GIEWS Country Brief: Gambia 06-November-2015

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  • Preliminary forecast for 2015 harvest points to significant recovery in cereal production after last year’s steep drop

  • Access to food continues to be constrained by high food prices

  • Humanitarian assistance continues to be needed

Cereal production is expected to recover from last year’s low level

Harvesting of the 2015 cereal crops is underway across the country. Growing conditions for cereal crops and pastures have been adequate in most parts of the country and, overall, crop prospects are mostly favourable.

According to a preliminary forecast released by the national agricultural statistics office, aggregate cereal production in 2015 will increase by 13 percent (compared to 2014) to about 197 000 tonnes. However, this level of production would be 10 percent below the five-year average. Production of groundnuts, the main cash crop, is anticipated to increase by about 12 percent compared to last year’s harvest.

In 2014, growing conditions for cereal crops and pastures have been poor in several parts of the country, mostly in central and western regions, due to irregular rains at the beginning of the cropping season in May/June, which delayed plantings and subsequent erratic precipitation in July and August. As a result, aggregate 2014 cereal production was estimated to have declined by about 20 percent to 174 000 tonnes compared to the average.

Access to food constrained by high food prices

The Gambia, in a normal year, relies on imports for nearly half of its cereal consumption requirements (mostly rice and wheat) and domestic cereal prices are strongly affected by world prices and the exchange rate of the Dalasi (GMD), the national currency. The Dalasi has depreciated significantly over the past few years, which has put an upward pressure on domestic prices of imported food commodities. As a result, access to food continues to be difficult for several segments of the population.

Continued assistance is still needed, especially for vulnerable people

The combined effects of the recent Sahel food crises, localized heavy flooding in 2012 and 2013, and drought in 2014 have eroded vulnerable households’ coping mechanisms and resulted in protracted food insecurity in pockets of the country and persisting acute malnutrition.

About 178 000 people were estimated to be in Phase 3: “Crisis” and above, between June and August 2015 according to the last “Cadre Harmonisé” analysis conducted in the country. Child malnutrition is also a cause of concern. Chronic malnutrition ranges between 13.9 and 30.7 percent with North Bank Region and Central River Region surpassing the ’critical’ threshold of 30 percent.