Sky-rocketing food prices in South Sudan are deepening food insecurity and raising new vulnerabilities

Sky-rocketing food prices in South Sudan are deepening food insecurity and raising new vulnerabilities

02/07/2015

A major food crisis has enveloped South Sudan and continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. In the first half of 2015, the prices of basic food commodities consistently increased, resulting in a nearly 30 percent rise in the cost of the minimum expenditure food basket. One worrying result is that now most urban poor people are spending up to 85 percent of their income on food, having an enormous impact on their food security.

FAO is supporting the relevant government institutions to enhance data collection, analysis and reporting on market trends in South Sudan through the programme Agriculture and Food Information Systems for Decision Support (AFIS), which is funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia. The programme’s activities facilitate a constant stream of basic data, such as price fluctuations in staple foods, which is used as the foundation for evidence-based decision-making.

Food prices this year are particularly critical to mitigate worsening food insecurity for millions of South Sudanese, including 4.6 million people in Integrated Food Security Phase Classification “Emergency” and “Crisis” phases. The urban poor – with their overdependence on markets coupled with insecure, inconstant and low-paying jobs – are the hardest hit by the recent economic crisis. An estimated 610 000 people, more than half concentrated in Juba and Wau, have severely undermined livelihoods.

Grace, 35, a mother of four, explains, “my cost of living in Juba has almost doubled. As a security guard I earn SSP 500 (USD 50) a month, and in December 2014 I could sell one of my goats and buy 71 kilos of maize flour, now it is only 38 kilos. Now I am spending all my income on food.”

AFIS’s recent analysis shows that prices have increased because import costs have soared, following significant devaluation of the local currency against the US Dollar. The official exchange rate is fixed at a constant SSP 2.95/USD, while the informal market exchange rate is on the downfall, currently at an all-time record low of SSP 10–17/USD.

South Sudan relies significantly on imported commodities from neighbouring Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. The devaluating local currency deters traders from importing cargo, paralyzing the supply chain network. This is compounded by high insecurity for traders and transporters moving goods along certain routes, which has significantly contributed to the food crisis.