Reference Date: 06-May-2021
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Widespread crop failure expected in southern regions, but cereal production at national level anticipated at above‑average level in 2021
Cereal import requirements to grow slightly in 2021/22
Prices of domestic rice continued to increase in 2021 and higher on yearly basis as of February
An estimated 1.35 million people in need of food assistance in January‑April 2021 period and effects of drought expected to considerably worsen situation
Widespread crop failure expected in southern regions
Harvesting of the 2021 cereal crops, mostly rice and maize, is underway and, on account of significant rainfall deficits in southern regions, widespread crop failure is expected in the south. Nationally, paddy production, which is the principal food crop, is expected to remain above average, as more favourable weather conditions have been observed in the main paddy‑producing central and northern regions.
In the southern regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana, monthly rainfall amounts have been significantly below average since the start of the rainy season in October 2020, resulting in severe drought conditions. Although rainfall amounts increased moderately in February and March, they were too late to have a positive effect on yields. Remote sensing indicators showed significant negative anomalies in vegetation conditions in April 2021 and, corroborated by preliminary field assessments, a widespread cereal crop failure is expected to occur in the three southern regions. In addition to the impact of the drought, a low availability of seeds and infestations of Fall Armyworm have also contributed to the poor production conditions of the maize crops. The low precipitation levels also adversely affected pasture availability and quality (see ASI map); field reports indicate a severe deterioration of livestock body conditions and the situation has been further worsened by outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever that have negatively impacted productivity rates and contributed to a decrease in the price of live animals.
Paddy production in 2021 is forecast to remain at an above‑average level in 2021, but the output is foreseen to decline moderately compared to the high outturn of 4.2 million tonnes in 2020. The anticipated yearly production decrease reflects foreseen poor yields in the south and an overall small contraction in the area sown at the national level, reflecting the poor start of the rainy season and weak financial capacities of farmers, underpinned by the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the economy. Paddy yields are expected to remain at average to above‑average levels in most of the main producing central and northern regions owing to increased precipitation amounts from December 2020 onwards.
Cereal import requirements to increase slightly in 2021/22
The aggregate import requirement of cereals in the 2021/22 marketing year (April/March) is estimated at 770 000 tonnes, about 4 percent above both the previous year’s volume and the five‑year average. Import requirements of rice, which account for the largest share of the foreseen import quantities, are estimated at 490 000 tonnes in 2021/22, about 15 percent above the previous five‑year average. Import requirements of wheat, which is produced at negligible levels in the country, are estimated at 260 000 tonnes, slightly above the average.
Prices of domestic rice continued to increase in 2021
Prices of domestic rice, following a period of stability during most of 2020, increased between November 2020 and February 2021, owing to seasonally tight supplies. As of February 2021, prices of domestic rice were on average about 7 percent above the year‑earlier levels. Price increases in southern provinces were more pronounced, with prices in Toliara, the capital city of the Atsimo Andrefana Region, about 30 percent above their year‑earlier values.
Prices of imported rice varieties, which are generally lower cost and less preferred alternatives to domestically produced rice, were mostly constant in 2020 and early 2021 reflecting a relatively stable national exchange rate and international prices.
Acute food insecurity conditions to worsen in 2021
According to the latest IPC analysis, about 1.35 million people were estimated to be acutely food insecure in the southern regions in the January‑April 2021 period, 85 percent more than in the corresponding period of 2020. Of particular concern is the increase in the number of people in IPC Phase 4: “Emergency”, estimated at 282 000 compared to 37 000 in the first quarter of 2020. The increased prevalence is due to multiple years of reduced agricultural production in southern areas and the negative impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on households’ food availability and access, while the high rates of poverty continue to underpin households’ high vulnerability to shocks.
Food insecurity conditions in southern regions are expected to deteriorate sharply in 2021 primarily due to the foreseen shortfalls in crop and livestock production, which are likely to reduce households’ food availability and also curb incomes from crop sales. Additional concerns arise from a second wave of COVID‑19 infections that started in March 2021 and the potential adverse effects of new containment measures, including travel bans within regions, which are likely to negatively affect economic activities and exert pressure on the already eroded resources of the households. Reports from the country indicate that a significant percentage of the households are resorting to crisis or emergency food and livelihood coping strategies, such as skipping meals and selling valuable productive assets, including livestock or land. Increased resources are urgently needed to scale up humanitarian assistance and prevent a severe deterioration of the acute food insecurity conditions experienced by a large portion of the population in southern regions.
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