Reference Date: 10-March-2016
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Cereal production in 2015 recovered significantly from previous year’s Ebola‑affected level
Prices of main staples generally stable
In spite of significant improvement of food situation, about 420 000 people still need food assistance
Recovery in 2015 cereal production compared to previous year’s Ebola‑affected harvest
Harvesting of the 2015 main rice crop was completed in December. Rains and soil moisture were generally adequate during the cropping season, allowing satisfactory development of crops. Moreover, Sierra Leone was declared free of the Ebola virus transmission in the human population in November 2015. The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak had a serious impact on labour availability during last year’s cropping season. In spite of floods in some areas, which partly affected the production of rice and tubers, preliminary estimates indicate that 2015 cereal production increased by 10 percent compared to the previous year’s output. Production of rice, the main cereal grown in the country, is also estimated to have increased by 10 percent. Similarly, the cassava harvest increased significantly.
In 2014, the EVD outbreak resulted in a serious shock to the agriculture and food sectors. Rice production declined by 8 percent compared to 2013. In particular, cereal production in Kailahun was substantially affected by the outbreak that started to spread when crops were being planted and grew during the crop maintenance period, and then expanded rapidly during the critical harvesting period for the staple rice, maize and cassava crops.
Food prices mostly stable
Although the country’s dependency on imported rice has been decreasing in recent years, it still remains a net importer, with a cereal import dependency ratio of about 18 percent. Trade flows of agricultural commodities to Guinea, Mali and Senegal have recovered significantly. Prices of rice, cassava, and sweet potato have generally been stable in recent months.
Food situation improving
Beyond its impact on the agriculture and food sector, the EVD has seriously affected all other sectors of the economy. The mining,
manufacturing and service sectors have been the hardest hit. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), Sierra Leone’s real GDP grew by just 4.6 percent in 2014, compared to 20.9 percent in 2013 before the EVD. In 2015, the effects of the EVD epidemic resulted in a sharp decline of 25 percent. With the EVD largely under control, real GDP is predicted to grow by 1 percent in 2016. The disruption of food chains due to the closing of markets, road blocks and quarantines, restricted cross‑border trading, as well as changes in traders’ behaviour due to the fear of Ebola, significantly reduced the income of EVD‑affected communities, including producers, consumers and traders. Specifically, income generating activities typically led by women, such as small trading, were hit hard and the ban on bush meat has also deprived many households of an important source of nutrition and income. Although the Ebola outbreak has ended and the economic situation is improving, about 420 000 people are currently estimated to be in Phase 3: “Crisis” and are in need of urgent assistance across the country, according to the latest “Cadre Harmonisé” analysis. This represents a significant improvement from the 1.1 million estimated during the Ebola crisis.