operation, compared with the usual 250,000 to 300,000 recipient households. The seasonal climate outlook for the months of July, August, and September of this year established in the course of the forum conducted in May in Burkina Faso is predicting above-normal rainfall in the east.

    Market situation

    In general, market prices for April were up from the previous month and the same time last year and above the five-year average. The Bakin Birdji market posted the largest price increases between March and April (including a 31 percent increase in the price of millet). There were also reports of unusually steep rises in prices for corn (8-21 percent), millet (11-31 percent), and cowpeas (16-20 percent) on other markets across the country, at rates exceeding the five-year average for the lean season (June through September). Prices stabilized in May, though there is normally a steady rise in prices beginning in May/June and continuing into September. Nevertheless, food prices on the Ouallam, Diffa, Tahoua, Niamey, and N’Gall/Agadez markets (specifically millet prices) stabilized between April and May thanks to grain flows from provisioning markets, mainly in Nigeria and Benin, to markets in grain-short areas. The general trend among very poor and poor households in agropastoral and farming areas facing a food access crisis is to replace millet with corn and/or sorghum, particularly in western Niger, in Agadez, and Diffa.

    There is typically a growing market demand for food crops in April and May with the return of migrant workers and the depletion of household food reserves. However, millet supplies in April of this year were low compared with the previous month, particularly in parts of the Maradi, Diffa, and Agadez regions. In general, there are adequate market supplies of corn and sorghum. Thus, given the adequate supplies on many local markets, the higher prices for millet, corn, and sorghum in April of this year were attributable mostly to hikes in prices in wholesale markets in March-April. The reported rises in prices on wholesale markets in February/March of this year quickly spread to retail markets in April. Shortages of inventories earmarked for sale under social marketing programs at subsidized prices between March and April also translated into hikes in prices on markets whose supplies are basically furnished by traders. Looking ahead to the next few months, with the steady growth in demand associated with the beginning of farming activities and the month-long Ramadan Fast, prices are expected to stay unusually high during the lean season.

    Nutritional situation

    In terms of nutrition, the steep rise in admissions to therapeutic feeding centers in March of this year leveled off in April. According to data on new reported cases, there were 63,143 new cases in April, compared to 67,171 cases in March. At least six out of every ten cases were from pockets of historical nutritional stress like Magaria, Matameye, Madarounfa, Tessaoua, and Aguié, which are also close to the Nigerian border. A noteworthy 30 to 60 percent of the malnourished children admitted to these facilities in border areas every year are from Nigeria. The deterioration in health conditions with the rise in seasonal illnesses will drive up admissions figures for malnourished children in the coming months.

    Assistance

    In the face of reported grain deficits, the government mounted an emergency assistance program for irrigated crops (onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and lettuce) all across the country between November of last year and April of this year. Output has been estimated at over 1,200,000 metric tons, or a grain equivalent of 338,224 metric tons of output in kcal. Assistance for the livestock sector included the sale of 20,000 metric tons of animal feed to pastoralists at government-subsidized prices, meeting 47 percent of needs and herd rebuilding assistance through the purchasing and distribution of over 11,000 small animals to 2,750 poor pastoral households in Dakoro in March of this year. Household income-boosting measures included the distribution of a total of 5.26 billion CFAF to 675,471 households between November of last year and April of this year. Subsidized grain marketing programs conducted in February, March, and April of this year helped give poor households access to 52,500 metric tons of grain. Looking ahead, scheduled food aid programs include cash transfer programs of 4.2 billion CFAF, distributions of 32,236 metric tons of free food aid to 432,000 households, and sales of 250 metric tons of grain at government-subsidized prices in May, June, July, August, and September of this year. There have been improvements to the large deficiencies of health and sanitation conditions for Malian refugees reported in the April 2012 Outlook at all refugee camps due to distributions of food and nonfood aid by the NGOs  Plan Niger and World Vision, supplementing the assistance furnished by the Government of Niger.

    Agropastoral areas of Tillaberi, Téra, Ouallam, and Filingué

    Grain markets in these areas are well-stocked by traders, mainly from Nigeria, who, in turn, are buying livestock and other cash products. Prices are high and demand has increased with the return of migrants to engage in farming activities. The main source of income for very poor and poor households for the purchasing of grain is wage income from employment in farming operations, for which there is a normal demand for labor in areas where the growing season has already gotten underway. Sales of firewood and straw are also generating income. However, with the unusually high prices of grain, the amount of grain which can be purchased with normal levels of household income does not suffice to meet food consumption needs. Thus, planned, funded, and likely assistance programs will not succeed in reducing the severity of food insecurity in these areas, which will remain in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) until September.

    Pastoral areas of Abalak, Tchintabaraden, and Tanout

    Contrary to analyses presented in the April 2012 Outlook, the animal feed assistance delivered to residents of this area has been able to help keep animals in normal physical shape for this time of year. The animal feed sold by partner organizations at subsidized prices served as extremely important feed supplements for animals currently converging on the Gadabédji forest reserve in northern Dakoro, which reportedly has sufficient pasture resources to sustain grazing animals for another month. Livestock prices are close to normal thanks to the good conditions in local and neighboring areas. Terms of trade for livestock-grain are below normal seasonal trends due to the exceptionally high price of grain. The rainy season should get underway by the end of June. Assuming that scheduled programs (subsidized sales of grain and animal feed and cash transfer programs for pastoral households) are, in fact, implemented, these pastoral areas should not experience an unusually sharp deterioration in food security conditions. Thus, these areas will be in IPC 2 Phase 3: Crisis between May and June, but conditions should improve to Phase 2 (stress) in July, August, and September as the normal onset of the rainy season in pastoral areas strengthens pasture availability. 

    Market gardening areas of Arlit and Tchirozérine departments on the Aïr Plateau

    Local markets are not reporting any shortages, but prices are extremely high due to elevated prices on southern wholesale markets. Household reserves are unusually low, with stockbuilding efforts sharply curtailed by the poor prices commanded by onion crops. The main farming activity in these areas is the harvesting of potato crops, whose market prices, though normal, are not good enough to revitalize conditions in these areas, where income-generating activities, mainly onion-growing activities, have come up short. The sale of onion crops at below-average prices has severely eroded the purchasing power of farmers unable to earn enough to repay the cost of the wage laborers hired on credit for their market-gardening operations. Food deficits have been eased by humanitarian programs involving the distribution of free food aid, the sale of 697 metric tons of grain at subsidized prices, and the transfer of over 135 million CFAF in cash-for-work activities for the purchasing of grain. This assistance has helped local households meet their food needs. However, there is still a need to extend and increase deliveries of food aid to supplement proceeds from onion crops in order to bring food insecurity levels back down to Phase 2 (stress) of IPC version 2.0 in June, July, August, and September.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    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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