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Persistent civil insecurity in the north is limiting food flows to affected areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • March 2012
Persistent civil insecurity in the north is limiting food flows to affected areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Update of the most likely scenario through June 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Current price and conflict shocks are leading to acute food insecurity. However, the number of food-insecure people is fewer than 20 percent of the population in most areas. No information about significant changes in acute malnutrition is available, and there is no indication of unusually high prevalence of negative livelihood strategies.

    • Civil strife in the extreme north is limiting normal market flows for food, causing increased cereal prices, and disrupting commerce, access to services, and labor opportunities.

    • Formal border closures are still in effect with Niger and Chad, further exacerbating the Sahelian food crisis.  Small scale, informal cross-border trade with neighboring Sahelian countries such as Niger and Chad is ongoing, limiting grain, affecting terms of trade, and livestock flows within the sub-region. 

    Update of the most likely scenario through June 2012

    Country-wide, food commodity prices have increased from January and February compared to the same time period in 2011. With the exception of areas affected by drought and civil insecurity, food security conditions in the north are stable; over 80 percent of the population is able to meet their basic food needs through June without resorting to negative coping mechanisms.

    Generally low market supply of food commodities in the extreme north is due to low 2011/12 production levels, increased informal demand from the Sahelian countries, and high trader speculation leading to stock guarding in anticipation of higher cereal prices. Market supply of major staples such as millet, sorghum, cowpea and maize is abnormally lower by about 50 percent in March, when compared to average. Price increases are largely explained by the intensification of civil insecurity in the extreme North, coupled with disruptions to commerce and access constraints of traders to credit and funding linked to insecurity. These combined factors have resulted in general cereal price increases ranging from 25 to 54 percent above average in the extreme North.

    In Dawanau market, the major cereal market in West Africa, cereal food prices for March are generally higher than previous two months and at the same time last year (when production and market supply were abnormally high). However, disruptions are limiting normal market flows of food from assembly markets to the Dawanau wholesale market. The imposed curfew in the area and the persisting fuel scarcity across the country selling at NGN 115/liter in Kano as against the formal price of NGN 97/liter is also affecting free movement of market actors and goods. Similarly, low market supply of food items is observed in Giwa, Dandume and Saminaka assembly markets in the north, compared to normal market levels for this time of year. Shortages are the result of combined factors such as households guarding their stocks to monitor the onset of the 2012 season, and high trader speculation, which is typical for this time period. However, the impact of low market supply is somewhat mitigated by low household and agro-based industrial demand for sorghum, maize and millet during February/March period in the north.   

    In the north Central areas, household and market food supplies are relatively high and prices are increasing, although food security conditions are favorable as most households depend on own-produced food reserves. Civil insecurity in parts of the North is expanding and persisting, increasing trade costs and affecting the flow of food commodities to markets in the epicenter of conflict, leading to increased food prices.  Anticipated government reductions in the national fuel subsidy are expected to increase the price of fuel between NGN 120 and NGN 150/liter in April from the current price of NGN97/liter.  These price increases will raise food prices, subsequently limiting food access between May/June and more so during the lean season, when households lack steady income.Increased fuel prices will also lead to higher household expenditures for transportation and energy, reducing the level of income used for food purchase among poor households in urban areas.

    Extreme North

    Farmers are currently engaged in land preparation activities for the 2012 growing season, and harvesting dry season crops planted in November/December, along major rivers. High water levels in rivers and aquifers have led to above normal dry season cultivation, increasing farmer income by about 10 to 15 percent. Prices of dry season crops such as onions, tomatoes, pepper are relatively lower than last year, though higher than the 5 year average prices. Civil strife stemming from Boko Haram activities persists within flashpoint locations in the northern states of Borno, Yobe, Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, and Niger.   Conflict and instability is limiting normal market flow of food in and out of the region, leading to increased cereal food prices. A recent FEWS NET field mission to the North revealed that major staple food prices such as maize, millet, and sorghum are high and range between NGN4700 to NGN7000 in Saminaka, Dandume and Katsina markets in March, a price increase of 10 and 20 percent from the last two months and last year same time respectively. Prices for millet, the major staple food for poor households in the North, is showing the highest increase of about 54 percent above the five year average on markets in Saminaka, Mai’adua and Maigatari.

    Food security conditions are unfavorable among poor households in March compared to a normal year, especially in areas affected by conflict and drought in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa and Katsina states. Current conditions are due to increasing food prices relative to last year, limited labor opportunities and household food shortages stemming from the 2011 growing season. Household food reserves will deplete earlier than normal, decreasing the ability of poor households to access food between May/June, just before the onset of the lean season in July. High transport costs due to rising fuel prices between NGN 120 and NGN 140/liter anticipated in April will contribute to higher food prices between May/June. Poor households will shift to less preferred but widely available and more affordable substitutes such as sweet potatoes, cassava, and wild foods to meet their basic food needs between March and June. Poor net-purchasing households who are food insecure will also cope through the sale of their own cereal meant for consumption, casual labor, charcoal sales, food gifts from family, and debt in order to meet their food needs while others will resort to intense labor work.  Because labor opportunities are seasonably limited and opportunities to earn income are reduced by insecurity, abnormal migration may occur to urban areas for unskilled labor opportunities. These strategies will be sufficient for over 80 percent of the population to cope in the North, maintaining them at None to Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through June.

    However, poor households in conflict prone areas who were displaced and have lost their productive assets are partly dependent on government assistance to meet short-term basic needs such as water and sanitation, shelter, medication, blankets and clothing. The proportion of poor households affected by the conflict is less than 20 percent of the population in flashpoint areas mainly in urban areas, in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi and Niger states.  These households will not recover their assets before June to sustain their livelihoods as the conflicts persists. Assistance from major donors will be limited as attention is more focused on the Sahel crisis.  

    Livestock prices in the north are generally higher in March by about 20 to 44 percent relative to same time last year in most markets monitored by FEWS NET, and higher than in the previous two months.  Livestock prices will normally decline between April/May as pastoral resources deplete in the extreme north.  According to the livestock traders in Maiduguri, prices are generally higher than last year same time, and livestock supply was very low in March in the northern epicenter of civil insecurity. However, according to the recent FEWS NET mission to Maigatari, a border market with Niger, livestock supply is high and according to the livestock traders, this is due to increased informal market activities in the area and prices are generally high, given the high demand for livestock.  Millet/goat terms of trade are favorable for pastoral households, who can access 80 kg of millet in March 2012 as against 70 kg last year same time.

    Due to the agricultural production deficits in neighboring Sahelian countries, including Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, informal demand for millet, sorghum, and maize from Nigeria is likely to increase between April/June if civil insecurity improves.  If the Government of Nigeria re-opens borders for commerce as widely speculated, the potential demand for Nigerian food commodities from the border markets in Illela, Mai’adua, Maigatari, and Geidam, could increase domestic cereal prices by as much as 30 to 40 percent, limiting food access for poor households in the extreme North who will face a considerable decrease in purchasing power.   

    Southern Nigeria

    Food security conditions remain favorable due to seasonably moderate household stocks, and high dry season farming and fishing activities. Land preparation activities have intensified in the South as NIMET predicts a favorable 2012 growing season beginning in the second dekad of March. The price of gari, the major staple food for poor households, increased by 8 percent in March from the previous month, possibly due to price increases of other staples such as maize and yam-mainly transported from the surplus production areas in the North. Food security concerns exist in communities directly affected by the December 2011 oil spills in the Niger Delta region, as contamination will affect normal fishing activities in the area during March to June period, limiting income and reducing household purchasing power. In the south, most poor households have the capacity to cope due to high remittances, available food substitutes, and high unskilled labor opportunities, and will face None or Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through June. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and 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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