Liberia Current Statement - April 2012
Land preparation for rice and vegetable planting is ongoing throughout the country. In Nimba and south eastern counties the planting of upland rice and vegetables began in April, partly due to moderate localized rainfall. Rainfall data derived from satellite imagery shows, moderate rainfall in the country except in the areas along the coast in the second dekad of April. Compared to the short-term average (2007-2012), moderate to large excess rainfall fell in the north of Lofa and Nimba counties, and moderate excess fell in River Gee. In the southern portion of of Nimba, in Grand Geddeh and Maryland there was a slight rainfall deficit. Cumulative rainfall from the first dekad of April to the second as compared to the short term average shows large to moderate excess in the central and north parts of Nimba county and moderate excess in River Gee and southern Grand Geddeh allowing the start of planting. This localized moderate rainfall is favorable for cassava crops planted in March. Vegetables planted in lowlands during the dry season are currently being harvested and sold in the local markets. Production from Nimba is mainly supplying Monrovia markets, and to a lesser extent, Grand Geddeh county. This production is providing normal incomes to households during lean season.
A normal lean season, generally beginning in April in the south eastern counties, is underway. Household rice stocks are low but the availability of cassava and incomes generated from normal activities allows access to basic food needs. For the majority of the country, the lean season is expected to be normal (July-September).
In April, markets remain well-supplied with imported rice from Vietnam, Brazil, Thailand, India, Pakistan, USA and Uruguay. Available stocks in the country are reportedly enough to cover domestic food needs until early October. The price of parboiled rice (bag of 50 kg) varies from 2910 LD in Red Light and Tubmanburg to 3360LD in Zwedru. In general, prices are stable in March compared to February 2012 with a slight 4 percent decrease in Tubmanburg and a 4 percent increase in Pleebo, bordering Ivory Coast. Compared to last year during the same period, except in Pleebo where the prices are stable (+2 percent), price increases in other counties vary from 19 percent in Voinjama to 31-32 percent in Gbarnga, Red Light and Tubmanburg and 36 percent in Zwedru. In Zwedru where the price of parboiled rice was the highest in February (3783LD) it has almost decreased in March to December 2011 levels. Palm oil prices are stable in March as compared to the previous month, and vary from 300LD/gallon in Gbarnga market (close to Guinea) to 450LD in Zwedru in the south eastern region. The annual increase is 6 percent in Monrovia and Gbarnga to 17 percent in Pleebo. Palm oil sales continue to provide good income to small holders.
The price of 50kg bag of charcoal remains stable since January 2012, varying from 175LD in Tubmanburg to 190LD in Gbarnga, 273LD in Monrovia and 288 LD in Zwedru. At these price levels, charcoal provides normal incomes to households producing charcoal. Gasoline prices are generally stable compared to March, and a gallon of gasoline sells for 330LD in Gbarnga; 350LD in Red Light; 380LD in Zwedru, 398LD in Voinjama and 413LD in Pleebo.
In April, the refugee population was estimated at less than 68,000 people. Voluntary repatriation continued at strong levels until this week when clashes occurred locally in southwestern Ivory Coast. The security situation is now assumed to be under control of the Ivorian government. This week, the Liberian government, in agreement with UNHCR, announced the closure of Ziah and Dougee camps in Grand Geddeh county by the end of September 2012. The remaining refugees will be relocated to PTP camp, close to Zwedru Town. WFP is continuing to provide food rations to refugees living in camps and relocation villages (approximately 33,400 individuals). The current WFP food pipeline, which was planned to assist 120,000 recipients through May 2012, can last through August, since the number of beneficiaries is less than half of the initial number. Stable or improved security in western Ivory Coast coupled with cash incentives for voluntary repatriation will contribute to meet UNHCR objectives to support the voluntary return of 25,000 returnees in June, and 15,000 from July to December 2012.
Household food security remains good due to good supply of imported rice, stable prices, availability of cassava, normal to improving household incomes from extracting and selling palm oil, selling of cassava and matured vegetables, casual labor in large rubber and palm plantations, good wages rates and less pressure of refugees in south eastern counties.