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Country Briefs

  South Sudan

Reference Date: 16-November-2016


  1. Crop production forecast at below-average levels due to insecurity and displacement of farmers

  2. Food prices decline, but still very high

  3. Over 3.7 people estimated to be severely food insecure, one million more than one year ago

  4. Food insecurity expected to worsen dramatically during first semester of 2017

Below-average crop production expected in 2016 due to insecurity and displacements

In bi-modal rainfall areas of Greater Equatoria region, harvesting of the 2016 first season crops has been completed at the beginning of September and production is estimated at below‑average levels. Despite average to above‑average plantings in March/April and favourable rains across the season (April-June), crop production has been severely affected by increasing displacements and insecurity (following the renewed conflict in July) that hampered cultivation activities, including harvesting. For the same reasons, areas planted with the 2016 second season crops (to be harvested by December) have been well‑below average, with most households being able to cultivate only small plots near homesteads, mainly with vegetables.

In uni-modal rainfall areas, harvesting of the 2016 main season crops is underway and it will be completed at the end of December/early January. Although the planted area has increased in several counties (due to a relatively peaceful context in April/May) and the June-to-September rains have been generally favourable (with only localized floods in Greater Upper Nile region), production is expected to be at below‑average levels as insecurity have often prevented farmers to access fields and to perform adequate cultivation practices. Frequent cases of abandoned fields are reported across the country. In particular, a significant decrease in area planted is observed in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State following mass migration of people to Sudan in search of food and income opportunities.

Prices of cereals declined in recent months, but still at very high levels

Prices of cereals started to soar in late 2015 on account of local currency devaluation, a general economic downturn and widespread insecurity. For instance, in the capital Juba, prices of maize and sorghum tripled between November 2015 and June 2016, while prices of wheat flour more than doubled over the same period. In July 2016, the already sustained price increases further accelerated due to the intensification of the conflict, with cereal prices almost doubling in Juba’s market in only few weeks and reaching new record highs. Subsequently, prices of maize and wheat flour declined by about 35 percent between August and October, while prices of sorghum decreased by 27 percent over the same period, as newly harvested crops, significant imports from Uganda and food assistance operations increased supplies. The stabilization of the exchange rate in October, after the sharp devaluation of the local currency since December 2015, eased inflationary pressures and contributed to the price declines. However, despite the downward trend followed in recent months, cereal prices in October remained about two to three times above their levels of year before, due to insecurity, disrupting trade flows, tight supplies, currency weakness, fuel shortages and high transport costs.

Severe food insecure population at high levels despite recently‑harvested crops

According to latest assessment, the current number of severely food insecure people is estimated at 3.7 million, about 30 percent of the total population and with an increase of one million people compared to the same period in 2015. Food insecurity is deepening due to the general economic downturn, which is affecting particularly the urban areas with declining purchasing power of households and high prices caused by the sharp devaluation of the local currency and high transport costs. Food security conditions are expected to slightly improve until early next year as a consequence of the availability of newly harvested crops for household own consumption. However, improvements are likely to be short‑lived as food stocks will be only partially replenished due to below‑average production and are expected to be depleted already by February/March in some areas severely affected by the conflict.

During first semester of 2017, food insecurity is likely to rapidly deteriorate to massive proportions, with a concrete risk of famine for most vulnerable communities. Areas of major concern are central and southern counties of Unity State, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Northern Bah el Ghazal and counties of Eastern, Western and Central Equatoria that experienced high levels of insecurity in recent months with consequent massive displacement of people.

Since the start of the conflict in mid‑December 2013, over 2.7 million people have fled their homes, including about 1.7 million internally displaced and one million people currently hosted in neighbouring countries (Ethiopia, Uganda, the Sudan and Kenya) as refugees.