Reference Date: 28-January-2014
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
The widespread civil insecurity, which caused a sharp reduction in 2013 crop production, is expected to severely impact the 2014 cropping season
High food prices and inflation levels registered in 2013
The dire food security situation is deteriorating with the number of IDPs nearly doubling in December 2013
Deep concern over the upcoming 2014 cropping season
Seasonably dry weather conditions prevail across the Central African Republic (CAR). In bi-modal rainfall areas of the Centre and South planting of the 2014 maize crop is expected to start in March, while in the unimodal North planting of sorghum and millet would start from next May.
Agricultural operations are already severely affected by the widespread conflict, which resulted in massive displacement of people, caused input shortages and depleted households’ productive assets that already were inadequate. According to the findings of the Multi-Agency Multi-Sectoral Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) undertaken in December 2013, 94 percent of the interviewed communities reported that they will not have enough seeds to plant for the next agricultural season.
Further and significant decline in agricultural output is very probable. Such a decline would exacerbate the dire levels of food insecurity and severely undermine the economy at large, as agriculture accounts for around 53 percent of the national GDP and a large share of employment. Timely and effective support to the agricultural sector may somehow mitigate the extent of the decline.
Widespread insecurity and conflict result in sharply reduced crop production in 2013
Harvesting of the 2013 crops has just been concluded. Crop production was sharply reduced despite favourable rainfall received in most areas during the cropping season. Large numbers of households could not access their fields and seeds were in short supply due to looting or were used for consumption. Harvest operations were also delayed in parts due the intensification of conflict.
Livestock raids and distress sales have aggravated household food insecurity. Agricultural exports, especially timber, cotton and coffee (the largest source of foreign currency, together with diamonds), were also sharply reduced.
According to a multi-agency Emergency Food Security assessment conducted in September, the majority of the farmers included in the nation-wide sample have indicated that their crop production in 2013 was significantly reduced from last year’s levels.
High food prices and inflation levels 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 were very volatile in recent months, and in November 2013, at XAF 189/kg, were 13 percent higher than in January 2013. Prices of cassava, an important staple, declined between August and November by 19 percent, partly due to the ongoing harvest; however, the decline was short-lived due to the overall decline in production, and in December prices sharply increased by 37 percent.
In Ouham province, an important sorghum and millet producing area, where the heavy fighting which erupted in September 2013 caused further disruption to agricultural activities, prices of millet began increasing from May 2013; and by October 2013 they were about 70 percent higher than in March 2013. Cassava prices more than doubled between July and September, and in November they were 32 percent higher than in March.
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 is likely to deteriorate further in the coming months
The civil conflict, which began in December 2012 in north eastern provinces, expanded and escalated further since March 2013, when violence spread to the capital Bangui and to the whole country. Since then, the Central African Republic has moved from a protracted crisis characterized by chronic underdevelopment and localized emergency situations into an acute and complex emergency affecting the entire population and territory. This has resulted in widespread disruption in agricultural and marketing activities and caused massive displacements and a serious deterioration of the food security situation. The already widespread and dire civil insecurity situation has further deteriorated since December 2013, with intercommunal violence incidents causing the number of displaced individuals, estimated at about 500 000 in early December, to nearly double to 922 000 as of mid-January.
According to the analysis conducted by the FAO-supported Integrated Food Security Phase Classification in November 2013, about 1.3 million people (out of a total population of 4.6 million), are currently in need of urgent assistance, nearly double the estimated level in February 2013. Out of these 1.3 million, approximately 60 percent are in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and 40 percent in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). The areas most affected by food insecurity are the districts of Ouham, Nana-Gribizi and Mbomou. On the basis of recent information, the situation in 4 additional districts (Lobaye, Ouham-Pendé, Ouham and Ombella-Mpoko) is likely to have deteriorated to IPC Phase 4 in December due to recent violence episodes.
According to the findings of the MIRA, food reserves are almost non-existent: 60 percent of interviewed households reported to have completely exhausted their food stocks, while the remaining households declared that their food reserves could cover their requirements for up to two weeks in urban areas and one month in rural areas.
In response, the international community launched in December 2013 a Strategic Response Plan, which was revised and scaled up in late January 2014 following the aggravation of the situation. It currently plans to assist 1.9 million beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 551 million. The food security cluster, led by FAO and WFP, plans to assist 1 250 000 beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 180 million providing food assistance to severely food insecure populations and supporting the agricultural sector by improving access to essential agricultural inputs including seeds and tools, through the rehabilitation of infrastructure and equipment for production such as drying areas and warehouses, and support to animal and crop disease control.
FAO aims to support 75 000 farming households in the first three months of 2014, and is currently distributing emergency kits for vegetables production on the outskirts of Bangui and agricultural inputs in and around Bouar, Bossambélé and Bossangoa (Ouham and Ouham Pendé regions) to about 15 000 households.