Reference Date: 05-August-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Farming activities and food markets are recovering across the country
Rice production dropped by 12 percent in 2014 due to Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak
Number of food insecure people estimated at about 722 000 between June and August
Most food insecure counties are located in southeastern part of the country
Farming activities are recovering in most areas
Planting of the 2015 paddy crop, virtually the only cereal grown in the country, is almost completed. According to satellite imagery, rains have been generally widespread and regular since the beginning of the cropping season, allowing for sowing activities and satisfactory crop development.
The EVD, which significantly affected rice production last year, has been largely controlled and Liberia was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization on 9 May 2015. However, on 29 June, a new case of Ebola was confirmed and as of mid-July, seven cases have been reported, of which two have died. According to a FEWSNet SMS-based trader survey conducted in late May 2015, almost 80 percent of interviewed traders reported that current rice cultivation activities in their local communities were occurring at normal levels with the highest proportion of traders reporting average activities in Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh, River Cess and River Gee. Agricultural production in 2015 is expected to recover from last year’s reduced output.
Last year, the EVD outbreak has had a serious impact on the agriculture and food sectors. Rice production in 2014 was estimated at about 174 000 tonnes (rice in milled terms), about 12 percent below 2013. In particular, cereal production in Lofa and Margibi counties was substantially effected by the EVD outbreak which started to spread when crops were already being planted and expanded during the whole crop growing season until the critical harvesting period.
Food markets are recovering and prices are generally stable
During the peak of the Ebola outbreak (June to August 2014), trade activities declined significantly. Border closures, quarantine measures and other restrictions seriously disrupted marketing of goods, including agricultural commodities. As of early June 2015, there has been significant recovery of marketing activities. However, according to a recent Inter-Agency Food Security Assessment conducted in the country, Grand Cape Mount and Bomi markets in the north as well as Grand Kru and River Gee in the southeastern part of the country are still not functioning at pre-crisis levels. Prices of local and imported rice have remained mostly stable in recent months.
Liberia normally depends heavily on food imports. Cereal import requirements for 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. In fact, the significant impact of EVD on the country’s export earnings is likely to compromise its financial ability to cover the cereal gap in 2015.
EVD outbreak severely affected economy and food security
Beyond its impact on the agriculture and food sector, the EVD outbreak seriously affected all other sectors of the economy. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) revised estimates, GDP growth is projected at 0.5 percent in 2015, owing to the low output for Liberia's main exports and reduced harvests in 2014. A stronger rebound of 4.8 percent growth is forecast in 2016, well above the growth of only 1 percent achieved in 2014, but still well below the 6.8 percent forecasted before the Ebola crisis. The EVD outbreak had a substantial impact on employment activities throughout the country on all livelihood groups. Overall, according to the latest “Cadre Harmonisé” analysis, about 722 000 people are currently estimated to be in Phase 3: “Crisis” and above and are in need of urgent assistance across the country. The most food insecure counties are located in the southeastern part of the country. As of June 2015, 33 percent of the population in Grand Kru, 32 percent in River Gee are food insecure. Some areas in the North are also highly food insecure such as Grand Cape Mount and Bomi where 30 percent of the population in both areas are food insecure.
As of end of June 2015, Liberia is hosting 38 444 refugees, most of them from Côte d’Ivoire. Voluntary repatriation of Ivorian refugees was suspended by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire at the beginning of the Ebola epidemic, but it has been resumed in March following the agreement among UNHCR and the Liberian and Ivorian Governments.