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GIEWS Country Brief: Niger 03-April-2020

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  • Average cereal production harvested in 2019

  • Cereal import requirements forecast above‑average level

  • Stable prices due to adequate food availabilities

  • Food insecurity rising in 2020 as conflicts impinge food access for most vulnerable households

Average cereal production harvested in 2019

Seasonal dry weather conditions are prevailing in most areas of the country and planting of the 2020 crops is expected to begin in May‑June with the normal onset of the rains.

Harvesting of the major crops, including millet, sorghum and rice (paddy), was completed in November 2019. Overall, the 2019 national cereal production is estimated at 5.6 million tonnes, 7 percent below the 2018 output and similar to the five‑year average. Despite an average production at the national level, several localities recorded production declines due to pockets of drought at the start (May‑June) and the end of the season (September) and to strong winds which buried the newly planted millet crops, resulting in additional costs for replanting.

In pastoral areas, insufficient rains during June‑September 2019 resulted in a significant forage deficit, estimated at about 11.3 million tonnes of dry matter. The regions of Tillabery and Tahoua have recorded the largest fodder deficits, over 2 million tonnes. The situation was also aggravated by armed and community conflicts, theft and banditry, disrupting live livestock movements, increasing their concentration in accessible areas and causing the rapid degradation of fodder and water resources in these areas. As a result, an earlier‑than‑normal and harsh lean season is expected in pastoral areas that recorded a poor performance of the rains.

Cereal import requirements forecast at above‑average level

Imports fulfill about 10 percent of the national cereal domestic utilization. Rice is mainly/exclusively used for human consumption and it accounts for about 70 percent of total cereal imports. Cereal import requirements for the 2019/20 marketing year (November/October) are forecast at an above‑average level of 700 000 tonnes, reflecting the need for traders to replenish their stocks.

Stable prices in most markets

The supply of major food commodities (millet, sorghum and rice) was generally satisfactory in most markets, due to the commercialization of recently harvested crops and sustained cross border trade flows. The demand is progressively increasing for households due to the seasonal depletion of their stocks and for local traders and private operators (seed producer organizations) aiming to replenish their stocks. Prices of coarse grains rose slightly in February and were higher, year on year, due to the disruption of trade flows following the border closure with Nigeria and persistent civil insecurity. Similarly, the conflict continued to affect trade flows in some areas of Tahoua, Tillabery and Diffa regions, limiting market availabilities and putting upward pressure on food prices.

In most livestock markets, the supply of animals is adequate with declining prices in February 2020 compared to previous months due to low export demand. The livestock‑to‑cereals terms of trade are generally worsening for pastoralists due to the stable cereal prices. However, the market value of the animals is expected to seasonally deteriorate between March and June in the areas affected by fodder deficits or limited access to fodder resources due to insecurity. In addition, the closure of the border with Nigeria is increasing the road harassment related to the export of livestock and cash crops to Nigeria (the biggest outlet market).

Food insecurity rising in 2020 as conflicts impinge food access for most vulnerable households

Food security conditions worsened in early 2020, particularly along the border with Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali as well as within the regions of Diffa, Tillabery and Tahoua. According to the March 2020 "Cadre Harmonisé" analysis, the aggregate number of severely food insecure people (CH Phase 3: “Crisis” and above) is estimated at about 1.6 million, up from 742 000 estimated in March 2019. If appropriate measures and responses are not implemented, this number is projected to increase to nearly 2 million during the next lean season (June ‑ August 2020), well above the 1.2 million food insecure people that were estimated for the period June ‑ August 2019. The deterioration in the food situation and the increase in the number of food insecure population is due to the combination of the effects of adverse climate events (droughts and floods) on cereal and fodder production and persisting insecurity.

In addition, the repeated attacks by armed groups have contributed to an increase in population displacements and the disruption of household livelihoods and marketing activities.

As of January 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that over 196 000 people have been displaced in Diffa, Tillabery and Tahoua regions, and 3 000 along the border with Burkina Faso. In addition, the country hosts approximately 222 000 refugees, mainly from Nigeria and Mali.

COVID-19 and measures adopted by the Government

In view of the evolving COVID‑19 situation, the Government has decreed a total country lockdown and a nation‑wide confinement up to 13 April 2020 and a curfew in Niamey, the city most affected by the virus. The Government has also taken some sanitary, social and economic measures. The measures include credit facilities for traders that are interested to pay custom services to get access to imported goods. Credit is subject to the provision of a bank guarantee and it will be available for the next three months. Official restrictions on population movements, combined with heightened levels of fear, have led many individuals to avoid leaving their homes. Income‑earning opportunities are diminishing and field reports indicate cases of hoarding in several local markets.