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West Africa Food Security Update, October 2008

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Purpose and Summary

This paper provides members of the regional-level Food Security and Nutrition Working Group and other decision-makers in West Africa with an overview of the food security situation, including the implications of international and sub-regional market trends.

On West African markets, a decline in the price of millet and maize began in September 2008. It is not known how far prices will drop, or for how long the trend will last. Satisfactory rains that continued until the end of September in the Sahel have resulted in good crop and grazing conditions. New crops of millet, maize, groundnut and cowpea are being brought to rural and urban markets. The CILSS FAO FEWS-NET crop assessment missions that started in October will ascertain expected production, and will help determine how long these trends could hold in favor of the average consumer in the region. Cereal prices remain above long-term averages in many parts of the region, and especially for rice, affecting the Western basin population who are net cereal importers.

The international context is one of falling prices for food - specifically maize and wheat - and fuel. Rice remains above long term averages. A sharp decline in the price of commodities produced in West Africa on international markets is noted. A readjusting of international exchange rates has occurred since July. The Naira and Ouguiya have gained 17 percent vis-à-vis the CFA franc, since then, which could alter regional food trade flows.