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Average to above-average harvests continue to allow for improved food access and availability

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sierra Leone
  • February - September 2017
Average to above-average harvests continue to allow for improved food access and availability

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    •  The dry season, which started in December, is progressing normally across the country. Generally, there was average to above-average production of cereals, tubers, cocoa, coffee and vegetables in the 2016/17 season. This, in addition to expected above-average off-season production, will most likely continue to support access to food for poor households and almost all districts will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from February to September 2017. 

    • Markets continue to function normally across the country providing livelihoods for poor households through petty trading and agriculture sales. However, the continued depreciation of the Leone will affect prices of food commodities and imports, particiualrly in the lean season when prices usually increase.  Reduced purchasing power may affect some vulnerable households, but most will not have to resort to atypical coping strategies for food access during the scenario period.

    • Average to above-average production of rice and vegetables is supporting household access to food in Kailahun district, which will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from February to May 2017. However, rainy season declines in transportation will be exacerbated by above-average petrol and commodity prices. Reduced purchasing power will cause most poor households to forgo some non-food expenditures and Kailahun is expected to deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity from June to September.


    Current Situation

    The dry season, which started across the country in December 2016 is progressing normally allowing for normal processing (drying) of food crops including rice, cassava, groundnut, maize and pepper. Harvesting of upland rice was completed in December 2016 and almost all districts reported normal to above-average production. Farmers in Moyamba, Pujehun and Kailahun, however, reported below-average production due to transitioning from upland to lowland rice production, above-average labor costs, and rodent attacks in Moyamba.  Harvesting of IVS rice and tubers such as cassava, sweet potato, and yams is currently on-going across the country with both farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture reporting above-average production levels due to increased government and non-government support programs.  Above-average harvests since September have replenished both household and market food stocks, contributing to adequate food availability for poor households.

    Off-season production activities have started in all areas of country since December 2016 at an average level. Currently nursing of vegetable seeds and heap construction for the transplanting of vegetables is ongoing.  In the food crop and coastal fishing zone which covers parts of Moyamba, Port Loko, Bonthe and Kambia districts, fishing communities are experiencing a normal high season of fish catch, which runs throughout the dry season.  In the cash crop, food crop and timber zone including Kailahun, Kenema and Kono districts, the cocoa harvest season has ended with production reported to be at above-average levels. Harvesting of coffee is progressing and expected to reach above-average levels by the end of the season in March.

    Market functioning remains normal across the country with market stock levels for imported commodities (rice, onions, vegetable oil, wheat flour and cooking condiments) remaining stable. Market stock level of local commodities (rice, tubers, and vegetables) are also mostly average except for in, Kailahun, Moyamba and Pujehun district where it was reported that market stock levels of local rice is slightly below average due to below-average production of upland rice. A general improvement of road network since the start of the dry season is facilitating the movement of agricultural commodities. Trade flows within the country and into neighboring countries (Liberia and Guinea) has improved significantly since the lifting of all EVD related restrictions and the start of the dry season.

    According to MAFFS market data, from August to December 2016, there has been reduction in the prices of some local commodities and slight increases in others mostly following normal seasonal trends. The average prices of cassava and groundnuts went down by 5 and 6 percent respectively from November to December 2016, following local harvests across the country. Rice, which is the staple food of the country, showed slight increases of 1 to 2 percent from November to December 2016 for both local and imported rice, likely driven by increased demand from neighboring countries, localized below-average production of upland rice, and the continued depreciation of the Leone. Despite these increases, the average price of local parboiled rice went down by 8 percent from August to December following normal post- harvest trends.  From November to December the price of fish and palm oil also increased seasonally likely due to increased demand during the December holidays.

    Cocoa and coffee marketing in the Eastern Region follows reports that production of the two commodities in 2016/17 season is above-average and significantly improved from the previous two seasons when EVD related restrictions significantly reduced production and trade.  Although the price of cocoa in the international market continues to remain below-average with December 2016 prices declining by 16 percent as compared to the five year average (World Bank, Y-Chart), local reports indicate that local prices are improving due to improved production quality. Cocoa industry stakeholders in Kenema, Kailahun and Kono Districts say that there has been an increase in the price of local cocoa due to improvement in the quality of cocoa beans produced compared to past years. In Kono district, the price of a kilogram of cocoa, went up by 15.4 percent from January 2016 to January 2017 with similar increases in price trends also reported for Kenema and Kailahun.  Robusta coffee, which is also a significant cash crop commodity in the Eastern Region, has also experienced a relative increase in average prices and earning potential.  International prices increased by 10 percent in December as compared to 5 year average, while local reports in Kenema district cite that the price of a kilogram of coffee went up by 100 percent from January 2016 to January 2017 with similar increase in price trends were reported for Kono and Kailahun districts. Institutional support from government and non-government partners likely helped farmers rehabilitate coffee plantations and improved quality of the beans. Improved share of household income from cocoa and coffee is supporting normal income for most households in the region.

    Some poor households across the country continue to earn improved income from above-average wage rates for agricultural labor through harvesting of IVS rice and garden bed construction for off season vegetable and tuber crop production. The average labor rate for harvesting rice is currently more than double what is was in the pre-EVD era, which is largely attributed to inflation and reduced labor supply due to migration of labor away from rural areas and increased reliance on communal labor systems.  Petty trading at this time is also providing normal income for a significant proportion of poor households. Charcoal sales, and sand mining especially in the food crop and coastal fishing zone that forms part Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba, and Bo district is providing normal income for poor households. Logging in timber producing regions is also providing normal income.


    The Food Security Outlook for February to September 2017 will be based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Seasonal progress: The dry season which started in December 2016 is expected to continue normally until April 2017 when the rains are expected to start on-time.  Forecasts from meteorological agencies are indicating that precipitation is expected to be within a normal range across the country.


    Cash crop production: Rehabilitation of cocoa and coffee plantation for the 2017/18 production season is expected to be at above-average levels due to government and non-government support to cocoa and coffee farmers and following an improved 2016/17 season that will allow producers to reinvest in their plantations.    Additionally, cashew fruit production is expanding in Kambia, Port Loko and Bombali with peak harvest expected from March through April, generating above- average income for poor households through sales and farm labor. Harvesting, processing, and marketing of palm fruits and mangoes will continue at normal levels from March through May 2017.

    Off and main season production: Off-season production of vegetables, cassava and sweet potato is expected to be above-average from March to May 2017, due to increased area cultivated and government support to smallholder farmers. A normal start of 2017 main season upland production activities is expected with land clearing beginning from February and planting of main season food crops  including upland rice, cassava, sweet potato, vegetables, maize and millet expected to progress normally  in May.  Although some upland production may decline due to a transition to IVS production, MAFFS official figures project generally above-average land area to be cultivated for rice across the country.

    Market functioning and trade: Markets are expected to function normally during the scenario period with stock levels of both imported and local food expected to remain normal. Market prices of food commodities are expected to remain relatively stable in the post-harvest period and increase seasonally during the lean season (June through August). Continued depreciation of the Leone is keeping prices above the five year average, however it is expected that household will maintain purchasing power due to above-average last season’s harvests.

    Income from farm and non-farm labor:  Income from farm labor (land clearing, planting, weeding) across the country for poor households is expected to be above-average throughout the agriculture season as the area planted in 2017/18 is expected to increase. Normal income is expected for poor households from cocoa and coffee plantation rehabilitation in the Eastern Zone, fishing and sand mining in coastal zone areas of Port Loko, Moyamba, Pujehun and Kambia and through logging in the tree crops and timber zone areas in parts of Kenema, Kono, and Bo.

    Petty trade: Petty trade is expected to remain seasonally normal in rural areas throughout the scenario period as purchasing power of poor households remain average and sales of off-season crops (vegetables, tubers and maize and also mangoes and palm oil) are expected to be above-average during the period March through May. Petty trading in urban areas is also expected to improve to an above-average level during the scenario period due to improved sales of non-food items such as electronic accessories, biscuits, washing and cooking utensils, and second hand clothing.  Overall economic recovery in urban areas as compared to the EVD period is driving much of this improvement.

    Depreciation of the Leone: After the sharp decline in the international market price of iron ore and the closing of large mining operation in 2015, the value of the Leone has been depreciating against the US Dollar. Despite a gradual increase in the international price of iron ore in 2016, iron ore prices remain significantly below the 5 year average and international exports are not expected to recover in the scenario period. From December 2016 to January the Leone depreciated by 1 percent continuing to follow the five years decline in which the Leone declined by 54 percent.

    Commodity and food crop prices: The continued depreciation of the Leone against the US Dollar will most likely result in an increase in price of food and non-food commodities. The prices of local commodities (Rice, vegetables, palm oil, tubers and fruits) is therefore expected to increase from February to May 2015 to a level that will not warrant irreversible coping strategies for poor households.  Prices of food and non-food items are expected to remain above-average although the expected above-average off season food harvests will contribute in cushioning the severity of food price increases. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Continued stability is generally supporting market functioning, livelihood opportunities and food consumption for poor households across the country.  Average to above-average production of last season’s food crops is promoting availability and access to food for poor households. Expected above-average off season crop production and hold over stocks from the main season will most likely continue to support food consumption and income generation throughout the lean season. Most poor households across the country are expected to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from February through September 2017.  This includes Port Loko District, which will improve from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in February due to average to above-average of 2016 rice production, tubers, groundnut, and vegetables is currently supporting livelihoods, food consumption, and purchasing power of poor households- especially through petty trade.

    In Kailahun District, where food security outcomes have been affected by slow economic recovery for the last two years, acute food insecurity is expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from February through May 2017 due to average food crop harvests and above-average income from cocoa and coffee production.  The situation, however, is expected to deteriorate back to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from June to September 2017 following below-average upland rice production during the main 2016/17 harvest season and continued elevated prices, particularly for petrol.  Purchasing power and food access will decline by June as above-average transportation cost and food prices will become more severe in the lean season and as household rice stocks run out in May. 

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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