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Country Briefs

  South Sudan

Reference Date: 29-March-2018


  1. Overall food security situation continues to deteriorate with 6.33 million individuals estimated to be food insecure in absence of humanitarian assistance

  2. Early onset of seasonal rains encouraged early planting in southern bi-modal rainfall areas

  3. Improved security situation in parts of Greater Equatoria Region may result in increase in planted area

  4. Cereal production in 2017 estimated at record low level due to widespread insecurity and massive displacements in southern key-growing areas

  5. Food prices continue at exceptionally high levels

Already dire food security situation continues to deteriorate

Food availability and access continue to be severely constrained by the widespread and protracted conflict, large-scale displacements, high food prices, market disruptions, macro‑economic collapse and exhaustion of households’ coping mechanisms. An earlier‑than‑normal start of the lean season, due to the reduced 2017 crop production, resulted in an increase of the food insecure caseload (IPC Phases 3, 4 and 5), from 4.8 million people at the end of 2017 to 6.33 million in the February‑April 2018 period. The current caseload is estimated in the absence of humanitarian assistance and it represents about 57 percent of the total population, almost 30 percent more than in the corresponding period of the previous year. Great concern exists for the 50 000 people estimated to face IPC Phase 5: “Catastrophe” food insecurity conditions in Ayod, Nyirol and Urol counties in the former Jonglei State and in Leer, Mayendit and Panyijiar counties in the former Unity State. At the peak of the lean season, from May to July 2018, a further deterioration in the food security situation is anticipated, reaching the record level of 7.1 million severely food insecure people.

Since the start of the conflict in mid‑December 2013, about 4.3 million people were forced to flee their homes due to widespread insecurity and violence, including about 1.9 million IDPs and 2.4 million that sought refuge in neighbouring countries (Uganda, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya).

Early onset of seasonal rains encouraging early planting in southern areas

Seasonal rains had an early onset in the third dekad of February. Rains continued in March with adequate amounts in the southern bi‑modal rainfall areas of the Greater Equatoria Region, where farmers engaged in the early planting of maize and garden crops. Currently, the security situation in some areas of the Greater Equatoria Region is improving and this may result in better access to land for farmers with an increase in planted area. However, Fall Armyworm (FAW) outbreaks are reported to be attacking germinating maize crops with likely negative effects on yields.

According to the latest Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum weather forecast, March‑May rains are likely to be generally favourable, with above‑average levels over the southern bi‑modal rainfall areas of the Greater Equatoria Region and in the southern parts of the former Lakes and Jonglei states and average precipitations over the rest of the country.

Crop production plunging in 2017 due to conflict and large-scale displacements

Harvesting of the 2017 main season crops was completed in January. According to the results of the 2017 FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission, the 2017 aggregate cereal production (including first season crops harvested last July/August) is estimated at about 764 000 tonnes, 7  percent down from 2016, 14 percent below the average of the previous five years and the smallest recorded output since the start of the conflict in 2013. Despite overall favourable weather conditions, the dismal performance of the 2017 cropping season is mainly due to the impact of the conflict on plantings and agricultural operations, especially in the key‑growing areas of the Greater Equatoria Region and in the former Western Bahr el Ghazal State. Compared to 2016, production almost halved in the former Central Equatoria State, where the widespread insecurity resulted in an exodus of about 550 000 people in 2017, with an ensuing sharp reduction of the number of households actively engaged in farming activities. In addition to the endemic presence of common pests, FAW outbreaks, detected in the country for the first time in 2017, caused some damage on maize and sorghum crops in more than 20  counties.

Cereal domestic availability is also constrained by reduced imports, due to insecurity disrupting trade flows along the main routes, notably the Juba‑Nimule road, which connects with Ugandan markets. Maize flour imports in mid-2017 were roughly 75 percent below compared to 2016, while sorghum imports in the fourth quarter of 2017 were almost 30 percent below the volumes imported during the fourth quarter of 2016 and 15 percent below the average of the fourth quarters of the previous four years.

Food prices at exceptionally high levels

In the capital, Juba, prices of maize and sorghum declined by 15‑25 percent between June 2017 and January 2018, following the 2017 harvests and the establishment by the Government of a trading company selling basic food commodities at subsidized prices. Subsequently, prices increased by 5‑15 percent between January and March. Similarly, prices of wheat flour increased by about 15 percent over the same period. Prices of cassava were stable in recent months, while prices of groundnuts increased by 15 percent in March. Overall, prices of the main food staples in March 2018 were up to 75 percent higher than the high levels in March 2017, driven by a tight supply situation, a significant depreciation of the local currency and trade disruptions due to insecurity.

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