West Africa Food Security Alert: February 13, 2013
Staple food production decreases in Nigeria; regional prices likely to rise unseasonably
A recent assessment by FEWS NET and partners indicates that crop damage from 2012 flooding in Nigeria was more severe than initially reported. As a result, 2012/13 staple food production may be as much as 12 percent lower than November 2012 estimates.
Food availability in Nigeria is further limited by an increase in security checkpoints along key trade corridors, restrictions on international imports through the port of Lagos, and rising fuel prices. As the region’s largest staple food producer, Nigeria’s anticipated decline in production is expected to affect both local and regional markets. For example, staple food prices across West Africa are likely to be higher than would have otherwise been anticipated following the above‐average Sahelian cereal production this year. Emergency assistance needs may be higher than previously anticipated in the region’s structurally‐deficit zones and in localized areas that experienced production shortfalls, especially during the July‐September 2013 lean season.
FEWS NET, OCHA, WFP, CILSS, and NEMA conducted a joint field assessment in late January 2013 to the Niger, Kebbi, Kano, and Jigawa states of Nigeria. Significant flood‐related crop losses, infrastructure damage, and atypical trade flows were observed. Cassava, yam, maize, and sorghum losses were particularly high. Remaining tuber harvests are not expected to store well due to decreased quality from excessive soil moisture. Damage to dams and irrigation systems will likely reduce dry season production. Detailed assessment findings will be available later this month in the Nigeria Food Security Outlook.
By most estimates, staple food production was average to above‐average across West Africa during the 2012/13 cropping season. According to AGRYHMET, total cereal and tuber production in the West African Monetary Union (UEMOA) was more than 16 percent above the five‐year average. Initial production estimates for Nigeria, which produces two‐thirds to three‐quarters of West Africa’s local food supply, indicated that production would be 2 percent greater than 2011 levels (a bumper year) and 6 percent greater than the five‐year average. However, once these figures are adjusted for the flood losses observed in recent weeks, regional market supplies for the rest of the marketing year are likely to be much tighter than previously expected. Despite some uncertainty about Nigeria’s agricultural production in 2012/13, FEWS NET estimates that the magnitude of the 2012 crop losses nearly offsets the above‐average 2012 production in the rest of the region (Figure 1). Current market conditions in Nigeria are characterized by a great deal of uncertainty due to reduced market supplies, marketing restrictions related to insecurity, prohibitively high import tariffs, and fuel price policies that could change drastically in the coming months.
Until December 2012, FEWS NET anticipated that cereal prices would remain high compared to their five‐year average levels but generally follow seasonal trends, increasing moderately by 1 to 4 percent per month through September 2013. However, the current marketing conditions in Nigeria are expected to put upward pressure on staple food prices across West Africa between March and the end of the 2013 lean season in August/September, particularly for maize, millet, and tubers. Exacerbating factors include: increased demand for cereals from populations usually reliant on tubers, growing demand for maize by the Nigerian industrial and poultry sectors (though this demand is not likely to achieve the high levels experienced in 2005); and structurally high millet prices across the region, likely due to significant declines in Nigerian millet production since 2007/08. Markets that rely heavily on cross‐border trade from Nigeria, such as those in south‐eastern Niger, may be most affected.
Preliminary analysis suggests that these price increases could drive widespread food security Stress (IPC Phase 2) in the region’s structurally‐deficit zones and localized Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in areas that experienced production shortfalls, especially during the July‐September 2013 lean season. Wide‐spread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is not anticipated as better than usual household stocks, favorable cash crop production and marketing conditions, and humanitarian assistance during the post‐harvest period will partially offset the expected price increases.
Even so, emergency assistance needs could be higher than anticipated previously. National governments and humanitarian agencies should plan for this possibility, especially in the region’s structurally deficit pastoral and agro‐pastoral zones, where households rely heavily on markets as early as March, and in areas where the agricultural production season was less successful. The possibility of much tighter cereal market supplies across the Sahel also suggests that institutions should exercise prudence when purchasing local cereals, particularly for millet and maize in Chad, Benin, Nigeria, and Niger.