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Below-average cereal harvests and poor macroeconomy to drive high post-harvest food needs in north

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • December 2023
Below-average cereal harvests and poor macroeconomy to drive high post-harvest food needs in north

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through May 2024
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • In the northeast, conflict related to the insurgency and economically-driven crime were elevated from October to December, driving heightened fear, population displacement, and disruption to livelihood activities during the main harvest period. In November, there was an increase in both conflict incidents and fatalities compared to September and October, with the worst reported attacks in Borno state in Bama, Gwoza, Konduga, Marte, Abadam, and Mafa Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Borno state. Despite the heightened conflict in the northeast, the Borno State Government announced the upcoming closure of more internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in early 2024 in Monguno, Dikwa, and MMC/Jere LGAs. Given the ongoing state-wide ban on the delivery of humanitarian food assistance outside of IDP camps, these populations will no longer have access to food assistance, have limited access to livelihoods, and many will be relocated to areas facing active conflict. Populations in conflict-affected urban areas and IDPs outside of camps face food consumption gaps and will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May. Households in the most conflict-affected and inaccessible areas of Bama, Abadam, Marte, and Guzamala will continue to face large food consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.
    • Macroeconomic conditions worsened in December. The value of the Nigerian Naira (NGN) hit record lows, officially exchanging at 927 NGN per USD and unofficially exchanging at 1,248 NGN per USD, as of December 19. Annual headline inflation reached 28.2 percent, largely driven by food inflation, which hit 32.8 percent in November. This continues to depreciate household purchasing power, reducing access to food for purchase-reliant households. Meanwhile, national revenue generation remains weak – average daily oil production fell to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in November – and external reserves decreased by 521 million USD from October to December 2023. Additionally, in December, ECOWAS extended sanctions on the Niger Republic – including the border closure with Nigeria – prolonging the difficulties faced by border communities, such as limited trade and reduced access to normal income-generating activities.
    • In the northwest and north-center, bandit attacks and kidnapping remain at elevated levels. In November and December, the military intensified operations in Katsina and Zamfara states, driving many bandits into neighboring Kebbi, Sokoto, and Kaduna states. In early December, the military conducted an uncoordinated air raid on Tudun Biri community, Igabi LGA, Kaduna state killing over 100 civilians. In several states in the region, bandits are collecting illegal taxes on harvests and/or livestock, limiting normal seasonal improvements in food and income access during the harvest period. Conflict-affected households in the northwest are unable to meet their basic food needs and will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May 2024. Most IDPs in the northwest reside in major urban areas with limited access to land or formal livelihoods. These households rely on unskilled day labor or negative coping strategies, such as begging, to access food. They are likely facing wide food consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, though remain below the 20 percent threshold for area-level classification.

    Current Situation

    Conflict: In November, the frequency and fatality of reported conflict incidents nationwide increased, reaching nearly the highest level recorded in the last year. Additionally, kidnapping – both the number of incidents and number of victims per month– continues at elevated levels compared to the first half of the year. According to data from ACLED and local partners, from July to December 2023, the total number of reported kidnap victims was 4,134 individuals, more than double the 2,012 victims reported from January to June 2023 (Figure 1). The notable increase is likely attributable to the rapid deterioration in economic conditions starting in June. 

    Figure 1

    Kidnap Incidents and Victims Nationwide per month, January-December 2023
    Graph showing Kidnap incidents overlayed with kidnap victims from January to December, 2023

    Source: ACLED/FEWS NET

    In the northeast, the largest attacks in November and December were reported in Bama, Gwoza, Konduga, Marte, Abadam, and Mafa LGAs in Borno state in the northeast. The onset of the dry season and the seasonal increase in physical accessibility, compounded by the deteriorating macroeconomic conditions, have led to high levels of in-fighting between Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'adati wal-Jihad (JAS) and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), counter-insurgency military operations, and civilian targeted attacks. Additionally, amid the peak of the main season harvest, insurgents have increased targeted attacks on farmers. The heightened level of conflict has led to an increase in population displacement and disruptions to the main harvest and dry season land preparation activities in the worst-affected areas.

    Despite persisting insecurity in the northeast, the Borno State Government has announced plans to close several IDP camps in early 2024, which host a total of roughly 33,000 IDPs. The camps marked for closure include Government Senior Science Secondary School (GSSSS) camp in Monguno LGA, Kamcheji, Motor Park, Mohammed Kyari, Kanumburi and Modu Kasa camps in Dikwa LGA, and Muna Guarage and Elmiskin IDP camps in MMC/Jere. Some IDPs will be given the choice to relocate to newly constructed government housing estates in Monguno, Dikwa, and Ngala LGAs; others will likely be relocated to inaccessible and unsafe areas. The inaccessible areas are largely controlled by insurgent groups and have poor access to health clinics, nutrition services, or potable water, constrained access to land for cultivation or livelihood opportunities, and limited market functionality. Households in these areas have extremely limited access to food, and there is insufficient infrastructure to accommodate returns at scale. According to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) sector, the governors of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa (BAY) states have also announced their intention to close all remaining IDP camps in the BAY states in early 2024; however, the plans and timeline have yet to be disclosed.   

    In the northwest and north-central states, the proliferation of bandit attacks and kidnapping for ransom has continued through the harvest period. In November, increased bandit attacks in Zurmi LGA, Zamfara state, have led to humanitarian actors, including Medicine Sans Frontières (MSF), suspending operations. Additionally, the military intensified their operations in Katsina and Zamfara states in November, driving many bandits into neighboring Kebbi, Sokoto, and Kaduna states, resulting in the proliferation of bandit activity in surrounding areas, particularly in nine LGAs of Kebbi state – previously the least conflict-affected state in the northwest. In early December, the increase in military operations included an uncoordinated air raid on the Tudun Biri community, Igabi LGA, Kaduna state, which reportedly killed over 100 people. The heightening conflict has led to increased fear of movement, constrained medical services, and market disruptions in the affected areas.

    In Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Taraba states, farmers reportedly have limited access to harvesting their crops due to the presence of violent bandit groups. Key informants indicated that farmers are required to pay high taxes for safe access to their farmlands. If unable to pay, bandits are reportedly burning farmers’ crops or attacking communities, resulting in kidnappings and fatalities. Households that are unable to harvest their seasonal crops are atypically relying on market purchases for food during the harvest period. Additionally, in Tangaza LGA, Sokoto state, bandits are reportedly collecting illegal taxes on livestock, ranging from 200 to 500 NGN/head, limiting income and purchasing power.

    According to IOM DTM and UNHCR, in November, there were over 3.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country, mainly in the north. Given the limited information on displaced populations in the northwest, in mid-November, FEWS NET conducted a rapid field visit in Ramin Kura, one of many informal IDP settlements in the Sokoto metropolis, Sokoto state. Roughly 65,400 IDPs were reported in Sokoto state, largely dispersed within host communities or residing in small informal settlements. Ramin Kura hosts an estimated 800 to 1,000 IDPs, primarily women and children living in congested makeshift shelters or sleeping unsheltered. The IDPs reported having limited to no access to land for cultivation, minimal household assets and were largely unable to engage in the formal labor market. However, some households reported being able to generate income from informal day labor, such as domestic housekeeping. Some IDPs reported receiving limited assistance, such as in-kind food, from the local community; however, this support is inconsistent and has reportedly reduced in frequency in the last six months as economic conditions have deteriorated. Consequently, many IDPs reported being heavily reliant on livelihood coping strategies, such as begging and prostitution, to obtain food on a daily basis. Additionally, IDP households in Ramin Kura have limited to no access to medical facilities and no potable water within the premises. 

    There are reportedly many small clusters of IDPs living in makeshift shelters in Sokoto town, although exact figures are unknown due to the limited humanitarian assessments in the area. Key informants across the northwest have indicated there are also many similar informal IDP settlements in Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, and Zamfara states, with IDPs in urgent need of food assistance.

    Main season cultivation: Due to extended dry spells in the north during the June to September rains and ongoing insecurity, cereal production in the October to December harvest is lower than last year and the average. Meanwhile legumes, roots, and tuber production has reached near-average levels, as reported in the Nigeria October Food Security Outlook. In December, households in the north are primarily harvesting sorghum, cowpea, and late millet crops. Meanwhile, in the south, farmers have mainly concluded the main season harvest and now only harvesting cassava – a biennial crop – in December. Overall, agricultural labor availability is generally below average across the north due to the below-average cereal harvests and a heightened level of conflict in the north. Meanwhile, income from agricultural labor is reportedly slightly higher than normal with the increased cost of living. As such, the level of seasonal improvement in food access from the harvest is slightly lower than normal across the north during the 2023 harvest period. 

    Macroeconomy: Macroeconomic conditions continue to decline, severely impacting access to income and food for poor households across the country. National revenue remains limited and national reserves are falling amid a depreciating Nigerian Naira (NGN) and rising inflation. Poor domestic crude oil production in 2023 – largely due to sustained oil siphoning in the Niger Delta– has led OPEC+ to revise Nigeria’s daily crude oil production quota from 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to 1.5 million bpd in 2024. In early December, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) reported that 4,800 illegal oil taps were found on roughly 5,000 kilometers (km) of oil pipelines across the country. 

    Figure 2

    Annual headline inflation and Currency exchange, January 2020 - November 2023
    Graph showing year on year headline inflation, overlayed with the inberbank/official exchange rate with the unofficial exchange rate.

    Source: Central Bank of Nigeria/FEWS NET

    Due to the continued reliance on imported petrol, domestic petrol prices remain elevated, selling for 660 NGN/liter in Abuja and over 1,000 NGN/liter in parts of the far northeast in mid-December. Due to the poor national revenue from crude oil sales, external reserves have declined by 521 million USD – 1.5 percent – from October 1 to December 7, as reported by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This has resulted in increased fiscal deficits, contributed to instability in the foreign exchange rate, and reduced national purchasing power.

    Annual headline inflation rose to 28.2 percent in November, compared to 27.3 percent in October, further deteriorating the household purchasing power across the country (Figure 2). The headline inflation continues to be primarily driven by food inflation, which increased to 32.8 percent in November, limiting financial access to food for market-dependent households.

    Markets and Trade: Despite the ongoing main season harvest, staple prices remain high in November across FEWS NET monitored markets. This is mainly attributable to below-average cereal production, low market supply, and increased reliance on market purchases for food, driving unseasonably high staple prices.   

    In November, millet and maize prices were higher than both last year and the 5-year average across all of the FEWS NET monitored markets (Figures 3 and 4). Millet prices were highest in Bodija market, Oyo state, at 512 NGN/Kg, over 60 percent higher than last year and 133 percent higher than the five-year average. Similarly, in Maiduguri LGA, millet prices were 59 percent higher than last year and 138 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 3). Maize prices ranged from 48 to 79 percent higher than last November and 134 to 166 percent above the five-year average in key reference markets in November (Figure 4). 

    Figure 3

    Retail price of Millet across key reference markets, November 2023, November 2022, and the five-year average
    Graph showing retail price of millet in November 2023, November 22, and the five-year average in four reference markets

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Retail price of Maize across key reference markets, November 2023, November 2022, and the five-year average
    Graph showing retail price of maize in November 2023, November 22, and the five-year average in four reference markets

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonally, staple food prices in key reference markets saw a slight month-on-month decline with the start of the harvest in October, as expected. However, in November, maize prices have atypically increased across most markets despite still being mid-harvest period. This is mainly driven by below-average cereal production and higher-than-average market demand from traders, processing companies, and humanitarian actors, particularly in northern markets (Figure 5). In Dawanau market, Kano state, maize prices increased from 297 NGN/kg in October to 365 NGN/kg in November. Similar increases were recorded in Kaura Namoda and, to a lesser extent, in Maiduguri markets.

    Figure 5

    Retail price of Maize, September to November 2023
    Retail price of maize in four key reference markets from September to November indicating mixed trends.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Due to the depreciating value of the NGN and reduced household purchasing power of most households amid poor production and increased reliance on market purchases, many households are facing difficulty accessing food.

    The ECOWAS sanctions on the Niger Republic were renewed in early December, continuing to negatively impact trade activities in the north. Cross-border trade activities with the Niger Republic in border communities have slowed considerably in the northwest, and the operations of dry inland ports in Kano and Kaduna – international trade distribution points for landlocked Niger and Chad – have been substantially reduced, resulting in reductions in cargo clearance and delivery from the ports. Thus, while the border remains closed with Niger, Nigeria is losing revenue and foreign exchange from the restricted operations of the inland dry ports. The combined impact of the persisting conflict, market disruptions, and reduced market purchases along the border communities led to a decline in livelihood activities and reduced purchasing power for many households.

    Humanitarian Assistance: In October, humanitarian actors provided food assistance to about 1.6 million individuals in BAY states, primarily internally displaced people (IDPs) living in camps. With the end of the lean season scale-up, the number of beneficiaries receiving food assistance decreased by roughly 36 percent between August and October across the three states.  Humanitarian agencies and the Nigerian government are also reportedly supporting over 350,000 people in BAY states with livelihood support ahead of the 2024 dry season cultivation. Beneficiaries are receiving improved seeds, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides to enhance productivity. About 54 percent of the beneficiaries are in Borno, with 25 and 21 percent of the beneficiaries in Adamawa and Yobe states, respectively. 

    In December, most farming households across the country are consuming own-produced food and able to meet food and non-food needs, supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, with atypically high staple prices, poor economic conditions, and limited income opportunities, poor urban households in urban areas are only minimally able to meet their food needs and are unable to meet basic non-food needs and are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In the northeast, due to the below-average harvests and high staple food prices, many households are experiencing food consumption deficits. However, IDPs in camps in urban areas continue to rely mainly on humanitarian assistance and are able to meet their minimum food needs, supporting Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Households in major urban areas in the northeast have minimal income-earning opportunities and are engaged in limited levels of cultivation with poor access to farmland due to the conflict. These households are facing food consumption gaps and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In some inaccessible areas, particularly Bama, Guzamala, Abadam, and Marte LGAs, households have restricted physical mobility and are only engaged minimally in cultivation. This, coupled with the limited market functionality, has caused many households to rely extensively on livelihood coping strategies, such as wild food consumption, bartering, and begging for food. These households are facing large food consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes at the area-level, with some of the very poor households facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). 

    In northwest and north-central states, the main harvest has slightly improved food availability and access, particularly in areas less affected by the conflict. However, in conflict-affected areas, households have limited access to farmlands, and many displaced households have abandoned their crops. With limited purchasing power, these households are facing moderate food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. A subset of the worst-affected and very poor households in hard-to-reach areas of the northwest were likely unable to engage in main season cultivation and are dependent on negative coping strategies such as wild food consumption, bartering, and begging to access food. These households are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Similarly, many IDPs in urban areas of the northwest are unable to access formal livelihood activities and have limited income-generating opportunities. With minimal access to food or income, these IDPs are heavily reliant on negative livelihood coping strategies associated with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, such as begging and prostitution, and minimal support from the community. Some urban IDP households are also reportedly skipping meals and going entire days without eating. While these households make up less than 20 percent of the entire population in the area, they are most likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar for Nigeria

    Source: FEWS NET

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for October 2023 to May 2024 remain unchanged.

    Projected Outlook through May 2024

    The heightened level of conflict in the northeast and the prolonged dry spells during the recent growing season led to below-average access to own-produced food, resulting in high market dependence earlier than usual in the post-harvest period. However, in the most hard-to-reach areas in the northeast, particularly in Abadam, Bama, Guzamala, and Marte LGAs, there is minimal market functionality, limiting food access and availability. Households are expected to exhaust their minimal harvests by the end of January 2024, and with no access to humanitarian assistance, most households are resorting to negative livelihood coping strategies such as wild food consumption and begging to mitigate food consumption gaps. These households will likely continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes through May 2024. 

    Households in garrison towns in the northeast will continue to face low purchasing power amid high reliance on markets for food. This, coupled with the anticipated increase in population displacement, facilitated returns, and resettlement, will drive heightened competition for limited income-earning opportunities. The lean season is anticipated to start two months earlier than usual – as early as April – resulting in increased food consumption gaps for poor and very poor households and an increase in the number of LGAs facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May 2024. IDPs in camps within garrison towns will continue to benefit from humanitarian food assistance to meet their basic food needs and face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) through January 2024. Considering the scale-down of humanitarian support during the harvest, the anticipated increased level of population displacement, and reduced funding for humanitarian agencies, many IDPs will be unable to access food assistance from February to May 2024, and IDPs will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through May 2024. 

    In conflict-affected areas of the northwest and north-center, bandit attacks and economically-driven crimes will continue to prevent regular access to crop fields during the end of the main season harvest and limit dry season cultivation, minimizing normal seasonal improvements in access to food and income and increasing food consumption gaps. The worst affected LGAs will likely continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May, particularly in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna states.

    Meanwhile, displaced households in urban areas of the northwest will likely remain highly vulnerable, largely unable to return to their homesteads, and have limited income-earning opportunities, resulting in large food consumption gaps. Most urban IDPs will continue resorting to negative livelihood coping strategies associated with Emergency (IPC Phase 4), including begging and prostitution. However, the worst-off households will likely also rely on food-based coping, including skipping meals or going days without eating. As prices increase and own-produced food availability at the community level decreases, an increasing number of displaced households will face large food consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes through May 2024. However, the IDP population will not surpass the 20 percent threshold for area-level classification.

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Nigeria Food Security Outlook Update December 2023: Below-average cereal harvests and poor macroeconomy to drive high post-harvest food needs in north, 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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