Reference Date: 29-October-2013
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Above average rainfall benefited crops in 2013, but civil insecurity affected agricultural activities in parts
Food prices and inflation increase in 2013
The food security conditions continue to deteriorate
Escalating civil conflict disrupts agricultural activities
Harvesting of the 2013 main season and planting of the second season maize crops have been concurrently completed in several bi modal rainfall areas of the Centre and South. In the unimodal North region, where sorghum and millet are predominantly grown, harvest is underway.
Yams, an important staple, are also being currently harvested, while the cassava crop, the principal staple, grown across the country with the exception of the northeast, was planted in May/June and will be harvested from December/January.
Although above-average rainfall was received in most areas during the cropping season, crop production is likely to be reduced and harvests are expected to be delayed in parts due to deteriorating civil insecurity, which disrupted agricultural activities and caused input shortages.
Several assessments in April and May 2013 found that large numbers of households lacked seeds for planting due to looting and/or used for household consumption. According to a joint FAO/WFP Rapid Food Security Evaluation conducted in May, production prospects were particularly poor in the North (Ouham-Pende, Ouham, North Nana-Grebizi, Bamingui-Bangoran, Vakaga, Haute Kotto). In addition, the heavy fighting which erupted in the Ouham province in September 2013 caused further disruption to agricultural activities in a cereal surplus producing area which is considered to be the country’s granary.
The likely decrease in agricultural output will severely undermine the economy at large, as agriculture accounts for around 53 percent of the national GDP and a large share of employment. The expected decline in farmers' income is expected to impact private consumption, contributing to heightened levels of food insecurity. Agricultural exports, especially timber, cotton and coffee (the largest source of foreign currency, together with diamonds), will also be reduced, since coffee and cotton crops have not been harvested and marketed in parts.
Food prices and inflation increasing in 2013
Market supplies are tight across the country and food prices are volatile and at high levels, due to the severe and widespread market disruptions caused by the deterioration of civil insecurity.
In the capital Bangui, prices of maize, despite having sharply declined in September as crops of the main season harvest increased supplies, in October were still 16 percent higher than in January. In Ouham province, an important sorghum and millet producing area, prices of millet were 60 percent higher than in March. In Bangui, prices of cassava, an important staple, declined in August and September by 13 percent due to the increased availability of maize, and in October they were 29 percent below the peaks reached in March, while in Ouham they more than doubled between July and September, and in October they were 31 percent higher than in March.
Moreover, due to severe market malfunctioning, absolute levels of food prices are likely to underestimate both the relative scarcity of food commodities (after a prolonged lean season, sellers are trying to make profits as rapidly as possible lowering retail prices) and the access constraints for purchasers, due to the scarcity of liquidity and general indebtedness.
As a result of high food prices, the average inflation rate, which surged from 1.3 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in 2012, increased further in 2013 to 8 percent.
The food security situation continues to deteriorate
The civil conflict, which began in December 2012 in the north eastern provinces of the Central African Republic, escalated further in late March 2013, when violence spread to the capital Bangui and to the whole country. This has resulted in widespread disruption in agricultural and marketing activities, and the already large number of displaced and food insecure people increased further.
According to an Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in July 2013, about 978 000 individuals are currently experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity levels, while about 309 000 individuals are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Accordingly, the total number of people in need of food assistance adds up to a total of about 1.29 million people (about 40 percent of the rural population) nearly double the estimated level in February 2013. The areas most affected by food insecurity are Ouaka region in the center, Kabo and Batangafo sub-prefectures in the northwest, and Salo, Nola, Boda sub-prefectures in the south east. Overall food insecurity has been exacerbated by widespread displacement, and the IDP caseload, estimated in late September at 395 000 by UNHCR, nearly doubled since August mainly due to heavy fighting in the north-western Ouham province. In addition, about 17 000 refugees, mostly Congolese and Sudanese, reside in CAR, and an estimated 5 000 people were displaced from Sudan’s Darfur into CAR following tribal clashes in April and May 2013, while torrential rains in Bangui in early September resulted in the flooding of several districts, which affected about 33 000 people, of which 1 785 were displaced.
According to the FAO/WFP Rapid Food Security Evaluation, the most vulnerable populations have begun adopting negative coping mechanisms such as eating once a day and reducing food diversity; moreover, the food security situation of IDPs is critical.
To tackle the food insecurity situation, a Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP), a joint effort by the government, the United Nations and the humanitarian community, was launched in early December, shortly before the escalation of the civil conflict, appealing for USD 129 million to assist 646 000 people. Subsequently, a response plan has been implemented to meet the needs of those affected by the current crisis, and after a Mid-Year-Review conducted in June 2013, the international community currently plans to assist 1.6 million beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 195 million. The appeal has so far received 40 percent of its required funding.
WFP has assisted 246 000 individuals from January 2013 to mid-October, and aims to assist 500 000 people by the end of the year.