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- This FEWS NET Market Fundamentals report presents findings to inform regular market monitoring and analysis in Niger. This report was prepared concurrently with an Enhanced Market Analysis (EMA) report, focusing on Maradi and Zinder Regions of Niger, as well as the Centre-Nord and Est Regions of Burkina Faso. Among other uses, the information presented jointly in these two reports can be used to support the design of food security programs, including but not limited to informing a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bellmon determination in advance of an FY 2018 USAID-funded development food assistance programs in Niger.
- This study is based primary on desk research carried out during the months of January to May 2017. Stakeholder groups, such as members of the Agricultural Market Information System (SIMA, System d’Information du Marché Agricole) and the National Early Warning System (SAP, System d’Alerte Precoce), were also consulted.
- Overall, food availability in Niger depends heavily on local rainfed production, imports from regional markets, and, to a lesser extent, international imports. Only a fraction of land is suitable for crop production. Coupled with Niger’s very young and growing population (among other factors), this means that domestic production is not sufficient to meet market demand. Between 10–20 percent of total staple food requirements are sourced through imports—especially rice, maize, and edible oil.
- Niger is a landlocked, import-dependent, Sahelian country with very strong commercial ties to neighboring Nigeria, Benin, and Burkina Faso (among others). Niger relies on the port of Cotonou (Benin) for the majority of international imports. Niger shares a common currency (the West African franc, XOF) with each of its southern neighbors except Nigeria. Nigeria is Niger’s largest trade partner, so Niger relies heavily on the performance and status of agricultural markets there to help fill cereal gaps during years of poor production and as a market outlet for livestock and cash crops. The recent poor performance of Nigeria’s economy has had both direct and indirect effects in Niger, especially in border areas where exchanges and trade between the two countries are most intense.
- Sorghum and millet are by far the main staple foods consumed in Niger – per capita consumption is estimated between 100–200 kg per year, depending on the source. These grains constitute the main source of calories in the Nigerien diet. Self-sufficiency in sorghum and millet production depends on the progression and outcome of the main rainfed agricultural season, which extends from June to September. Approximately one in every two years results in surplus production, but deficit years are often much more severe. Furthermore, limited household and trader stocking are such that supplies are not easily retained during years of surplus production for local consumption during years of deficit.
- Maize consumption has been increasing, but it is largely a substitute among rural populations, and consumed most intensely when issues arise with availability and prices of preferred millet and sorghum. Local maize production hardly enters the national marketing systems, and most household purchases come from neighboring Benin, Burkina Faso, or Nigeria, depending on the locality and the competitiveness of markets in neighboring countries. Rice consumption has also increased, but is consumed mostly by urban populations rather than the rural poor, except on specific holidays and events. Cowpeas and groundnuts are the main leguminous crop. While groundnuts are consumed locally either as a nut, as groundnut paste, or in the form of oil, cowpeas are largely destined for regional export markets (Nigeria in particular). Imported palm oil, sourced from regional and international markets, is the most important edible oil consumed. However, edible oil consumption in Niger is among the lowest in the region and below international dietary recommendations.
- Livestock meat and products are jointly the largest source of animal protein in the Nigerien diet. Livestock rearing (of cattle, sheep, and goats) is practices by over 80 percent of the population. Livestock export earnings are also essential for the national economy, contributing to 21 percent of total export earnings. Over 95 percent of livestock exports are destined for Nigeria.
- Agricultural production can vary considerably from one year to the next, driven largely by variations in rainfall patterns. Recent gains in agricultural production were driven primarily by expansion of cultivated area. Production is largely carried out by smallholder farmers who implement traditional cropping techniques with very little if any use of improved inputs, animal traction, or mechanization. Hence, yield levels remain low. In some cases, official data even suggest some degree of retrogression for some crops.
- Niger’s economy is heavily integrated with the broader region, including but not limited to both agricultural crops and livestock trade. As a consumer, Niger imports coarse grains (millet, sorghum, maize) and oil from neighboring countries. As a producer, Niger can also export millet and sorghum, as well as cowpeas and livestock to the wider region (but Nigeria in particular). Seasonality in production and harvesting, as well as the relative strength of regional currencies (as indicators of effective demand), are key factors influencing the direction and extent of the trade flows (imports or exports) with neighboring countries.
- The capital city of Niamey as well as Maradi and Zinder Regions are among the most important domestic markets. Other markets such as Gaya, Birni N’Konni, Diffa, and Ouallam are also key for internal and regional trade flows. Niger also functions as a transit area for internationally imported commodities such as cereals, sugar, dairy produce, and edible fruits and nuts, making their way into Nigeria (from the port of Cotonou, especially). Bilateral agreements with Benin and Nigeria ease transit and promote the free movement of goods between the three countries.
- Overall, a large number of actors participate in the staple foods marketing system. Agricultural production is in the hands of a large number of small-scale producers who typically sell their produce to local traders (or agents of wholesalers) or retailers. Some commodities (rice and palm oil) undergo processing before reaching final consumers on retail markets. Food processing is small-scale and localized, using cottage techniques, since the local agroindustrial processing sector has not yet developed.
- Market monitoring is currently carried out by several organizations, most notably SIMA, SIM-Bétail (Livestock Markets Information System), and the SAP. These independent technical services support the national disaster preparedness framework, attached to the Office of the Prime Minister.