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Rainfall deficits likely to reduce harvest prospects in northeast and northcenter

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • August 2023
Rainfall deficits likely to reduce harvest prospects in northeast and northcenter

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2024
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes and Areas Receiving Significant Levels of Humanitarian Food Assistance
  • Key Messages
    • In northern Nigeria, conflict continues to drive population displacement, disrupt livelihood activities, and restrict market access during the peak-lean season, sustaining high food assistance needs in August. Financially motivated attacks, kidnap for ransom, and looting of food and resources continue at high levels across the north as food remains scarce ahead of the main season harvest. In the northeast, a high frequency of attacks on farmers during cultivation by non-state armed groups has limited access to farmland. In northwestern and northcentral states, herder/farmer conflict and militia attacks persist, heightening fear and limiting mobility. With limited off-farm options for income generation and low resilience at the peak of the lean season, poor households struggle to access food. Consequently, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist across northern states in August. In the highly inaccessible areas of Bama, Abadam, Guzamala, and Marte LGAs in northeast Nigeria, sustained conflict and poor market functionality have resulted in high household reliance on wild foods and bartering to access food. However, rainfall deficits have limited wild food availability, increasing food consumption gaps and sustaining Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.
    • Macroeconomic conditions have deteriorated amid the peak of the lean season. Inflation reached 24.08 percent in July as the value of the Nigerian Naira (NGN) relative to the USD slipped to a record low of roughly 900 NGN/USD on the parallel market, resurging the gap between the official and unofficial rates. Meanwhile, record-high staple prices, high transportation costs, and low wages have reduced purchasing power, severely constraining access to food given the seasonally high purchase dependence for food. Further, the border closure with the Niger Republic has negatively impacted cross-border trade, limiting income generation for many traders, transporters, and shop-owners in the border regions. While the government has launched limited palliative distributions in some areas to cushion the impacts of the fuel subsidy removal and macroeconomic crisis, food assistance needs continue to increase, particularly across the north. 
    • Based on historical trends, El Niño years are not correlated with notable anomalies in rainfall performance in Nigeria. However, in July and August, significant rainfall deficits, including extended dry spells, have been observed in northcentral and northeastern Nigeria, typical surplus-producing areas. The poor rainfall performance has reportedly caused crop wilting of millet, groundnut, and sorghum in localized areas of the northeast, resulting in some replanting in late July. The below-average rainfall during critical crop development stages will likely negatively impact production prospects in parts of northern Nigeria. This will compound the already extensive impacts of conflict, displacement, annual flooding, and high fuel and input prices on cultivation in affected areas.

    Current Situation

    Conflict: In the northeast, violence and abductions related to the insurgency intensified in August relative to previous months, driving population displacement and disrupting seasonal engagement in farming. In July and August in Borno state, the frequency of abductions and attacks on farmers as they engage in daily cultivation is reportedly higher than last year. Between late July and early August, in Galtimari village, Jere LGA, several farmers were abducted; in Kawuri village, Konduga LGA, nine farmers were abducted and killed; and in Bama LGA, seven other farmers were abducted. Similarly, in late July in Kukawa LGA, roughly 20 pastoralists grazing livestock were reportedly killed by insurgents. The high risk of attacks on farmers and pastoralists has heightened fears of engaging in farming and livelihood activities. To mitigate some of these risks around garrison towns, the military has increased movement restrictions for farmers, assigning timeslots to each farmer through tokens to monitor travel to farmland. The system has reportedly caused local tension and reduced the time farmers have access to their land during critical crop growth. The reduced access to farmland has likely negatively impacted cultivation and harvest prospects in Borno state. 

    In the northcentral and northwestern states, sustained high levels of kidnapping, a proliferation of herder/farmer conflict, and militia attacks have disrupted engagement in livelihood activities and caused displacement and civilian fatalities in the worst-affected areas. In early August, civilian-targeted attacks in Mangu and Barkin Ladi LGAs, Plateau state, resulted in the displacement and deaths of local populations. Similarly, in Tafa and Shiroro LGAs, Niger state, over 60 people were kidnapped for ransom, and over 1,000 people were displaced in early August. A communal clash in Gwer East LGA, Benue state, heavily disrupted market activities in one of the primary markets that feed Makurdi, the state capital. Additionally, with the growing macroeconomic crisis and high level of food scarcity, the frequency of crime motivated by financial gain, such as kidnapping for ransom and looting, has increased.

    In early August, nationwide strikes led by members of the National Labor Congress (NLC) in response to the lifted fuel subsidy and high inflation were recorded in at least 30 states, according to ACLED data. While the strikes did not result in the reinstatement of the fuel subsidy, they did lead to negotiations with the new government about the minimum wage, pensions, and palliative support to mitigate the impacts of the macroeconomic crisis.

    Macroeconomy: Macroeconomic conditions continue to deteriorate amid soaring headline inflation, record-high food, fuel, and transportation prices, declining national oil production and external reserves, and the devalued Nigerian Naira (NGN). According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, average daily oil production fell 13.6 percent from 1.25 million to 1.08 million barrels per day (bpd) between June and July. The low oil production is exacerbated by sustained crude oil theft, limiting government revenue and sustaining Nigerian reliance on imported petroleum amid a low-value NGN. In July, while average global crude oil prices are lower than last year at this time, they remain above the five-year average.

    Domestic petrol prices remained high in July, selling for 600 NGN per liter at the national average in urban areas, according to NBS. Petrol prices in the far north nearly double national averages; in Borno state, petrol was over 1,000 NGN/liter in Mobbar and Monguno LGAs in July, according to WFP market monitoring data. Accordingly, average urban transportation prices increased by about 98 percent between May and June and are over 120 percent higher than in June 2022.

    Annual headline inflation continued to rise in July, reaching 24.08 percent, up from 22.79 percent in June, deteriorating the purchasing power of households across the country (Figure 1). Similarly, headline inflation increased by 2.89 percent between June and July, the highest month-on-month change in over 11 years. Food inflation, which accounts for the bulk of headline inflation, hit 26.98 percent in July, up from 25.25 percent in June, likely primarily due to increased transportation costs for food.

    Annual Headline Inflation and NGN/USD exchange rate, 2020 to 2023
    Graph showing annual headline inflation, as well as official and unofficial exchange rates from July 2020 to July 2023

    Source: FEWS NET / National Bureau of Statistics

    Following attempts to unify the exchange rate in June, sustained dollar shortages at the official window have again led to an increase in the unofficial exchange rate. In August, the value of the NGN hit a record low on the parallel market, exchanging for over 900 NGN/USD across most markets in late August. Meanwhile, the NGN exchanges for an average of 790 NGN/USD at the official window.

    Markets and Trade: Staple prices continue to increase in August. The compounding impacts of below-average production in 2022, high market demand amid low supply during the peak-lean season, and sustained market disruptions due to insecurity have been exacerbated by consecutive economic policy shifts between May and August 2023, driving atypically high staple prices, particularly across the far north. The prices of most staple foods in monitored markets are the highest on record for July. In July, millet prices in Dodoru market, Kebbi state, were 428 NGN/Kg, nearly 70 percent higher than last year and 131 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 2). Meanwhile, maize prices in Maiduguri, Borno state, were 448 NGN/Kg in July, 67 percent higher than last year and 131 percent above the five-year average (Figure 3).

    Millet price trend across major markets in July 2023
    Graph showing Millet prices in Dodoru, Dawanu, Kaura Namoda, and Maiduguri markets in Nigeria in July 2023, July 2022, and the five-year average.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Maize price trend across major markets in July 2023
    Graph showing White Maize prices in Dodoru, Dawanu, Kaura Namoda, and Maiduguri markets in Nigeria in July 2023, July 2022, and the five-year average.

    Source: FEWS NET

    According to the July WFP Market Monitoring Report on northeast Nigeria, in Maiduguri and Jere LGAs in Borno State, the cost of the 70 percent Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) for a family of five increased by 6 percent, from 32,311 NGN in June to 34,318 NGN in July, and by 52 percent relative to the five-year average. The SMEB continues to increase alongside rising staple food prices and high fuel prices. The high food prices have deteriorated the purchasing power of poor households in urban and peri-urban areas who are heavily purchase-dependent to access food.

    The ECOWAS sanctions on Niger Republic following the coup at the end of July, resulting in the border closure between Niger and Nigeria, have led to abrupt and substantial reductions in formal and informal cross-border trade between Niger Republic and Nigeria. According to UN Comtrade data, in 2021, roughly 220 million USD of goods were formally traded between the two countries. However, much of the cross-border trade is reportedly informal— NBS estimates approximately 75 percent of Nigeria’s informal cross-border exports go to Niger. Nigeria heavily relies on imported livestock from Niger. According to a Niger Livestock Market Information System report, between August 15 to 21, cattle exports from Niger fell 48 percent relative to the five-year average, attributed to the Nigeria border closure. Hundreds of trucks are reportedly stranded on both sides of the border at key crossing points, waiting to deliver commodities. Traders in Nigeria’s border communities have reported a significant decline in grain demand in Dawanau, Maiádua, Illelah, Maigatari, Shinkafi, and Kamba markets, among others in northern Nigeria, as Nigeriens are no longer patronizing Nigerian markets. This has resulted in a substantial decline in income for many traders, laborers, and truck drivers. 

    Seasonal rainfall performance and crop production: In southern, western, and parts of central Nigeria, cumulative rainfall has been average to above average, with favorable spatial and temporal rainfall distribution through late August. The growing season is underway in these areas, particularly for maize, yams, groundnuts, and cassava, with typical anticipated crop growth. The early green harvest began on time in August in central and southern states, increasing local food availability.

    In northcentral and northeast Nigeria, rainfall has generally been below average, ranging from 60 to 90 percent of average between June and late August, with extended dry spells. In parts of the northeast, FEWS NET field informants have reported some moisture stress and wilting of crops, specifically millet, groundnut, and sorghum, negatively affecting crop development. Some farmers reportedly replanted wilted crops in late July in affected areas. However, given limited household purchasing power for new seeds and inputs, the unfavorable rainfall has reduced the area cultivated, delayed crop growth, and poor crop development. As such, harvest prospects have been negatively impacted, most likely resulting in larger production deficits than anticipated across the northcentral and northeast.

    Percent of mean NDVI, August 16-25, 2023
    Percent of Mean NDVI in August showing below-average vegetation conditions in northcentral and northeast

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    The prolonged dry spells in the northcenter and northeast have also led to localized deterioration in vegetation conditions, slightly reducing pasture availability for livestock in some areas of the north, particularly in Plateau, Borno, and Yobe states (Figure 4). Due to localized below-average pasture conditions and persistent cattle rustling in areas of the north, some pastoralists have reportedly remained in southern and central states with their livestock rather than returning to their homesteads in the greater north in August as usual. 

    In mid-August, the Lagdo Dam along the Benue River in Cameroon was opened. This may increase the likelihood of river overflow along the Benue in parts of northeast and northcentral Nigeria. 

    Humanitarian Assistance: In June, humanitarian actors provided food assistance to over two million individuals, primarily internally displaced people (IDPs), in camps in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states. This reflects a steady month-on-month increase in the number of beneficiaries in the approach of peak lean season. Beneficiaries continue to receive approximately 70 percent of their total kilocalorie needs monthly through in-kind and cash-based transfers (CBT). Following the state of emergency declaration in July, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) distributed cash and in-kind palliative assistance to poor households to help cushion the impact of inflation and high food prices in August. While government assistance is likely helping to mitigate consumption deficits for some beneficiaries, the scale of assistance remains limited. 

    Nutrition: Preliminary data from the lean season Nutrition and Food Security Survey (NFSS) indicates that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) weight for height (WHZ) in accessible areas of Borno state remained characteristic of Serious (IPC AMN Phase 3) outcomes in the 2023 lean season, consistent with 2022.[1] However, in Maiduguri/Jere LGAs, GAM (WHZ) prevalence deteriorated considerably, reaching 16.8 percent in the 2023 lean season, characteristic of Critical (IPC AMN Phase 4) outcomes, relative to 12.8 percent (IPC AMN Phase 3) in 2022. This is corroborated by the consistently above-average Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admissions at treatment facilities in Borno state in 2023, with a high proportion of admitted children under five also suffering from measles and acute watery diarrhea (AWD) between January and June. The high proportion of IDPs from inaccessible areas in Maiduguri, as well as IDPs formerly residing in camps receiving services that have now been closed, has stretched the capacity of treatment centers at the height of a severe lean season and amid seasonally elevated morbidity. Meanwhile, indicative proxy GAM prevalence of new arrivals from inaccessible areas of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states is nearly 20 percent, indicative of Critical (IPC AMN Phase 4) outcomes.  

    In northern Nigeria, households are experiencing the peak of a prolonged lean season, exacerbated by protracted conflict, an intensifying macroeconomic crisis, and now the closure of the border with Niger Republic. These shocks have magnified existing food consumption gaps and disrupted livelihood activities, sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Despite ongoing main season cultivation, there is high competition for limited available agricultural labor and below-average labor income due to the limited purchasing power of middle and better-off households. Following the closure of the border with Niger Republic, income generation for traders, shop owners, and truck drivers in the far north has reduced, increasing competition for unskilled labor, water vending, and petty trading. This, combined with spiking inflation and high staple prices, has deteriorated the purchasing power of poor households, limiting access to food at the height of the lean season. By August, most poor households have already met or exceeded their borrowing limits to access food and rely on the sale of productive assets such as farm tools, fishing gear, and farmland to meet minimal food needs. 

    In the highly inaccessible LGAs of Bama, Marte, Abadam, and Guzamala in the northeast, households continue to lack access to humanitarian assistance and have minimal access to functional markets or alternative food sources in August. Due to the below-average rainfall, wild food availability and access have been unseasonably low. Poor households in inaccessible areas rely on minimal wild foods and begging to access food and likely continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. IDPs living in camps in the northeast remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs and are in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). In areas less affected by conflict across the country, households engage in agricultural and unskilled labor and have some early green harvests. Households are likely only meeting their basic food needs and facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    [1] In 2023, NFSS data collection occurred in June and July, the early lean season, whereas in 2022, NFSS data collection was carried out in August and September, peak of the lean season. 

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for a typical year for Nigeria.


    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for June 2023 to January 2024 remain unchanged, except for the following:

    • The border closure between Nigeria and Niger Republic will constrain formal and informal cross-border trade activities in the short to midterm. Markets in the far north of Nigeria will likely have limited supply, particularly of imported commodities such as cowpeas, imported rice, and livestock, as well as reduced demand. The border closure will most likely result in increases in the price of imported rice and livestock in the short to midterm across many northern Nigerian markets.
    • Due to the deteriorating macroeconomy, including increased inflation rate, decreasing value of the NGN, and further spikes in fuel prices and transportation costs, staple prices through January 2024 are anticipated to be higher than earlier projected across several markets, particularly in the north (Figure 5). 
    • The main season harvest in northeast and northcentral Nigeria, typically October to January, is anticipated to be delayed in some areas following the extended dry spells in July and August, and production deficits are expected to be greater than previously anticipated due to the below-average cumulative rainfall. 
    White maize price projection in Dawanau market, Kano state
    White Maize price and projections in Dawanau market, Kano state

    Source: FEWS NET

    Projected Outlook through January 2024

    In northern Nigeria in September, financially motivated and civilian-targeted attacks and looting of food and resources are expected ahead of the main season harvest, further disrupting livelihood activities, minimizing income generation, and limiting food access. Due to the late replanting of crops in parts of northeast and northcentral Nigeria, few households in the affected areas will benefit from the early local green harvests in September, protracting the lean season. This, combined with atypically high market prices and poor household purchasing power, is expected to sustain food consumption gaps, particularly for poor, market-dependent households. Households will continue facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September. In inaccessible areas of Abadam, Bama, Guzamala, and Marte LGAs in the northeast, households will continue relying on wild foods and begging for food. With minimal access to income-generating activities or functional markets, households will likely resort to skipping meals or going full days without eating, sustaining Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes through September. 

    From October to January, the main season harvest is anticipated to increase food availability and access for many households, reducing food consumption gaps across northern Nigeria. Staple prices will likely decline seasonally during this period; however, due to the poor macroeconomy, prices will likely remain high, leading to only marginal improvements in financial access to food. Households will likely have increased access to income from agricultural labor during the harvest. Thus, food consumption is expected to improve in many LGAs in the north, driving stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes between October and January. Meanwhile, heavily conflict-affected households, households affected by seasonal flooding, and households worst affected by the July and August rainfall deficits will likely have minimal harvests and limited seasonal improvements in food consumption. The unseasonably high staple prices will continue to limit financial access to food and these households will likely continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through January 2024. In the worst conflict-affected inaccessible areas in parts of the northeast, due to the marginal anticipated harvest, restricted mobility, limited livelihood profiles, and depleted coping capacity, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to continue through January 2024. 

    Humanitarian actors in the northeast are expected to continue providing humanitarian food assistance to displaced households in camps through September, which will likely continue to prevent more severe food consumption gaps, driving Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. However, given the uncertainty of funding beyond September, in the absence of humanitarian food assistance, most IDPs in camps will likely be unable to meet basic food needs and are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from October 2023 through January 2024. 

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NigeriaECOWAS joint military invades Niger Republic
    • Massive population displacement of Nigerien refugees into Nigeria, increasing the size of displacement camps in the far north, substantially increasing food assistance needs in northeast and northwest Nigeria.
    • The influx of refugees will further strain to already highly compromised food systems and the increased competition for income earning opportunities will continue to lower purchasing power and reduced food access.
    • An escalation and expansion of opportunistic banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling in northern states.
    • An increase in populations in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4), particularly in LGAs in the far north, bordering Niger.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes and Areas Receiving Significant Levels of Humanitarian Food Assistance

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Nigeria Food Security Outlook Update, August 2023: Rainfall deficits likely to reduce harvest prospects in northeast and northcenter, 2023.

    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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