A full 44 nations worldwide – including 33 in Africa, nine in Asia and two in Latin America and the Caribbean – require food aid. This is according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It says food insecurity is a major worry in portions of East Africa due to violence and drought, while food insecurity in West Africa is expected to develop to alarming levels by 2022, owing to agricultural output deficiencies and ongoing conflicts.
Due to adverse weather conditions and hostilities in East and West Africa, severe crop damage occurred recently, resulting in output downturns in numerous nations in 2021. Planting for the 2022 harvests has begun in North Africa, where soil moisture shortages have hampered sowing operations. And in Southern Africa, where weather conditions have been generally favourable, both sub-regions produced bumper crops in 2021.
Production is still normal
Preliminary estimates for the sub-region’s aggregate cereal output in 2021, including a projection for the second season, are at an above-average level of 58.5 million tonnes. It is down around 4% from the previous year’s output.
“In central and northern parts of the sub-region, harvesting of the 2021 main season cereal crops is underway. Despite generally adequate June−September ‘Kiremt’ rains, crop prospects in Ethiopia are mixed as the ongoing conflict in northern areas, including the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, has resulted in substantial crop losses,” the report says.
“In the Tigray region, the epicentre of the conflict, crop production is expected to be about 60% below the already poor 2020 main harvest.”FAO report
Sorghum plantings in Sudan decreased marginally, owing to a price-driven rise in cotton plantings at the expense of sorghum, although they stayed near to the five-year average. Similarly, due to a delayed commencement of rains and increased insecurity in the Darfur region, the primary producing area, millet acreage in 2021 dropped on an annual basis, but remained 11% over the five-year average.
Despite some projected localised output shortages in regions hit by dry weather and/or floods, overall grain production prospects are favourable thanks to plentiful seasonal rainfall. Following rainfall shortages in the first half of the season, which caused crop wilting in several areas and often necessitated replanting, above-average rains in September and October improved vegetation conditions in cropped areas in the northern and central uni-modal rainfall areas of South Sudan.
In southern parts of the subregion, harvesting of the 2021 second season cereal crops has recently started in central and southern bi-modal rainfall areas of Uganda and southern South Sudan, while crops will be harvested in early 2022 in northeastern United Republic of Tanzania (“Vuli”), Somalia (“Deyr”) and marginal and coastal agricultural areas of southeastern Kenya (“short-rains”).
“As of mid-November, most key cropping areas of central and southern Somalia as well as coastal and marginal agricultural areas of southeastern Kenya had not yet received any significant rains, with delayed and reduced plantings and widespread germination failures. As a result, crop prospects are unfavourable in both areas, and in Somalia, according to FSNAU and FEWS NET, the 2021 “Deyr” cereal output is forecast to be 40%-60% below the average of the previous five years,” the report adds.
High prices of coarse grains in South Sudan and the Sudan
“In the Sudan, prices of sorghum and millet declined by 2% – 12% or levelled off in October as traders released some of their stocks in anticipation of the ongoing 2021 main harvest. However, prices in October remained very high, about twice their already elevated year-earlier values, mainly due to the continuous depreciation of the national currency and soaring prices of agricultural inputs that have inflated production costs.
“In South Sudan, despite moderate declines following the first season harvest in September, prices of the main food staples, including sorghum and maize, were at exceptionally high levels in October,” the report states.
The continuously difficult macroeconomic situation, inadequate domestic supplies and insecurity disrupting trade flows are behind the high food prices. In Ethiopia, since the beginning of the year, prices of maize have continued to rise. In October 2021 prices were up to 90% above their year-earlier levels, due to the depreciation of the country’s currency, the poor performance of the secondary season “Belg” harvest and conflict-related trade disruptions in some areas. In Uganda, prices of maize increased by 10%-20% between August and October, and were about 50% higher year on year.
“The higher prices are mainly due to reduced domestic supplies following the below-average first season harvest, coupled with sustained exports to Kenya and South Sudan. Similarly, in Somalia, prices of maize and sorghum increased by 5% – 10% between July and September, despite the commercialisation of the well below-average ‘Gu’ harvest.”