GIEWS Country Brief: Libya 11-May-2017

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  • Conflict continues to halt economic recovery and deteriorate food security prospects

  • Security-related uncertainties disrupted procurement and distribution systems, resulting in income losses for farmers unable to market their production and leading to food shortages in urban areas

  • People in need of assistance estimated at 1.3 million

Conflict continues to threaten agricultural production

Harvesting of 2017 winter barley is nearing completion. Harvesting of winter wheat started in early May and will continue until mid-June. Out of the 2.1 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture, 1.8 million hectares are classified as arable and 300 000 hectares under permanent crops, mostly fruit trees. The area developed for irrigation is about 470 000 hectares but only some 240 000 hectares are currently irrigated. Cereals are mostly cultivated in the coastal regions where rainfed production or cropping with supplementary irrigation is possible, and in the arid south is under full irrigation. Wheat is used for human consumption, while all the other cereals are used for fodder. Anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers have switched from wheat to barley as a more drought‑tolerant crop due to increasing unreliability of irrigation since 2011.

For the current season, below-average rains were reported in the northwest coastal districts of Al-Zawiya and Tripoli, resulting in patches of dryness. Farmers reported that security concerns prevented them from purchasing seeds, particularly for crops such as vegetables, where seeds are not normally saved from the previous harvest. Increases in fuel prices also limited farmers’ ability to carry out mechanized operations.

Below-average domestic crop production forecast for 2017

The preliminary forecast for the 2017 cereal crop indicates a lower crop of about 234 000 tonnes, about 18 percent below average and 10 percent below the harvest of last year. Libya relies heavily on imports (up to 90 percent) for its cereal consumption requirements. In the 2016/17 marketing year (July/June), the actual import requirement is projected at 3.9 million tonnes, an increase of about 3 percent compared to the previous year.

Continuing conflict a set-back to the economy

Civil insecurity, fuelled by the presence of armed groups, brought about the destruction of public infrastructure, disrupted procurement and distribution systems that resulted in food shortages, mainly in urban areas and in the loss of income for farmers that were unable to market their production.

Libya is one of the most hydrocarbon‑dependent economies in the world, with oil revenues accounting for more than 80 percent of the State revenues. Libyan oil production has recovered faster than expected following the conflict in 2011, but is currently well below the 2010 level of 1.55 million barrels per day due to clashes between groups in the oil-producing regions to gain permanent control of key facilities.

After a contraction in the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) in 2011 by almost 60 percent caused by the fall in oil production, the economy grew by over 92 percent in 2012 (year-on-year). Continuous political transition and volatile oil production resulted in further contractions of up to 20 percent yearly in 2014 and 2015. The economy is expected to contract by an additional 4 percent in 2017 depending on domestic stability as well as international oil prices.

Inflation eased from over 30 percent in July 2016 to 22.3 percent in January 2017. High inflation levels remain supported by insecurity‑induced supply chain disruptions and a weakening Dinar. Some measures were taken to contain soaring prices, such a ban on vegetable exports. The unemployment rate, estimated at 26 percent as of end‑2010, is unlikely to improve in the short-run. A large share of the population is normally employed in the public sector.

The Libya Humanitarian Needs Overview (issued in November 2016), estimated the total number of people in need of assistance at 1.3 million, or 20 percent of the affected population, with most severe cases reported in Aljfarah, Tripoli and Benghazi. The number of people in need of food assistance was put at 0.4 million. Refugees, asylum seekers and internally-displaced are among the most vulnerable. Food shortages have been reported mostly in the south and east where basic food items, including wheat, bread, flour, pasta, oil, milk and fortified blended foods for children are in short supply. Access to subsidized food among the affected population is limited.

By the end of 2017, the WFP aims to assist up to 175 000 beneficiaries (including both domestic population and refugees) affected by the crisis in Libya following the disruption of basic social services and the Public Distribution System.