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Food prices increase unseasonably in the extreme north

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • May 2012
Food prices increase unseasonably in the extreme north

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  • Key Messages
  • Update of the most likely scenario to September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • The 2012 growing season is favorable in the south, as planting peaks in May. In the north central, the season has started normally in May while in the extreme north the usual pre-season rainfall is underway. 

    • Retail cereal prices in the extreme north are higher than last year and the five-year average due to high transportation costs, persistent civil insecurity, and poor 2011 production. In July/September, domestic trade between the north central and the extreme north will be further constrained by seasonal declines in cereal availability likely pushing market prices higher.

    • The lean season is underway in the south in May where gari prices are unseasonably high. The agricultural lean season will begin in the north in July. Most poor households in the north central and the south are facing normal lean season food shortages. 

    • The extreme north is an exception. In the millet, sesame, rice and livestock livelihood zones where 2011 food production shortages, civil insecurity, and increased outflows of grains the Sahel havemled to high cereal prices the impending lean season will be more difficultand longer than usual. 

    Update of the most likely scenario to September 2012

    The onset of the rainy season is a key determinant of market trends and food security in northern Nigeria during the May to September period. According to the seasonal forecast released by NIMET in March, the main 2012 rains will start normally, in May/June in the north central part of the country and in June in the extreme North. the northeast, the rainy season is expected to start normally in June as forecasted by NIMET, ECMWF and IRI with a lower likelihood of dry spells.

    The civil insecurity in the north has persisted, limiting food flows to deficit areas and resulting in increased food prices in affected areas. Insecurity has also resulted in in trade restrictions, increasing the cost of commerce and reducing traders’ income and market related labor opportunities. Cross border trade with Niger, Chad, and Cameroun has declined, as has the purchasing power and food access of poor households, particularly in Kano and in the northeast-Borno and Yobe states.

    Cereal food prices are abnormally high in the millet, sesame and livestock livelihood zones in Borno, Yobe and Jigawa states in the northeast and in Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states in the north west due to civil insecurity and 2011 production shortfalls. Food prices may increase further during the lean season in July/September period reducing poor household food access further. The extreme northern band of Nigeria is therefore expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period.

    In May these high food prices have been transmitted to the deficit markets in the southern zones as the southern lean season begins. Food prices may increase further as the lean season peaks in July/August. This may be exacerbated by the normal flooding in the coastal states such as in Lagos, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River during the peak flooding in July/September period.

    In the North

    The 2012 growing season is starting favorably as predicted by NIMET, ECMWF and IRI. In the north central zone and the extreme northwest rainfall started in late April/early May. In the north central zone, farmers are engaged in land preparation activities, input procurement (e.g., seeds and fertilizer), and of planting maize, sorghum, and pulses in some areas. A recent FEWS NET rapid field assessment trip to the extreme northwest revealed that farmers are also engaged in land preparation and input procurements as well as storage of dry season onions harvested along major river systems. Farmers in the extreme northern most parts of the northwest are planting millet, sorghum and groundnut. A recent FEWS NET rapid field assessment trip to the extreme northwest revealed that farmers are also engaged in land preparation and input procurements as well as storage of dry season onions harvested along major river systems. Farmers in the extreme northern most parts of the northwest are planting millet, sorghum and groundnut.

    In both the north central and the northwest, normal early rains fell during the last dekad of April and the first dekad of May. These rains have persisted in some areas, leading to early planting of millet, sorghum, and maize in the north central and the northwest. Farmers in the northwestern zone may have to replant as the season is yet to establish in this area and therefore dry spells are possible. Replanting in June will increase production costs, expenditures on additional inputs that would otherwise have been allocated for food purchase during the lean season. Sowing will peak as the rainfall stabilizes in May/June as predicted by major meteorological agencies. In the extreme northeast (i.e., Borno, Yobe and Jigawa states) dry conditions prevails and NIMET, ECMWF and IRI forecasts suggest that the season will begin in June as usual. If the favorable rainfall conditions persist with normal distribution in space and time, up to September, good harvest will be expected in the north.

    In addition to its impacts on crop production, the onset of the 2012 rainy season is also a major food security determinant in May/June given its impacts on markets and food prices. Across the country, farmers and traders are holding on to their stocks pending the establishment of the season, putting upward pressure on food prices. Mid-May cereal prices were relatively high compared to last year-for millet, sorghum, maize and cowpea in all  markets visited by the FEWS NET mission. On Dawanau market (Kano state) May millet and maize prices were 36 percent and 33 percent higher, respectively, relative to the same time last year. Similar price trends were observed in extreme northern markets in Shinkafi, Mai’adua, and Illela, limiting poor households’ food access. Food supply is also low relative to last year for all commodities, given high transportation costs and low production in 2011. This market supply situation is further exacerbated by persistent civil insecurity (which limits food flows to deficit areas) and the food crisis in the Sahel (which is drawing substantial quantities of cereals from major markets in Dawanau-Kano, Illela-Sokoto, Mai’adua-Katsina, and Shinkafi-Zamfara states). With regard to insecurity, Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in 118 attacks since 2009 in seven northern states of Borno, Yobe, Niger, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna and Plateau, and the FCT-Abuja with fatalities of over 300 people. In terms of increased demand from the Sahel, on the Dawanau market 40 trucks/day and on Shinkafi market 20 trucks weekly, of cereals, are leaving, with more than 60% headed to Niger. Similar trends are observed on Mai’adua, Katsina and Illela border markets in the extreme north. The anticipated increased demand for cereals during the Muslim fasting period in July/August coupled with the low food supply during the lean season will likely lead to abnormal increases in food prices  between July and September in the north , constraining food access by the poor households.  

    The Sahel food crises has also led to significant unskilled labor migration into northen Nigeria, leading to increased competition and reduced labor wages as of May. The unskilled labors are engaged mainly in land preparation activities, construction work, petty trading, water hawking, loading and off loading activities. Due to increased competition in water hawking activities twenty five liters of water that sold for NGN20 in February, are now selling for only NGN10. The low labor wages and reduced petty trade income have led to reduced purchasing power of poor households.

    Poor households within 10 livelihood zones in the extreme north are of most concern. These include: NG01 - NW fishing and rice; NG02 - Rimasokoto irrigated rice, millet and vegetables; NG03 - NW millet, cowpeas, and groundnuts, and NG04 - NW millet and sesame, livelihood zones in the northwest areas in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Katsina states; as well as NG11 -Hadejia Valley mixed economy, NG12 - NE fishing dominant, NG13 - NE rice and chilli peppers, NG14 - NE fishing, maize, and cowpeas,  NG15 - NE wheat and chilli peppers, and NG17 - NE Yobe lowland rice, in Borno, Yobe and Jigawa states in the northeast. The poor households will rely more heavily on wage labor, remittances and loans from the rich and family members to access food throughout the lean season. Poor households will also rely more heavily on substitution away from millet and towards sweet potatoes, cocoyam and cassava flour which are accessible and readily available. In Shinkafi, poor households also depend heavily on local variety of cowpea, called Dan Yunusa. Other poor households depend on wild leafy vegetables in May/June. This will be compounded by normal flood-related, displacement during July-September. Overall, agropastoral poor households in the far north will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period.

    Livestock prices are generally lower on most markets monitored by FEWS NET in mid May relative to last year. This is compounded by the high cost of livestock maintenance and animal feed leading. This is further exacerbated by high food prices, multiple livestock taxes along the border areas, and the unstable CFA/Naira exchange rates. Livestock supply is high as the Sahel food crises intensify and affected households destock. This includes nomadic livestock breeders in the extreme north and limited areas of north central Nigeria who are abnormally destocking to reduce maintenance costs and to access food. In July/September the pastoral resources will normally increase, improving body conditions and livestock prices, leading to increased food access. If the rains are significantly delayed traders will withhold their food stocks, further reducing market supply leading to abnormally high food prices and food insecurity will intensify and pastoralists are able to meet minimum food needs by selling their breeding stocks and other essential livelihood assets, resulting in possible Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Poor households in the north central zone-the surplus production area for maize, sorghum, tuber and pulses are relatively better off. They are mainly dependent on their own food stocks in May/June and have benefited from good 2011 maize, sorghum and pulses production. Food prices are also lower in the zone relative to the extreme north and in the south. Markets are well integrated, trade flows with surplus production areas of the north central areas are relatively unobstructed, and markets are well supplied. As the rain established in June/July market food supply will further increase as farmers and traders release their stocks due to increased expenditure for farming activities, impacting food prices and increasing food access by poor households. However, poor household food stocks will normally decline during the lean season between July and September and food prices will normally increase, making poor households more purchase dependant. As the growing season starts in May/June in the area, poor households will rely on wage labor, sale of charcoal, and remittances to access food. This condition will be tempered by the early green harvest of tubers, vegetables and maize in August and September. Therefore poor households in this zone will face no acute food insecurity during the lean season.

    In the South

    As of mid-May the 2012 rainy season has progressed favorably in the south and planting of maize, cassava and yam is ongoing in most areas in the south. The major meteorological and forecasting groups, including NIMET, ECMWF and IRI suggest normal rainfall for the entire season. The lean season is underway in the south in May through August. Food supply will deplete normally and food prices will continue to increase through August constraining access to food by poor and very poor households.

    According to FEWS NET enumerators, the price of gari, the major staple food for the poor in the south, has increased significantly by 27 percent in mid May relative to NGN 72/kg, in mid April, on Bodija market-Oyo state. The price of gari will continue to rise due to increased demand during the lean season. This will be compounded by the high humidity during rainy season, limiting gari processing and supply through September. Prices of major food substitutes such as yam, cowpea and maize are unseasonably high for this period of the year. To meet their basic food needs poor households will depend on debts, remittances and substitution with less preferred foods such as cocoyam and wild foods which are available and accessible. This will be tempered by the early green harvest of yam and maize through September. They will meet their basic food needs through September. Exceptions are the poor households displaced by seasonal flooding, who will recover after the main harvest in December when the water recedes and fishing and off season farming activities peaks. 

    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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