Reference Date: 23-January-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
After several years of steady growth, rice production is estimated to have dropped by 8 percent in 2014 due to Ebola Virus Disease outbreak
Cereal import requirements in 2015 are, therefore, estimated to increase compared to last year's level
Trade activities have declined significantly across the country, particularly in quarantined districts
Number of food insecure people estimated at about 450 000 people as of December 2014, is projected to increase to 610 000 by March 2015
Ebola Virus Disease outbreak severely affected agricultural production
Harvesting of the 2014 main rice crop was completed in December. The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak resulted in a serious shock to the agriculture and food sectors in 2014. The epidemic 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. Various farming activities, including crop maintenance (such as weeding, fencing and application of chemicals) and harvesting have been disrupted mostly through labour shortages. Production of rice, the main staple crop in the Mano River Region, has been most affected. 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 2.09 million tonnes (including cassava in cereal equivalent and rice in milled terms), which is 5 percent lower than the record harvest of 2013. Of this total, milled rice production (using the milling rate of 66.7 percent) is estimated at 770 000 tonnes, 8 percent lower than the year before and accounts for about 85 percent of the cereal production. Total coarse grains (maize, sorghum, millets and other small grains) and cassava in cereal equivalent (32 percent of fresh weight) are estimated to have declined by 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. The relatively low level of impact at the national level masks the sub-national production and food security impacts. For example, impact on rice production is estimated as high as -17 percent in Kailahun.
Food markets have been disrupted by the outbreak
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. Border closures, quarantine measures and other restrictions have seriously disrupted marketing of goods, including agricultural commodities. Trade activities are estimated to have declined significantly, particularly in quarantined districts.
Cereal import requirements in 2015 are estimated at 300 000 tonnes, slightly up from last year. Rice import requirements account for about 215 000 tonnes of the total. With commercial imports estimated at 285 000 tonnes, the uncovered gap is estimated at about 55 000 tonnes for which additional resources and international assistance is required. The significant impact of Ebola on export earnings is expected to have compromised the country’s ability to import more. Prices of imported rice remained mostly stable in recent months, except in localized areas, where relatively high prices persisted reflecting reduced trading activity and increased transport costs.
Food security severely affected by EVD outbreak
Beyond its impact on the agriculture and food sector, the EVD is seriously affecting all other sectors of the economy. The mining, manufacturing and service sectors have been the hardest hit. According to the World Bank’s revised estimates, 2014 GDP growth fell by more than half to 4.0 percent from 11.3 percent expected before the Ebola crisis, with serious impact on livelihoods, income and access to food. In particular, the ban on bush meat is depriving many households of an important source of nutrition and income. About 450 000 people, or 7.5 percent of the population, are estimated to be severely food insecure as of December 2014. The impact of EVD accounts for more than a quarter of the food insecure. The number of food insecure is projected to increase to 610 000 by March 2015, 280 000 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.