In 2009, agricultural production has been affected in Chad, Niger and Nigeria by late onset of rains, prolonged dry spells and significant pest infestations. In Nigeria, this was compounded by continuing lack of access to fertiliser. An expected increase in crop production in Benin will not be enough to offset lower supplies in neighbouring countries. Rising food insecurity, especially in Niger and Chad is, therefore, likely in 2010, as discussed below.
In Nigeria, most States in the far northern part of the country witnessed an unfavourable pattern of rainfall. This included a late onset of the rainy season, prolonged dry spells, and unusually late rains in late October/early November, potentially affecting crop maturity and drying. Torrential rains and flooding of farmlands, particularly in the South, also resulted in localized crop losses in July and August. Although regular and well distributed rains benefited crop development in the North Central areas (including most of Gombe, Plateau, Kaduna, Niger and Nassarawa States), distribution of subsidised fertilizer by federal and state governments covers less than 30 percent of requirements. As a result, the joint field evaluation survey conducted by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) and the Federal Department of Agriculture in 2009 estimated 16.4 percent and 6.5 percent declines in millet and sorghum production, respectively, compared to 2008. By contrast, maize production is forecast to increase by 9.9 percent, while rice output is expected to expand by 9 percent. An average output is forecast for crops that are concentrated in the Middle Belt and Southern Zones of the country, and less dependent on fertilizer, such as cassava, cocoyams and yams.
In Chad, growing conditions for cereal crops and pastures have been poor in most parts of the country, due to a late start of the rainy season, which delayed plantings, and subsequent erratic precipitation. A joint CILSS/FAO//FEWSNET mission has estimated cereal production in 2009/10 at 1.16 million tonnes. At this level, production is about 34 percent lower than both last year’s good output and the five years average. Production of sorghum and millet, the most important food crops, is estimated to have declined by 22 percent and 34 percent, respectively, to 460 900 tonnes and 310 500 tonnes. Pastures were seriously affected with reports of livestock deaths in the important pastoral areas of Kanem, Batha Ouest and Nord Biltine.
In Niger, the most vulnerable country, erratic rains and extended dry spells throughout the growing season caused serious damage to crops and pastures in several areas. The most seriously affected departments included Bouza, Madaoua, Illéla, and Tahoua in the Tahoua region; N’Guigmi and Diffa in the Diffa region; Doutchi in the Dosso region; Tessaoua and Mayahi in the Maradi region and Magaria, Mirriah, Gouré and Tanout in the Zinder region. Aggregate cereal production in 2009 is estimated at some 3.65 million tonnes, which is 26 lower than the bumper crop of 2008 and 3 percent below the average for the previous five years. Furthermore, following severe pest infestations and poor rainfall, production of cowpea, the main source of income for farmers, was estimated to drop by 34 percent to some 840 000 tonnes.
Market and food security prospects
Cereal prices have remained well above the pre-food price crisis levels two years ago, in most countries of the subregion, in spite of last year's record crop. Although coarse grain prices declined somewhat from their peak of August-September 2008, most recent millet prices in markets of N’Djamena (Chad) and Niamey (Niger) 1 were still 72 and 42 percent higher respectively than in the corresponding period of 2007. In Dawanau International Grains Market in Kano (Nigeria), the biggest in the subregion, the price of millet and sorghum in early November was 40 percent higher than its level of November 2007.
The expected reduction in Nigeria's cereal production could lead to a new rise in cereal prices across the subregion with a serious negative impact on rural food-deficit households and urban consumers. This is particularly so in Niger, where the combination of reduced cash crop returns, poor rangeland conditions, a fall in production (especially for millet) in Northern Nigeria, and the continuing combination of poverty and persistently high food prices, could lead to sharp increases in malnutrition. Although livestock prices have remained relatively stable, several parts of the country may experience acute food insecurity if the upward trend in food price continues. Large segments of the population will be at risk of food shortages in 2010 and will require targeted and timely assistance. In view of the current food supply situation and unfavourable prospects of imports from Nigeria, the situation is both serious and likely to deteriorate further in Niger and in Chad.
Therefore, the following urgent actions are recommended:
- Safety net interventions, such as targeted distribution, sales at subsidized prices, food for work or cash for work activities, will be required during next year lean season, with quantities depending on the extent of food supply and pasture deficits in specific areas;
- distribution of inputs such as seeds and fertilizer is also needed to enable farmers to produce enough food during the current off-season (December-February) and the next cropping season (from June 2010);
- Vulnerable people, especially children, need to continue to have access to therapeutic and feeding centres;
- In each country, market and price conditions and the situation of vulnerable groups, need to be closely monitored in order to respond to any sharp increase in assistance requirements..
1. in September 2009 for N’Djamena and November 2009 for Niamey