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Economy, agriculture and food security

Although endowed with rich natural resources, Sudan is an extremely poor country amongst others as a result of social conflict and civil war. In 2012 Sudan’s economy has been affected by falling oil revenues due to the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 and the resultant loss of about 75 percent of the country’s oil resources. As a result, inflation rose–36 percent in 2012–and the GDP contracted to equal US$66 569 million (current US$) in 2013. These factors, as well as a high fiscal deficit of 4.4 percent in 2012 due to sanctions by the United States of America and devaluation of the currency, could impair political stability and social development. However, its economy is expected to recover gradually based on renewed agriculture and natural resources (oil and gold mainly), depending on the evolution of civil wars in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile (AfDB, 2014).

The agricultural sector was the most dominant in pre-2011 Sudan until 2003, but then its share has declined to the benefit of both services and industries related to the exploitation and export of mineral oil, which boomed for a decade. In 2012, the agricultural sector contributed 27.6 percent to the GDP and employed 49 percent of the total economically active population in 2013. Almost half of the households in the northern states of pre-2011 Sudan were mostly agricultural, and up to 82 percent in Kordofan and Darfur states (SCBS, 2010).

Sudan’s agro-ecological zones support a variety of food, cash and industrial crops. Vast natural pastures and forests support large herds of livestock including cattle, sheep and goats. The main exported crops are sorghum, cotton, groundnuts, sesame, sugarcane, Arabic gum, fruits and vegetables. Livestock is also important for exports.

Rainfed agriculture covers by far the largest area in Sudan. The area actually cultivated and total production may, however, vary considerably from year to year depending on variability of rainfall. The rainfed farming system is characterized by a small farm size, labour-intensive cultivation techniques employing hand tools, low input level and poor yields. Crops grown in the rainfed sector include sorghum, millet, sesame, sunflower and groundnuts.

Sudan has the largest irrigated area in sub-Saharan Africa and the second largest in the whole of Africa, after Egypt. The irrigated sub-sector plays a very important role in the country’s agricultural production. Irrigated agriculture has become more and more important over the past few decades as a result of drought and rainfall variability and uncertainty. It remains a central option to boost the economy in general and increase the living standard of the majority of the population.

Pre-2011 Sudan was traditionally seen as the African ‘bread basket’ with a positive cereal balance. In 2014-2015, despite a record production of over 7.84 million tons of cereals, 20 percent of the cereals balance relied on imports, mostly for wheat.

Sudan’s prevalence of undernourishment is as high as 38.9 percent in 2013 (FAO, 2013). An estimated 4.6 million people are food insecure in Sudan in 2014 despite above-average harvest by the end of 2014 (FAO, 2015). Food security deteriorated in the last years due to multiple reasons: influx of refugees, poor harvests, restrictions on trade and assistance, conflicts and increased prices. While frequent droughts led to famine, regular variable rainfall patterns, recurrent conflicts and high food prices result in the most vulnerable people struggling to access enough food (FAO, 2013b).


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