Reference Date: 22-January-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Rice production is estimated to have dropped by 12 percent in 2014 due to the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak.
The sub-national level impact, such as in Lofa and Margibi counties hit hard by the disease, is much more severe, with losses of paddy crop estimated as high as 25 percent.
Trade activities slowed down significantly across the country due to border closures, quarantine measures and other restrictions. However, they showed some signs of recovery in recent weeks.
The number of food insecure people estimated at about 630 000 as of November 2014, is projected to increase to 750 000 by March 2015.
Ebola Virus Disease outbreak severely affected agricultural production
Harvesting of the 2014 paddy crop, virtually the only cereal grown in the country was completed in December. The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak resulted in a serious shock to the agriculture and food sectors. The epidemic started to spread when crops were being planted and expanded during the crop maintenance period and expanded rapidly during the critical harvesting period for the staple crops rice and cassava. Various farming activities including crop maintenance (such as weeding, fencing and application of chemicals) and harvesting have been disrupted mostly through labour shortages. Based on the GIEWS Disease Impact on Agriculture – Simulation (DIAS) Model and the findings of Rapid Assessments carried out in the country, the aggregate food crop production in 2014 is estimated at 323 000 tonnes (including cassava in cereal equivalent and rice in milled terms), which is 8 percent lower than the 2013 output. Of this total, rice production (in milled terms) is estimated at 174 000 tonnes, 12 percent lower than the year before. Cassava production is estimated to have declined by 5 percent. The sub-national level impact, such as in Lofa and Margibi counties hit hard by the disease, is much more severe, where losses of paddy crop are estimated as high as 25 percent.
Food markets have been disrupted by the EVD outbreak
Liberia relies heavily on imported food with a cereal import dependency ratio of over 60 percent. Border closures, quarantine measures and other restrictions have seriously disrupted marketing of goods, including agricultural commodities. Trade activities are estimated to have declined significantly, although they showed some signs of recovery in recent weeks.
Cereal import requirements in 2015 are estimated at 445 000 tonnes, about 24 percent more than the average of the previous five years. Rice import requirements account for about 350 000 tonnes of the total.
With commercial imports estimated at 380 000 tonnes, the uncovered gap is estimated at about 90 000 tonnes for which additional resources and international assistance is required. The significant impact of Ebola on the country’s export earnings is likely to compromise its ability to cover the country’s cereal gap.
The price of imported rice in Liberia has increased during several consecutive months, spiking well above usual seasonal patterns. Prices stabilized in November 2014 but remained higher than a year earlier in most markets. Prices of imported rice have also increased due mainly to exchange rate depreciation.
Food security severely affected by the EVD outbreak
Beyond its impact on the agriculture and food sector, the EVD has seriously affected all other sectors of the economy. According to the World Bank’s revised estimates, 2014 GDP growth fell by more than half to 2.2 percent from 5.9 percent expected before the Ebola crisis, with serious impact on livelihoods, income and access to food. The outbreak has had a substantial impact on employment activities throughout the country on all livelihood groups. About 630 000 people, or 14 percent of the population, are estimated to be severely food insecure as of November 2014. The impact of EVD accounts for 170 000 people. The number of food insecure is projected to increase to 750 000 by March 2015, 290 000 of which are attributed to EVD. About 76 percent of the Ebola-related food insecure individuals live in rural areas. The most food insecure households include food crop producers; fishermen and hunters; and unskilled labourers.