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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 22-May-2020


  1. Production of 2020 “Gumain season cereals forecast at 15‑25 percent below average due to floods, locusts and insecurity

  2. Unfavourable weather conditions affecting cereal production in 2019

  3. Despite localized pasture losses due to locusts, above average rangeland conditions benefit livestock body conditions

  4. Cereal prices increased in April amidst flood‑related trade disruptions and panic‑buying caused by COVID‑19 pandemic

  5. Sharply deteriorating food security situation due to widespread floods, desert locust and COVID‑19 outbreaks, with about 3.5 million people projected to be severely food insecure between July and September 2020

Unfavourable prospects for upcoming 2020 “Gu” season harvest

In central and southern agropastoral areas, planting of “Gu” (April‑June) season crops, to be harvested in July and accounting for about 60 percent of the country's total annual cereal output, was recently concluded. Seasonal rains had an early onset in the third dekad of March and have been characterized so far by exceptionally abundant amounts. In the key maize producing Lower Shabelle Region and in the “sorghum belt” of Bay Region, cumulative rainfall between March and early May was up to more than twice the long‑term average. In the "cowpea belt" in Middle Shabelle, Galgadud and Mudug regions, where cowpeas are intercropped with sorghum, cumulative rains were up to three times the long‑term average.

The heavy rains received across all growing areas benefited crop planting and germination, but also triggered widespread floods. Flash floods are reported across the country, while Gedo, Hiraan, Middle and Lower Juba and Middle and Lower Shabelle regions have been affected by the overflow of the Juba and Shabelle rivers (see Map of flood affected areas), also as a consequence of the severe damages to embankments caused in late 2019 by high water flows and levels. The floods resulted in the loss of lives, the displacement of about 412 000 individuals and damage to crops. In addition, insecurity has disrupted planting operations in some areas of Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba regions.

Since late 2019, the country is affected by a severe desert locust outbreak. Swarms are currently present mainly in northern and central agropastoral and pastoral areas, while infestation levels in southern key cropping areas are low. According to the latest forecast by FAO, the heavy “Gu” rains created a conducive environment for the breeding of another locust generation. These insects will become mature and form new swarms in July 2020, when most parts of the country will face the highest (“Danger”) locust risk level. However, largescale control operations carried out by the Government, with the support of FAO, are currently being scaled‑up and are mitigating the impact of the locusts on pastures and crops, and only localized production shortfalls are expected, mainly in Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Gedo, Bakool and northern parts of Bay regions.

According to the FAO Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and FEWS NET, the 2020 “Gu” output is forecast to be 15‑25 percent below average as a result of the combined impact of the floods, locusts and insecurity.

Reduced 2019 cereal output due to drought conditions affecting main “Gu” harvest

Harvesting of the secondary 2019/20 “Deyr” season crops concluded last January, while the off‑season harvest was gathered in March. The OctoberDecember 2019 rainy season was characterized by well above‑average rainfall amounts, which boosted cereal yields, and the cereal output is estimated at 110 000 tonnes, nearly 30 percent above the average of the previous five years. However, flash floods and river overflowing resulted in localized but substantial damage to crops, especially maize in riverine areas. Losses due to locusts were minimal as most crops had already been harvested when the insects reached these areas. Earlier in the year, the “Karan” harvest gathered in November in northwestern areas was also above average due to favourable weather conditions.

By contrast, the major “Gu” harvest, gathered in July in central and southern areas, was severely affected by drought conditions during the first half of the April‑June rainy season, which resulted in widespread germination failures. Cereal production is estimated at less than 40 000 tonnes, the lowest output since 1995 and about 60 percent below average.

As a result, aggregate cereal production in 2019 is estimated at about 185 000 tonnes, 22 percent down from the bumper 2018 output and 12 percent lower than the average of the previous five years. While sorghum production was 7 percent above average, driven by ample “Karan” and “Deyr” harvests, the output of maize was nearly 40 percent below the average of the previous five years due to drought conditions affecting the “Gu” harvests.

Despite localized pasture losses due to locusts, above‑average rangeland conditions benefit livestock body conditions

In central and northern pastoral areas, above‑average OctoberDecember 2019 “Deyr” rains, followed by abundant precipitation so far during the April‑June 2020 “Gu” season, resulted in well above‑average vegetation conditions (see Vegetation Health Index map). The heavy “Gu” rains replenished open water sources, berkad reservoirs, wells and boreholes, and prices of water declined in April to well below‑average levels. Livestock body conditions, at average levels at the beginning of the rainy season, have subsequently improved due to the above‑average availability of pasture and water. Herd sizes are gradually increasing, but they are still below average due to the massive livestock losses incurred during the 2017 drought. Milk availability is also increasing, but it is still below average due to the low number of lactating animals following the low conception rates during the previous seasons.

The pastoral areas most affected by the current desert locust outbreak are northern Awdal, Bari and Sanaag regions and central Galgadud Region. So far, losses of pasture due to locusts have been localized as control measures and the regeneration of rangeland resources, due to abundant rains, prevented widespread damages. However, the risk of substantial losses remains high as locust reproduction continues and additional swarms can reach the country from neighbouring areas of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Cereal prices increasing in April amidst flood‑related trade disruptions and panic‑buying due to COVID‑19 pandemic

Prices of locally produced maize and sorghum declined in early 2020 as the newly harvested “Deyr” crops increased supplies. Subsequently, maize and sorghum prices increased by 15‑35 percent in several southern markets in April, as seasonal patterns were compounded by trade disruptions due to floods and by panic‑buying in response to the COVID‑19 emergency. Despite the recent increases, sorghum prices in April 2020 were still around their April 2019 levels in several markets due to adequate domestic availabities, while prices of maize were generally higher than one year earlier due to a below‑average 2019 production. Similarly, prices of imported rice, which were stable around their year‑earlier levels in recent months, increased by 10‑30 percent in April due to the higher prices on the international market, panic‑buying and flood‑related trade disruptions.

Prices of livestock have been increasing since late 2019, as body conditions improved with increasing pasture and water availability due to abundant seasonal rains. In April 2020, prices of goats were above their year‑earlier levels as a result of improved animal conditions and of reduced market supplies. In northern and central areas, animal supply is still low due to below‑average herd sizes, while in southern areas insecurity has disrupted marketing operations. The trends of terms of trade for pastoralists are mixed as in some markets the growth of livestock prices was outpaced by the recent increases in cereal prices.

Food insecurity sharply deteriorating in 2020

Since late 2019, the food security situation has been affected by several negative factors, including the desert locust outbreak, widespread floods and the COVID‑19 pandemic. The negative impact of these shocks has been amplified by reduced household resilience due to insecurity and the lingering impact of previous droughts and floods. In particular, the COVID‑19 pandemic is affecting the food security situation mainly through:

  1. Movement restrictions within the country resulting in reduced market availability, increasing prices of food and reduced labour opportunities, especially in urban areas.

  2. Reduced economic activity and containment measures in countries with large Somali diaspora populations causing a sharp decline in remittances.

  3. Reduced exports of livestock to Saudi Arabia caused by the suspension of the Hajj pilgrimage.

According to the latest FSNAU/FEWS NET analysis, about 2.7 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3: “Crisis” and IPC Phase 4: “Emergency”) between April and June 2020. The number of people facing severe food insecurity is projected to increase to 3.5 million between July and September. This figure represents almost 30 percent of the total population and is more than three times the estimate of the food insecure people at the beginning of 2020. IPC Phase 3: “Crisis” levels of food insecurity are expected to prevail in most central and northern regions, in southern riverine areas along the Juba and Shabelle rivers and in IDP settlements. In southern riverine areas, in urban IDP settlements and in northwestern Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed regions, some vulnerable households are expected to face IPC Phase 4: “Emergency” levels of food insecurity.

COVID-19 and measures adopted by the Government

Since early March 2020, the Federal Government of Somalia and Federal Member states have introduced a number of precautionary measures in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, including:

  1. The ban of large gatherings to ensure social distancing.

  2. Closure of academic institutions and religious schools.

  3. Establishment of a curfew in Mogadishu.

  4. Suspension of international and national passenger flights.

  5. Closure of borders with Kenya and Ethiopia.

To mitigate the economic impact of these measures, especially on vulnerable households, the Government has introduced:

  1. A tax exemption on imported rice and dates.

  2. A 50 percent tax reduction on imported wheat flour and vegetable oil.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.