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Sharp food price increases further limit food access for poor households in the Northeast

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • April 2016
Sharp food price increases further limit food access for poor households in the Northeast

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Conflict in the Lake Chad region has declined relative to previous months, improving access to trade routes and allowing some IDPs to return to their homesteads. These households, however, have significantly reduced food access given limited livelihood opportunities and little to no harvests during the last three years. Poor households worst affected by the insecurity in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least September with smaller populations, making up less than 20 percent of the total population, likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • Households in parts of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states that have been less affected by Boko Haram-related conflict were able to participate in the recent main season harvest and ongoing dry season activities, although at below-average levels. Between April and September, these households will only be able to meet their basic food needs and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    • Along major river floodplains, the dry season harvest is underway for vegetables, rice and wheat. This harvest is average to above average in most areas, and is increasing income-earning opportunities, food diversity and access for poor households. Additionally, typical land preparation and planting activities for the next main season are providing increased labor opportunities for poor households throughout the country compared to previous months.        

    • The depreciation of the Nigerian naira has led to continuously increasing food and fuel prices across the country and has limited imports of some staples such as rice and wheat. Similarly, livestock imports from neighboring countries have declined. This has further reduced the purchasing power of many households, limiting their food access.


    Current Situation

    National

    The Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has forecasted a normal onset of the growing season beginning in February in the bi-modal areas and in late June for northern regions. Since February, the season has begun normally in the southern areas and farming households are engaged in planting activities of early green yams and maize. Cassava, a year round crop, has also been planted for the next season and crops from last season are currently being harvested. In the north-central states, the rains have started but are not yet fully established.

     Household and market stocks are declining normally as the lean season approaches, starting in May in southern areas. Maize, millet, and sorghum harvests for the 2015/2016 growing season were down 3, 3 and 6 percent, respectively, compared to the previous year, resulting in a slight reduction in local cereal supplies. Additionally, the value of the Nigerian naira continues to depreciate, causing a rise in the price of imported food items (wheat and rice), a scarcity of fuel, increased transportation costs, and atypically strong cereal demand from neighboring countries. According to traders, the food stocks on Dawanau market in Kano, the largest cereal market in West Africa, are about 50 percent lower than last year’s levels, although ongoing dry season harvests of rice, maize and wheat have slightly increased food supplies recently.

    As imports become more expensive, Nigerian households are substituting towards local cereals, further increasing demand and driving substantial price increases for maize, millet, sorghum and local rice. For example, the March price of maize increased by about 17, 36, 14, 9, 49 and 15 percent, on Aba, Biu, Bodija, Maiduguri, Potiskum and Saminaka markets, respectively, compared to February 2016 levels. Similarly, prices at these markets increased from between 28 and 106 percent compared to the same time last year. 

    Situation in Northeast Nigeria

    The conflict related to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region is substantially declining (Council on Foreign Relations). This is particularly true in Adamawa and Yobe states where reports from FEWS NET’s field informants indicate that IDPs have been returning to their homesteads, due in part to interest in starting up agricultural activities for the coming season. This is further being facilitated by the reopening of the road linking Damaturu-Gujba-Biu, a major trade route between Borno and Yobe states. In Adamawa state, some of the local governments worst-affected by conflict have seen a return of relative normalcy as market and trade activities resume in places such as Gulak, Mubi and Michika. There are, however, still sporadic attacks in localized areas, such as Madagali, and access remains difficult for humanitarian actors. Government agencies are currently the sole providers of support in many areas.

    In Borno state, the rate of return is relatively lower as civil insecurity remains elevated. Most IDPs are located in Maiduguri, the state capital, with some also residing in local government headquarters including Dikwa, Gamboru, Damboa, Konduga, Mafa and Bama. The government, as well as limited humanitarian actors and local host communities, are supporting these IDPs. One of the worst affected settlements, Gwoza, has seen a substantial return of IDPs recently, which is attributed to an intense military presence. Similarly, security conditions in Askira-Uba local government are stable and markets are functioning, though at below-average levels.

    FEWS NET’s monitoring of prices in Maiduguri indicate that March 2016 prices for key staple cereals (maize, millet, and sorghum) were between 36 to 68 percent above 2015 levels. However, large price increases were noted for yams, imported rice, and gari, where prices rose by between 77 to 197 percent during the same time period. Similar food price increases are observed on most markets in the northeast. Sharp price increases are further limiting food access for poor, market-dependent households with below-average incomes.

    Screening data from UNICEF suggests that levels of Global Acute Malnutrition in some official IDP camps in Maiduguri may exceed the WHO’s Critical threshold of 15 percent. However, it should be noted that GAM levels for Borno State are frequently elevated and exceed 10 percent, as found by past SMART and DHS surveys of the state in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Additionally, a March 2016 UNICEF report indicates a lower proxy severe acute malnutrition (SAM) prevalence at most IDP camps in Borno State between January and March 2016 compared to the previous year.


    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation is in line with the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for February to September 2016. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the February to September 2016 Food Security Outlook. However the following assumption has been updated:

    • Food Prices: Staple food prices in Nigeria are expected to rise atypically through September 2016, exceeding last year’s levels and the five-year average due to the effects of the depreciating naira on local markets. For example, FEWS NET’s price projections suggest that millet and sorghum prices in Kano and Maiduguri will be approximately 55 to 90 percent above last year’s levels during the peak of the lean season (July to September 2016).

    Projected Outlook through September 2016

    In the northeast, three years of below-average harvests for both the main and dry seasons will cause most poor households to continue to face food consumption gaps between April and September 2016. Households worst-affected by the conflict have limited income-earning opportunities which is being exacerbated by relatively high staple food prices and limited humanitarian support. While many poor households in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states will resort to atypical labor work, indebtedness and firewood sales in an attempt to meet basic food needs, food access will remain significantly constrained, resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. Additionally, smaller populations of IDPs, making up less than 20 percent of the total IDP population, are likely facing larger consumption gaps, in line with Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Both IDPs and host populations need support to reduce food consumption gaps, prevent and treat acute malnutrition, and protect livelihoods.

    Households in parts of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states that have been less affected by Boko Haram-related conflict were able to participate in the recent main season harvest and ongoing dry season activities, although at below-average levels. Between April and September, these households will be able to meet their basic food needs but only through atypical coping strategies, such as above-average levels of labor work, firewood sales, wild food consumption, and cutting non-food expenditures. Consequently, these households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    In areas not affected by Boko Haram conflict, households are engaged in normal crop production activities and income-generating activities. Dry season harvests will begin normally in April with early green harvest of yams and maize in May/June, improving income, food availability and the diversity of diets for households. These households will also have access to wild foods during the growing season, reducing the impacts of the lean season between July and September. Additionally, typical land preparation and planting activities for the next main season will provide increased labor opportunities for certain poor households compared to previous months. As most households will have seasonally normal food consumption, all areas outside of the northeast will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least September 2016. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Northeast Nigeria market and trade route activity – week of April 11, 2016

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Northeast Nigeria market and trade route activity – week of April 11, 2016

    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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