FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Land preparation for 2022 crops ongoing, amid favourable seasonal weather outlook
Import requirements in 2021/22 slightly above average
Prices of local and imported cereals well above year‑earlier levels
Food insecurity at unprecedented levels in 2022, amid severe economic challenges
Land preparation for 2022 crops ongoing, amid favourable seasonal weather outlook Land preparation is ongoing and planting of the 2022 rainfed crops of maize and pulses is expected to start in July. Weather forecasts indicate a high likelihood of a timely start of the rains, average to above‑average rainfall amounts through October and a late end of the season. The favourable seasonal weather outlook is expected to support planting operations and crop development, with a positive effect on yields likely breaking the dry weather conditions that prevailed between 2017 and 2021 which resulted in negligible production levels during that period.
Maize production is expected to rebound in 2022 from the very low level obtained in 2021. However, the production recovery is likely to be constrained by farmers’ low financial resources, which may compromise their access to agricultural inputs and hired labour. In addition, the spike of global prices of fuel poses challenges to agricultural activities by increasing production costs.
The favourable seasonal weather outlook is expected to support pasture conditions and forage production in 2022 and to result in an improvement of livestock body conditions, which were adversely affected by drought in 2021, particularly in arid and semi‑arid areas. However, livestock production is expected at reduced levels, as many farmers cut herd sizes in the previous drought‑affected years in order to meet their food needs and avoid increased animal losses.
Import requirements in 2021/22 slightly above average The country relies heavily on food imports, which account for over 80 percent of its food consumption needs. The cereal import requirements in the 2021/22 marketing year (November/October) are estimated at 94 500 tonnes, slightly above the five‑year average, including 30 000 tonnes of wheat and wheat flour and 30 000 tonnes of maize.
The country is likely to face challenges to cover the import requirements as its finance capacity has been negatively affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Soaring international food prices, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, are likely to compound this situation. In addition, global supply chain bottlenecks associated to the war may hinder import flows, particularly as 40 percent of the country’s wheat imports originated from the Russian Federation and most of the 5 million litres of cooking oil imported yearly are sourced from Ukraine.
Prices of local and imported cereals well above their year‑earlier levels Prices of local maize and imported rice increased since early 2021 and, as of April 2022, were up to 30 percent above their year‑earlier levels. Prices of imported wheat flour started to spike in early 2022 following a period of general stability in 2021, and they were up to 40 percent higher on a yearly basis in April 2022. The high domestic prices mostly reflect trends on international food commodity markets and impose severe food access constraints to the most vulnerable households. The annual inflation rate reached 8.15 percent in April, the highest level since 2008.
Food insecurity at unprecedented levels in 2022, amid severe economic challenges The food security situation has significantly deteriorated during the last two years, reflecting the negative effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the local economy, which is highly dependent on tourism and service sectors. According to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the World Food Programme, the Gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 15 percent in 2020, with consequent losses of income and purchasing power. In order to finance the COVID‑19 pandemic response plan, the country’s debt level increased and, in 2021, it was about 150 percent of the GDP, representing the highest debt ratio in the ECOWAS. Current food insecurity levels are compounded by prolonged drought conditions that led to poor agricultural production between 2017 and 2021, and pushed many households to engage in negative food and livelihood coping strategies.
According to the latest March 2022 Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis, about 46 000 people or 10 percent of the population were projected to face acute food insecurity (CH Phase 3 [Crisis] and above) between June and August 2022, including about 3 100 people in CH Phase 4 (Emergency). This is the highest number since the first CH analysis was carried out in 2014 and it shows a four‑fold increase compared to the same period in 2020. The number of food insecure people in 2022 could increase above the current projections as the high levels of international prices of energy, fuel and food, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, may further constrain access to food. These factors are also likely to widen the fiscal deficits and raise concerns about the country’s capacity to respond to additional shocks.
In order to increase the resilience of the agricultural sector and to improve food security conditions, the government is currently implementing a series of actions. These include the grant of subsidies for fuel and livestock feed, the operation of a school feeding programme for about 90 000 children during the school holidays between mid‑June to mid‑September, to invest in irrigation infrastructure and to increase the national reserves of cereals from 14 000 tonnes to 32 000 tonnes.