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Conflict and high staple food prices likely to drive Crisis and Emergency outcomes in 2016

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • February - September 2016
Conflict and high staple food prices likely to drive Crisis and Emergency outcomes in 2016

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Below-average agricultural production in 2015, expected high staple food prices, very poor pasture conditions, and continued conflict in the Darfurs, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile States are leading to much higher assistance needs in 2016. Between March and September 2016, more than 4 million people will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse. The number of rural, resident households expected to be in Crisis is about twice as high as in a typical year.

    • National 2015/16 cereal production is about 25 percent below the recent five-year average, in part due to El Niño-related dryness in eastern surplus-producing areas. Imports and above-average carryover stocks from 2014/15 are substantially reinforcing cereal availability at the national level. However, in western Sudan, below-average production and poor market integration with eastern and central Sudan are likely to lead to significant staple food price increases. 

    • Below-average production is of particular concern in parts of North Kordofan, West Kordofan, Kassala, Red Sea, White Nile, and the Darfur States. Moreover, pasture availability is estimated to be 40 to 60 percent below-average nationally, leading to large sales of livestock at below-average prices, which is expected to continue through June. Very poor households in these areas are likely to exhaust their food stocks by the end of February, and by March will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    • Armed conflict since mid-January between SAF and SLA-AW forces in the Jebel Marra area has displaced nearly 90,000 people to North Darfur and thousands more to West Darfur State and within the Jebel Marra area. IDPs not receiving food assistance and/or host community support are most likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Conflict-related disruptions to agricultural production, livelihood activities, and markets will also drive IDPs and poor households in SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan State into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with the early start of the lean season in March 2015. 

    National Overview

    As of February 2016, more than 3.5 million people in Sudan face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. Most of these populations are in conflict-affected areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, and Blue Nile States, with additional pockets of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) populations in drought-affected areas of Kassala, North Kordofan, North Darfur, Red Sea and White Nile States. About 55 – 60 percent of the current food insecure population is in Darfur and 12 percent in South Kordofan. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity is mainly among internally displaced persons (IDPs) in SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan and IDPs in Darfur displaced in the last six months due to conflict.

    The June to October 2015 rainy season began 20 to 40 days late in many parts of Sudan, and was followed by below-average rainfall and significant dry spells during August/September, particularly in key surplus-production areas such as Gedaref, Kassala, Sennar, White Nile, West Darfur, and South Darfur States. According to the preliminary findings of the 2015/16 annual Crop and Food Supply Mission (CFSAM) report, staple food production in Sudan was about 25 percent below the recent five-year average, and about 55 percent percent below 2014/15 levels, when the production was almost double the five-year average.

    Despite the below-average harvest, above-average carryover stocks of sorghum and millet and imports of wheat are maintaining adequate availability of staple foods. National aggregate availability of millet, sorghum, and wheat is expected to be near normal due to the availability of well above-average carryover stocks and imports (wheat in particular) is contributing to offset the aggregate supply effects of the below-average production this year. 

    Despite these aggregate/national level trends, the spatial distribution of supply is more uneven than in a normal year:

    • Aggregate supply (including both production and carryover stocks) is believed to be average to above average in the south-eastern sorghum producing areas of the country because those are the areas where large-scale storage of grain is possible (and currently being utilized). Opening stocks are believed to be total 700-800,000 MT with the Strategic Reserve Corporation (SRC), around 300,000 with the private sector, and above-average stocks with households (including subterranean storage) concentrated in Gadaref State, but also in White Nile, Blue Nile, and Sennar States.
    • Production in the Darfur States was well below average and the states that are typically self-sufficient or produce a surplus (West Darfur) did not produce enough grain to meet local needs this year (self-sufficiency is defined as the ratio of production to human consumption requirements, where human consumption is population times 146 kg, the consumption norm established by previous ACFSAM reports). Self-sufficiency in North Darfur and South Darfur (structurally deficit) are even lower than a normal year. This situation is compounded by a lack of local carryover stocks (due to limited commercial farming and a lack of storage capacity in these areas) and the very long distances from where national surpluses are located. Although there will likely be imports from Chad and some supplies available from central Sudan, FEWS NET expects a substantial availability issue this year in the Western-most parts of the country until harvests in October.

    The below-average harvest reduced demand for seasonal agricultural labor, and reduced wages and terms of trade. The below-average harvest reduced demand for seasonal agricultural labor during the November to January harvest period. Consequently, wages in surplus-producing areas declined significantly during this period. In Gadaref, labor wages declined by 40 – 45 percent between December and January, from SDG 80 per day in December to SDG 50 in January (Figure 1). As a result, terms-of-trade (ToT) between daily wage labor and sorghum declined by 40 percent during the same period last year and less than half of the recent two-year average. In January, daily wage labor is equivalent to 16 kg of sorghum compared to 26 kg of sorghum in December.

    Below-average 2015/16 production also reduced income from the sale of cash crops. Like staple food prices, cash crop production of 2015/16 was also affected by the poor rainfall performance. The preliminary findings of the 2015/16 CFSAM indicated cash crop production far below the bumper harvest of last year and the five-year average. The production of groundnut, the most important cash crop for subsistence farmers in Sudan, was estimated to be 45 percent and 25 percent lower than of last year and the 2008/09 – 2012/13 five-year average, respectively. Similar reductions were also reported for sesame, sunflower, and hibiscus. The below-average cash crop production of 2015/16 has reduced income from sale of cash crops for small household producers during the November to January harvest period.

    A large national pasture deficit is resulting in large-scale early migration of animals. Poor rainfall performance has also resulted in unusually low pasture and less water availability for livestock over most parts of Sudan, particularly in Kassala, North Kordofan, North Darfur, White Nile, Red Sea, South Darfur, and Central Darfur States, as well as the Butana Plain in central Sudan. The total pasture deficit is estimated at 40 to 60 percent of national needs. Extreme poor pasture has triggered abnormal migration of livestock to other areas in search of pasture and water, including South Kordofan from North Kordofan, White Nile and West Kordofan and Blue Nile from Sennar, Gadaref, and Gazeira.

    Livestock keepers have increased sales of livestock to reduce their herd size to manageable proportions in expectation of worsening pasture and water conditions during the ongoing January-to-June dry season.  As  a result, there has been oversupply of livestock into the local markets that have led to remarkable decline of livestock prices in remote rural markets (e.g. Sodari and Jabart El Shiekh in North Kordofan state) and areas of concentration for grazing (e.g. Lagawa market at the border between South and West Kordofan markets.

    Current grain prices exhibited mixed trends among different markets in Sudan, which is a typical phenomenon during the harvest period between November and December. However, the mixed trends were reinforced by the expected much below average November-to-January 2015/16 harvest resulting in uncertainties, and increased tendency by traders to hold on to their grain stocks in anticipation of higher prices in the future.

    • Retail sorghum (main staple food) prices followed mixed trends between December and January. While prices remained seasonably stable in some collection and consumption markets including Om Dorman and Damazin, the prices increased atypically by up to 12 percent in Al Gadarif, PortSudan, El Fasher, Madani and Geneina due to increased demand amidst relatively low market supplies. Prices decreased slightly but typically in main collection markets of El Obied, Nyala and Kadugli, but were mainly a result of food aid distribution. January levels of sorghum prices were on average 14 percent higher than respective 2014 prices but 60 percent above the recent five-year average prices.
    • Retail millet prices also exhibited mixed trends between November and December. Prices remained stable in Ad-Damazin, Port Sudan and Dongola, and decreased slightly in Om Dorman, El Obied, El Fasher and Geneina. This was mainly due to reduced demand as more households shifted to consumption of the relatively cheaper sorghum and subsidized wheat. Millet prices increased atypically but slightly in Al Gadarif, Kadugli, and Nyala due to reduced market supplies amidst relatively high demand in these markets. January levels of millet prices surpassed their respective 2015 levels by 5 to 15 percent in most markets, but remained on average 50 percent above recent five-year average.
    • Despite reduced market supplies of locally produced wheat as result of reduced stock at the market and household level, retail prices of locally produced wheat were unseasonably stable instead of increasing between November and December. This was mainly linked to the regular release of subsidized wheat and wheat flour by SRC. Current levels of locally produced wheat prices are on average nine percent below their respective 2014 levels, but remained 73 percent above the recent five-year average.

    The Sudanese government’s decision to opening its border with South Sudan for cross-border trade has encouraged trade and eased cross-border grazing in South Sudan since January 2016. The decision stimulated demand for local products from Sudan and prices have started to increase in February. Consequently, sorghum prices in Gadaref market have increased by nearly 40 percent, from SDG 225 per sack in January to SDG 310 per sack in February. Meanwhile, onion prices in Kassala market more than doubled between January and February. Increased numbers of traders buying local products for export to South Sudan were reported in February from most markets along the border with South Sudan. Having the extreme pasture shortage in Sudan this year, the normalized relations enabled cattle herders to cross into South Sudan for grazing in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Upper Nile States.

    Despite a stable official exchange rate, the Sudanese Pound (SDG) continued to depreciate in the parallel market. Depreciation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) on the parellel market continues to be high, due to less oil revenue following the separation of South Sudan in 2011, and domestic conflict and a weakening economy that has reduced exports that bring foreign currency. By January, the exchange rate for one dollar to the SDG in parallel exchange rate, the benchmark for the business community, was 90 - 95 percent higher than the official exchange rate as the shortage of dollars continued amidst high demand. This is reflected in consumer prices that have been steadily increasing and high inflation rate in Sudan.

    Thousands of people displaced by heightened conflict between Sudan Armed Forces SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army – Abdelwahid Nur faction (SLA-AW) in Jebel Marra area are in urgent need for humanitarian assistance. Since mid-January, fighting between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan Liberation Army led by Abdelwahid Nur (SLA-AW) has increased in the Jebel Marra area that straddles North, South, and Central Darfur States. Between mid-January and the third week of February 2016, about 87,500 people were displaced from Jebel Marra to North Darfur State, including 63,223 people to Sortony village in Kebkabiya locality, and 22,261 IDPs to Rawanda and Agro IDP camps in Tawila locality. Additional displacements within and near Jebel Marra in West Darfur State have been reported, but these areas were not accessible for humanitarian agencies. New displaced people were reportedly in dire situation and they need urgent humanitarian assistance, including food, health and shelter. Thousands of people are also reportedly displaced to Guldo, Thur, Boori, Wadi Boori and Daya in Central Darfur State, but humanitarian agencies have not been able to access these areas to verify due to insecurity and restrictions.

    Despite the recently signed peace agreement between conflicting rivals in South Sudan, refugees continue to arrive in Sudan. About 5,204 refugees from South Sudan arrived in January 2016, which is higher than the average of 3,514/month arrival rate over the past five months. About 59 percent arrived in White Nile, while the rest went to Khartoum, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, and Blue Nile. Over 65 percent of the refugees received humanitarian assistance, including food assistance. Other factors contributing to additional displacements include ongoing severe food insecurity and economic difficulties in South Sudan. New arrivals of South Sudanese refugees from Northern Bahr el Ghazal to Ed Da’ein since the first week of January have been reported. So far, about 1,000 households have arrived and the influx is still ongoing. Sharp increases of food prices, a lack of food, and eased movement across the border have been cited as the main reasons behind this movement.

    In December 2015, WFP distributed food assistance to nearly 2.3 million people in Sudan, 2 million via in-kind and 0.3 million people via food vouchers. The in-kind modalities of food assistance include General Food Distributions, Supplementary Feeding, Blanket Supplementary Feeding, Food for Education, and Food Assistance for Assets. In total, WFP distributed 14,642 ton of assorted food commodities, which was 10 percent higher than planned in December,and disbursed a total USD 262,277 in the form of food vouchers.


    From February to October 2016, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national assumptions:

    • In the main cereal-producing eastern parts of the country, sorghum and millet prices are expected to increase seasonably between January and June 2016 (Figure 2), but will be higher than in 2015 and the recent three-year average. This is attributed to up to 25 percent below-average production of sorghum and millet across the country and high costs of production amidst high demand which is expected to exert upward pressure on prices. The upward trend in prices will be somewhat accentuated by exports to Eritrea and the northern parts of South Sudan especially after the Sudan officially opened its borders with South Sudan in January 2016.
    • In Blue Nile and South Kordofan States, prices are expected to remain stable instead of declining to their seasonal lows in February. Prices are then expected to increase seasonably but earlier than normal, in February instead of March, when many households  will start to depend more on the market to access food. The January-to-June cereal prices are expected to be higher than 2015 and the two/three-year average prices due to reduced supply, and restricted access in conflict areas.  
    • In deficit-producing areas of North Kordofan, North Darfur, South Darfur and East Darfur, prices are expected to remain stable instead of bottoming out in February. Prices are then expected to increase seasonably but earlier in February instead of March, but the increase will likely be unusually rapid as in the lean season, will most likely start earlier than normal in March/April.
    • Due to falling crude oil prices on the international market in 2015, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan announced in February an agreement to reduce the fees charged for the transportation of oil through Sudanese territory. Although specific details have not been announced yet, the loss in revenue from these fees will likely worsen the Government of Sudan’s shortage of foreign exchange.
    • Annual wheat imports are estimated at 1,800,000 MT, which along with relatively large carryover stocks from the 2014/2015 harvest, are expected to moderate increase in prices across most markets.
    • In general, livestock prices are expected to remain average or decrease moderately in most markets, but could decrease significantly in many western areas. Households in many eastern areas are using carryover stocks of sorghum from last year as livestock feed, and livestock have already migrated from poor pasture areas to moderate pasture areas in the southern parts of the country, South Sudan, and Ethiopia for grazing. The exception to that trend is Kadugli, where there is good pasture and where livestock are being moved to and in El Obeid (a transit point to southern parts of the country). 

    Labor-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT) are expected to decrease during the first half of the scenario period. Labor wages likely to decline during March to July due to likely increase in number of people seeking non-agricultural labor in the main urban areas as a result of below-average harvest. The beginning of rains in July will trigger normal demand for seasonal agricultural labor and recovery of wages. Thus FEWS NET assumes rising staple food prices and/or declining labor wages will lower labor-to-cereal ToT from March to September.

    Seasonal forecasts suggest near average to above-average rainfall is likely between June and September across Sudan. With forecasts for the ongoing El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to decay toward neutral conditions by mid-2016, it is likely that the June to September main rainy season in Sudan will be near average tending to above average towards the end of season in terms of cumulative rainfall.

    Heightened conflict between SAF and armed oppositions in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur likely to displace 200,000 – 250,000 people during the scenario period. Conflict between SAF and Sudan People Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) likely to heighten despite declared cessation of hostilities in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states by government of Sudan and SPLM-N in October 2015 and the formal and informal peace talks between Sudan government and SPLM-N in recent months under the mediation of African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). While conflict between SAF and Darfur armed rebel groups have already heightened in Jebel Marra area in Darfur since the beginning of this year. FEWS NET assumes comprehensive peace agreement not likely to be reached in conflict affected areas during the scenario period. And thus, conflict likely to rise during the dry season (February to June) as a result of improved road access during the dry season. The projected heightened conflict is likely to result in 200,000 – 250,000 new displacements during the scenario period.

    Humanitarian food assistance not is likely to reach drought affected people during the first half of the scenario period due to funding shortfalls. WFP’s PRRO (July 2015 to June 2017) is valued at some $700 million and currently has a shortfall of $481 million (69 percent), as of February 2016. WFP is in urgent need of $27 million to provide additional support to those impacted by the El Niño phenomena and as it stands, no funds have been committed to the response. Since no funding has been pledged to WFP for the El Niño response as of February, FEWS NET assumes there will be no scale up of food assistance at least during the first half of 2016. However, humanitarian food and voucher assistance will continue to approximately 3 million protracted IDPs in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.

    Refugee arrivals from South Sudan to White Nile, South Kordofan, and West Kordofan States are likely to continue. This is due to the slow implementation of the peace accord signed by conflicting parties in South Sudan, deteriorating economic conditions during the lean season, opening of the border between the two countries and very poor food security conditions in South Sudan. The total number arrivals from South Sudan to Sudan is likely to reach 250,000 to 270,000 by the end of the scenario period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The below-average harvest is likely to trigger an early onset of the lean season in March 2016, two months earlier than normal. Most households in areas of poor harvest exhaust their own-produced stocks by the end of February. As a result, more people than usual will rely on market purchase as the main source of food, at a time when seasonal agricultural labor income between November and January was below-average and income from sale of cash crops and livestock is also below-average. This reduced income, coupled with projected staple food price increases of 30 to 35 percent between now and September will reduce household food access during the lean season, particularly in conflict-affected areas. Populations of concern include IDPs and drought-affected poor households South Kordofan, Blue Nile, North Darfur, Kassala, North Kordofan and Red Sea States.

    In order to cope, poor households in areas of concern are likely to increase livestock sales, increase collection of charcoal/firewood, consume more wild foods, and increase the number of male household members who migrate to urban areas for non-agricultural labor and send remittances as the main coping strategies during the first half of the scenario period. In June, the onset of seasonal rainfall will increase seasonal agricultural labor opportunities and milk availability in most of these areas. Nevertheless, very poor households (25 to 30 percent of the population) in drought-affected areas will not be able to meet their minimum food and non-food needs without external food assistance and/or engaging in non-reversible coping strategies (e.g. sale of productive livestock), and will therefore be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September 2016. More than 4 million people are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by the start of lean season in March 2016.

    IDPs who do not receive food assistance from WFP in conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur will remain food insecure. They generally need to buy food from markets, but there are few income-earning opportunities and they face restrictions on movement limiting labor migration, reduced access to land to cultivate, and little to no access to humanitarian assistance. Many households with land access had below-average harvests, while others were unable to harvest or store their crops. However, a significant number of protracted IDPs in Darfur will be able to meet their minimum food needs and will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), but only with the presence of in-kind humanitarian food assistance and food vouchers. An estimated 60,000 people that represents 20 to 25 percent of IDPs and poor households in SPLM-N-controlled areas of South Kordofan to have Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of food insecurity by the start of lean season In March 2016. Newly conflict-displaced people from Jebel Mara who do not receive food assistance are also expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September 2016.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, February 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, February 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Daily labor to sorghum (kg) terms-of-trade, Gadaref

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Daily labor to sorghum (kg) terms-of-trade, Gadaref

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. El Fasher retail millet grain prices, SDG/kg

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. El Fasher retail millet grain prices, SDG/kg

    Source: FAMIS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Al Gadaref wholesale sorghum prices, SDG/100 kg

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Al Gadaref wholesale sorghum prices, SDG/100 kg

    Source: FEWS NET/FAMIS

    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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