FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

SPECIAL REPORT

CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION IN SUDAN

14 May 2001

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Mission Highlights

  • The food supply outlook is highly precarious in several parts of the country following two consecutive years of reduced cereal harvests and depletion of stocks. Sorghum prices have almost doubled while millet prices have increased by about 45 percent over last year.
  • Despite Government efforts to stabilise prices, food supply situation is likely to tighten further in the coming months with the start of the lean season.
  • The aggregate 2000/01 cereal output is currently estimated at 3.3 million tonnes, about 7 percent above the previous year's reduced crop but some 20 percent below the average of the last five years.
  • Based on the revised production estimates, cereal import requirement for 2000/01 (November/October) is estimated at 1.44 million tonnes of which commercial imports are anticipated at about 1.2 million tonnes. Food aid pledges amount to 55 000 tonnes, leaving an uncovered gap of 157 000 tonnes.
  • Overall, some 2.97 million people affected by the successive crop failures and the ongoing civil strife in the south are in need of international assistance.

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1. OVERVIEW

An FAO/GIEWS Crop Assessment Mission visited Sudan from 12 to 27 April 2001 to estimate the final outcome of the 2001 wheat harvest, review estimates of the main coarse grain crop and revise the cereal supply/demand outlook for 2000/01. An earlier FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited southern Sudan in October 2000 and northern Sudan from in November/December 2000 had provided preliminary estimates of cereal production in Sudan for the current marketing year. The present mission visited all major wheat producing areas in the country, including Gezira, New Halfa, Northern and River Nile states as well as major coarse grains producing and marketing areas, including Gedaref, North Kordofan and South Darfur.

The liberalisation of wheat production and the removal of Government support programmes that had encouraged high levels of production earlier in the 1990's, prompted many farmers to drastically reduce wheat cultivation in the last two years and switch to more lucrative cash crops such as vegetables and oil seeds. In 2001, farmers were encouraged by the high level of wheat prices at planting time and satisfactory yield levels were achieved due to cooler than average temperatures, improved supply of irrigation water, adequate input supply and low incidence of pests and diseases. The Mission forecasts the 2001 national output of wheat at 299 000 tonnes, some 40 percent above the 2000 reduced crop but 30 percent below the average for the previous five years. The final estimates of sorghum and millet production for 2000/01 have been revised down to 2.49 million tonnes and 483 000 tonnes respectively compared to 2.67 million tonnes and 496 000 tonnes estimated by the FAO/WFP mission late last year, mainly due to lower yields and pest damage.

As a result, the aggregate cereal production in 2000/01 is estimated at 3.33 million tonnes, including small quantities of maize and rice. This represents an increase of some 7 percent over last year's well below average crop but a drop of about 21 percent compared to the average of the previous five years. The revised cereal import requirement in the 2000/01 marketing year (November/October) is estimated at 1.44 million tonnes. Commercial imports are estimated at about 1.2 million tonnes, about the same as last year's actual imports. Latest estimates of emergency food aid, in pipeline and under mobilisation, amount to 55 000 tonnes, leaving an uncovered gap of about 157 000 tonnes.

Lower harvests for two consecutive years coupled with virtual depletion of stocks have led to a sharp rise in cereal prices. In March and April 2001 sorghum prices averaged SP45 000 compared to SP15 000 for the same period in 1999 and SP30 000 in 2000. Such an increase has reduced access to food for the poorer segments of the population. The purchasing power of large number of people, particularly pastoralists, has been seriously eroded. With coping mechanisms stretched to the limit, farmers and other vulnerable groups have migrated in search of work and food. The number of people joining WFP's "Food for Work" programmes has increased dramatically.

Government efforts to mitigate food shortages by lifting customs duties on food imports and financing grain purchases through the recently instituted Strategic Commodity Stock Authority have, to some extent, helped stabilise cereal markets. However, with the lean season just starting and only a fraction of the appeal for international food assistance pledged so far, the situation is likely to worsen in the coming months. Even if precipitation improves in the next season, which is about to start, harvests will not be available until October/November 2001.

The population most affected by last year's drought are mainly located in greater Darfur and Kordofan, Bahr el Ghazal, Bahr el Jebel, East Equatoria, Jonglei, Red Sea and Butana province in Gezira State. Latest estimates put the number of people in need of urgent food assistance in Sudan at some 2.97 million affected by both drought and/or civil war.

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2. WHEAT PRODUCTION IN 2000/01

Wheat is Sudan's second most important cereal in terms of consumption. Over the past few years, wheat production, which is almost entirely irrigated, has been declining due to diminishing yields and soaring input costs. Since 1999, the Government liberalised the wheat production regime and removed all support programmes. These moves have prompted many farmers to drastically reduce wheat cultivation and/or switch to more lucrative cash crops, such as vegetables and oil seeds. However, in the current season compared to last year, expectations of favourable wheat prices, near optimal weather conditions, relatively low incidence of pests and large scale rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure by the Government have encouraged farmers to expand planted area. As a result, the overall area under wheat increased from 102 000 hectares in the 1999/2000 season to 121 000 hectares this year, representing an increase of some 16 percent. However, compared to the previous five years average of 227 000 hectares, the area planted was some 47 percent lower. Moreover, compared to previous years, losses were lower and the overall area harvested as a proportion of that planted is nearly 98 percent compared to between 95 and 96 percent in previous years.

The optimum time for planting wheat is November and temperatures during this period remained cooler than average. In almost all wheat growing areas the bulk of the plantings occurred on time. The effectiveness of irrigation is determined by the availability and supply of fuel for pump irrigation and the degree of siltation in canals for larger schemes. In general, both of these factors were not constraining in 2000/01 season and farmers were able to provide crops with between six and eight irrigations.

The fertilizer situation was also generally satisfactory throughout the country. No significant outbreaks of pests and diseases were reported. The favourable weather and adequate input availability overall, therefore, resulted in a noticeable gain in productivity this year. Average yields are estimated at around 2 534 kg/hectare, representing an increase of 9 percent and 32 percent compared to last year and the average for the previous five years respectively. As a result, the wheat crop is estimated at 299 000 tonnes, which is about 10 percent lower than the FAO/WFP mission forecast in December last year but about 40 percent higher than the 214 000 tonnes produced in 2000.

As the annual consumption requirement for wheat is estimated at more than 1.5 million tonnes, the import requirement this year is estimated at about 1.26 million tonnes. Estimates of 2000/01 wheat production by zone are indicated in Table 1.

Table 1 - Sudan: Estimate of Wheat Production 2000/01

Zone
Area Planted
(000' ha) 1
Area Harvested
(000'ha) 1
Production
(000' tonnes) 1
Yield
(Kg/ha)
Gezira
32
31
52
1 677
White Nile
2
1
1
1 000
New Halfa
13
13
22
1 692
River Nile
20
20
61
3 050
Northern
50
50
159
3 180
Other
4
3
4
1 333
Total
121
118
299
2 534

1 Rounded to the nearest thousand

2.1 Situation by Production Zone

2.1.1 Northern State

The total area planted this season is estimated at about 50 000 hectares (120 000 feddans) from a target of 75 600 hectares (180 000 feddans), accounting for some 41 percent of the total wheat area in the country. Within the state the largest concentration of wheat is in Dongola, which accounts for 80 percent of the area, with the remaining 20 percent cultivated in the provinces of Merwi (10 percent), Halfa (5 percent) and Daba (5 percent).

The main wheat varieties grown were Wadi El Neel and El Nilein with some local varieties like Giza. Approximately 60 percent of the area was planted between mid-November and early-December, a further 35 percent by the mid-December and the remaining 5 percent by the end of December. The input situation was generally satisfactory but some seed shortages were reported at planting. A programme of rehabilitation of the pump irrigation schemes and provision of new pumps have helped irrigation activity and on average 6 irrigations were applied in most areas. The pest situation was also reported to be calm and no applications of pesticide were necessary.

As a result, yields in the Northern State are estimated to be the highest in the country averaging around 3 180 kg/hectare.

2.1.2 Gezira and Managil

The total area under wheat in the Gezira scheme was approximately 32 000 hectares, representing some 26 percent of total area in the country. This compares with last year's area of about 28 000 hectares. In common with all wheat producing areas in the country, temperatures were mild and cool throughout the growing season, making it ideal for growing wheat. Some 80 percent of the crop was planted within the recommended period by the end of November.

The fertilizer situation was reported to be generally favourable, with adequate supplies of urea and super-phosphate being available on time. The supply of irrigation water has improved following Government rehabilitation of canals allowing farmers to apply a minimum of six irrigations during the season. Apart from mild attacks of aphid, no serious pest or disease problems were reported.

Harvesting in most areas began at the end of March. The supply of combine harvesters was in excess and harvesting was almost complete by the time of the Mission, towards the end of April. Overall, average yield in the Gezira scheme is estimated at 1.68 tonnes/hectare and total output at 52 000 tonnes.

2.1.3 River Nile State

The total area planted is estimated at 47 500 feddans (20 000 hectares), with the following distribution in the five provinces of the state; Abu Hamad 34 500 feddans, El Damar 7 000 feddans, Barbar 3 000 feddans, Shendi 2 400 feddans and Matma 600 feddans.

The overall fertilizer situation was favourable, with all areas receiving the recommended amount. The application of super-phosphate is not recommended in the area. Seventy percent of the area was planted from mid to the early December, whilst a further 30 percent was sown in mid to late December. The average number of irrigations applied was six and no pest attacks were reported.

Harvest operations began in late March and harvest machines were adequately available. At the time of the Mission over 80 percent of the area was harvested. The highest yields were obtained in Abu Hamad with some farmers obtaining more than 20 sacks/feddan (over 4 000 kg/hectare).

2.1.4 New Halfa

The total area planted to wheat in the New Halfa scheme was about 30 000 feddans (13 000 hectares), of which 3 300 feddans were administered by the private sector.

Almost the entire area in the scheme received the recommended amount of fertilizer. The pest situation was controlled by spraying nearly 75 percent of area against aphids. The main variety grown was Kandour, though in some areas Debaira variety was also planted. Planting was undertaken mostly within the recommended period in November, though in some pockets it was extended to the middle of December.

On the whole irrigation supply was satisfactory with all areas receiving at least five irrigations. Weather conditions throughout the season were similar to those prevailing in other wheat growing parts of the country, where cool temperatures throughout the season favoured crop development.

Harvesting began at the end of March and is expected to extend to the first week of May. The number of available combine harvest machines is 45, which is considered adequate. With an average yield of 1 692 kg/hectare, total production is estimated at of around 22 000 tonnes.

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3. REVIEW OF THE 2000/01 CEREAL PRODUCTION

Cereals are the main staple crops of Sudan. In Southern Sudan, however, root crops, particularly cassava and sweet potatoes, are used in significant quantities. Sorghum, millet and maize are grown throughout the country during the rainy season from April to October. During the winter months from November to March, wheat is grown in irrigation schemes. Small, but locally significant, areas of maize are also grown under traditional hand-cultivation in riverine areas in the south using residual moisture left by receding floods.

At the time of the Mission, harvesting of sorghum and millet was virtually complete. It was, therefore, possible to update the yield and production forecasts made by the joint FAO/WFP Mission late last year. Revised estimates of yield and harvested area of sorghum and millet were obtained for all production centres in the irrigated and mechanized sectors. These account for over 70 percent of the total production of sorghum but less than 5 percent of the total production of millet. In the traditional rainfed sector revised estimates were available in some states, but estimates from the main production centres in Kordofan and Darfur remain similar to the forecasts made by the joint FAO/WFP Mission.

Table 2- Sudan: Estimate of Total Cereal Production 2000/01

Crop
Area Planted
(000 ha) 1
Area Harvested
(000'ha)
Production
(000' tonnes)
Yield
(kg/ha)
Sorghum
5 855
4 195
2 488
593
Millet
3 567
2 200
483
220
Wheat
121
118
299
2 534
Maize
82
76
53
697
Total2
9 631
6 594
3 331
 

1 All area, rounded to the nearest thousand
2 Includes some rice

A summary of the revised cereal estimates is shown in Table 2, whilst the comparison of output with previous years is shown in Table 3. Figure 1 also indicates trends in cereal production since 1991. The final estimate of sorghum production for 2000/01 has been revised down to about 2.49 million tonnes compared to 2.67 million tonnes estimated by the FAO/WFP mission last year. At this level, output is estimated to be some 6 percent above last year's reduced crop and about 23 percent below the average for the previous five years. Final estimates of the millet production is now estimated at 483 000 tonnes, slightly lower than the preliminary estimates of 496 000 tonnes.

The aggregate production of cereals in 2000/01 is, therefore, estimated at 3.33 million tonnes, including small quantities of maize and rice. This represents an increase of some 7 percent over last year but a drop of about 21 percent compared to the average of the previous five years.

Table 3. Sudan: Cereal Area and Production by Sector, from 1995/96 - 2000/01

 
Area ('000 ha)1
Yield (kg/ha)
Production ('000 tons)
 
1995/96
1996/97
1997/98
1998/99
1999/
2000
2000/01
1995/96
1996/97
1997/98
1998/99
1999/
2000
2000/01
1995/96
1996/ 97
1997/98
1998/99
1999/
2000
2000/01
Sorghum
                                   
Irrigated
310
368
351
377
354
437
1 655
2 413
1 932
1 422
1 636
2 071
513
888
678
536
579
905
Mechanized
3 181
4 345
3 418
3 936
2 062
2 054
439
550
432
653
362
428
1 395
2 388
1 477
2 569
746
880
Traditional
1 553
1 840
1 542
1 998
2 111
1 704
349
491
564
590
484
413
542
903
715
1 179
1 022
703
Subtotal
5 044
6 553
5 311
6 311
4 527
4195
486
638
540
679
518
593
2 450
4 179
2 870
4 284
2 347
2 488
Millet
                                   
Irrigated
3
4
1
5
2
3
666
500
1 000
400
500
667
2
2
1
2
1
2
Mechanized
24
71
44
57
80
53
333
380
409
509
400
396
8
27
18
29
32
21
Traditional
2 385
1 559
2 762
2 700
2 309
2144
156
264
226
237
201
215
373
411
624
639
465
460
Subtotal
2 412
1 634
2 807
2 762
2 391
2200
159
269
229
243
208
220
383
440
643
670
498
483
Wheat
298
329
255
141
92
118
1 768
1 951
2 294
1 220
2 326
2 534
527
642
585
172
214
299
All cereals2
6 515
8 520
8 386
9 222
7 011
6594
           
3 372
5 363
4 098
5126
3 108
3 331

1 Harvested area, rounded to the nearest thousand
2 includes small amounts of maize and rice
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4. FOOD SUPPLY SITUATION

4.1 Current market situation

Lower cereal harvests in two consecutive years (1999 and 2000) and subsequent depletion of stocks led to a hike in prices from late-1999 and remained well above average through 2000 and 2001. Figure 2 below indicates that the average monthly prices of sorghum for most of 1999 in Gedaref, the major sorghum producing area, were relatively stable, with an average spread of just about SP15 000 per 90kg bag from January to October. However, with the anticipated drop in cereal output, prices increased from an average of SP14 000 in October 1999 to more than SP23 000 in November and December 1999. At the present level, sorghum prices have nearly doubled and more than tripled compared to the same periods in 2000 and 1999 respectively.

Similarly, as indicated in Figure 3, price of millet in 2000 and 2001 in Nyala, a major trading centre in South Darfur, have been steadily higher and increasing compared to 1999, reaching a peak of SP50 000 per 90kg bag in November 2000 and SP55 000 in March 2001.

Furthermore, market supply of livestock has increased substantially, depressing prices and thus household incomes. The livestock/grain terms of trade for pastoralists has deteriorated sharply. Sheep/sorghum terms of trade (the quantity of sorghum bought with the local sale of a sheep) declined by about 300 percent in March 2001 compared to March 2000 and that of goats/sorghum declined by more than 200 percent for the same period.

4.2 Cereal supply/demand balance for 2000/01

In deriving the revised cereal supply and demand balance for 2000/01, the same assumptions on opening stocks, seed and other uses were used as in the FAO/WFP Assessment Mission late last year. However, adjustments were made on food use pattern as a result of some changes in cereal production figures. More recent information on the level of expected wheat imports (including flour) was also accommodated. Table 4 shows the Mission's forecast national cereal balance for 2000/01. Underlying assumptions are given below:

The revised national cereal balance for 2000/01 is shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Sudan - Cereal Balance Sheet for 2000/01 (`000 tonnes)

 
Cereals
Rice
Sorghum
Millet
Wheat
Other
Availability
3 393
8
2 522
511
299
53
Stock draw-down
62
0
34
28
0
0
Production
3 331
8
2 488
483
299
53
Utilisation
4 835
38
2 522
511
1 557
207
Food
4 371
38
2 210
451
1 525
147
Feed
200
0
144
17
0
39
Seed
96
0
43
18
17
18
Losses
168
0
125
25
15
3
Export
0
0
0
0
0
0
Import Requirement
1 442
30
0
0
1 258
154
Commercial
1 230
30
0
0
1 200
0
Food Aid pledged
55
0
0
0
20
35
Uncovered deficit
157
0
0
0
38
119

The overall food outlook for 2001 is highly precarious. The purchasing power of large number of people, particularly pastoralists, has been seriously eroded. Government efforts to mitigate food shortages by lifting customs duties on food imports and financing grain purchases through the recently instituted Strategic Commodity Stock Authority have to some extent helped stabilise cereal markets. However, with only a fraction of the appeal for international food assistance pledged so far and the lean season ahead, the situation is likely to worsen in the coming months. The population most affected by last year's drought are mainly located in greater Darfur and Kordofan, Bahr el Ghazal, Bahr el Jebel, East Equatoria, Jonglei, Red Sea and Butana province in Gezira State.

Current high cereal prices in the country have prompted farmers for early preparation of land and likely increase in area sown in the 2000/01 agricultural season. The Government has also embarked on a strategy of financing seeds distribution in the drought affected areas and early delivery of necessary agricultural inputs, including seeds, fertilizers, fuel and pesticides.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG ) for further information if required.

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