- Despite generally favourable weather, the 1999 sorghum production has fallen sharply compared to last year's record crop due mainly to farmers shifting to more lucrative cash crops.
- The total 1999/2000 cereal production, of which more than 75 percent is sorghum, is estimated at about 3.9 million tonnes, nearly a third below last year's production.
- In most southern states, however, cereal production in traditional hand-cultivation sector has increased by some 12 percent due to improved security, except for Bahr el Ghazal and Unity states where there are serious food deficits.
- Emergency food aid needs of the war-affected and food-deficit regions are estimated at about 103 000 tonnes.
- In view of the surplus cereal production in some southern states, particularly in Western Equatoria, local purchase for food aid programmes is highly recommended in order to support markets and encourage production.
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited southern Sudan from 10 October to 3 November 1999 and northern Sudan from 24 November to 13 December to estimate the 1999 cereal production and to make an early forecast of wheat production from areas now being planted. The Mission was able to visit 24 out of the 26 States in both Government and rebel-held areas. Based on these production estimates and an estimate of carryover stocks, the Mission assessed the overall cereal supply situation, including food aid needs for the 1999/2000 marketing year (November/October).
The Mission benefited from the full co-operation of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC), with both assigning senior staff to accompany the Mission. Pre-harvest area and yield forecasts were provided by State Ministries of Agriculture which the Mission cross checked during field surveys and farmer and trader interviews. Discussions were also held with key informants from local government administrations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including ACCORD, Sudan Red Crescent, German Agro Action, Action Contre le Faim, Care International, Oxfam, and from UNDP and UNICEF.
In the south, rebel-held areas were visited from Kenya and detailed background information was provided by the WFP Food Economy Unit, UNICEF Household Food Security Section and USAID- Famine Early Warning System. Further data and opinions were obtained from the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SRRA), Relief Association of Southern Sudan (RASS), Save the Children - UK, Christian Mission Aid, Tearfund and World Vision International. Due to the lack of infrastructure and data collection facilities, agricultural area and yield were derived from population statistics using historical data for farm sizes and cropping patterns, adjusted following Mission field observations and analysis of secondary data from various sources.
This year the rainfall distribution was favourable in most areas, with good early rains encouraging planting in the traditional sector, particularly in the South. Although the early rains were generally well distributed in time and space in the northern states, dry spells interspersed with intense showers resulted in a complex pattern of successes and failures in the southern states. However, from July all areas, except eastern areas of Eastern Equatoria, received good rainfall which continued up to November. Consequently, rainfall has not been a major constraint this year.
In Northern States, low sorghum prices for most of 1999, which in some cases have fallen below production costs, have prompted the large-scale mechanized farmers of the Central, Eastern and Southern Regions to reduce sorghum planting by some 50 percent. These mechanized farmers account for more than 60 percent of the total sorghum produced in the country. Many farmers have shifted to producing sesame, which gave much better returns last year, while others have simply reduced planted area. On the irrigation schemes, farmers also planted less sorghum, but the scheme rotations restricted the level of decline. Groundnut and cotton planting has, accordingly, increased slightly in the main irrigation schemes. Economic factors have also caused farmers in the Gezira, Rahad, New Halfa, White Nile and Sennar irrigation schemes to plant far less wheat this winter, with farmers opting to grow vegetables, mainly onions or increase areas of fallow.
Lack of credit for agricultural inputs this year has reinforced the farmers' decision to opt out of producing cereals. In the mechanized rainfed sector little or no credit was made available for sorghum production this year. Similarly, wheat was removed from the recognised list of irrigation scheme projects, thereby eliminating any in-kind credit for fertilizers and improved seeds. Two consecutive years of good rains have also been most suitable for the development of pests and weeds, particularly for millet headworm and sorghum midge, which had devastating effects on yields. The millet headworm is responsible for about 25 percent of the drop in millet production in Kordofan and Darfur alone.
In the Southern States, except for the mechanized farmers of Renk and Malakal, who have been affected by the depressed sorghum prices, the single most important factor influencing area and yield is insecurity. The civil conflict has displaced many farmers and reduced agricultural activities around garrison towns. It has also destroyed the marketing infrastructure and communications network which is hindering the movement of cereal surplus within states let alone between them. This year, however, a relative improvement in security coupled with favourable growing conditions have yielded a 12 percent increase in cereal production from the traditional sector. Western Equatoria, which usually is a surplus area, has produced twice its local need this year due to excellent conditions and increased marketing opportunities offered by NGOs based in the State.
By contrast, Unity State, which could not be visited by the Mission due to security problems, has suffered greatly from internecine fighting and Government/rebel clashes. Major cereal deficits are also estimated in Lakes and Bahr el Jebel due mainly to floods, and in specific localities throughout Jonglei, Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria where conditions were not so favourable.
For the 1999/2000 cropping season, the Mission forecasts total cereal production in Sudan at about 3.9 million tonnes, comprising 3.05 million tonnes of sorghum, 499 000 tonnes of millet and 288 000 tonnes of wheat (to be harvested in the first quarter of 2000) and 65 000 tonnes of maize (produced in the south). At this level, cereal production is about 31 percent below last year's bumper crop.
Expectations of lower harvests (sorghum and millet) this year and the depletion of stocks due mainly to a surge in exports, have led to an increase in cereal prices. Sorghum prices, for instance, have leapt from an average retail price of SP 14 000 per 90kg bag from January to October 1999 to more than SP 23 000 in November and December. Further price rises are anticipated in 2000. Such an increase in prices will have an adverse effect on the poorer segments of the population, but is expected to be an incentive for farmers to increase planting of cereal crops next season.
Overall, with the estimated cereal production of 3.9 million tonnes and wheat and rice imports forecast at 680 000 tonnes and 38 000 tonnes respectively, the country's cereal requirement of about 5.2 million tonnes in 1999/2000 is expected to be met by a draw-down of stocks of nearly 240 000 tonnes.
For the various interventions in southern Sudan, war affected and food deficit regions in the northern states, it is estimated that a total of 103 453 tonnes of food aid will be required during 2000.