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Sudan: Economic crisis may worsen Food Insecurity

Street market with various types of vegetables

The United Nations (UN) predicted that there will be a deepening food crisis in Sudan as a result of the country’s economic crisis, displacement, and devastated harvests.

The number of displaced people has increased in recent months, due to conflict in parts of Darfur and the Kordofan region. This has brought about insecurity, damaged farms, affected livelihoods, and increased unemployment in the region.

“The combined effects of conflict, economic crisis, and poor harvests are significantly affecting people’s access to food and will likely double the number of people facing acute hunger in Sudan to more than 18 million people by September 2022,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a press release on Wednesday.

“There are already worrying signs that access, affordability, and the availability of food is shrinking for most people in Sudan, which is pushing more people deeper into poverty and hunger,” Eddie Rowe, the WFP representative and country director in Sudan, was quoted as saying.

Sudanese families are facing difficulty feeding their households because of the depreciation of the Sudanese pound as well as the rising food and transportation prices and a lack of access to hard currencies is expected to cause the currency to depreciate further.

Domestic cereal production for the 2021/22 crop season in Sudan is estimated to be 5.1 million metric tons, which will only meet the demands of less than two-thirds of the population, according to the Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission report issued by the FAO and WFP.

“Rising food prices and scarcity of essential agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds mean that farmers have no other option than to abandon food production if they do not receive immediate support,” said FAO Representative in Sudan Babagana Ahmadu.

This will likely have “grave consequences” not only for their food security, but also on food availability in Sudan, and may ultimately lead to more conflict and displacement, Ahmadu added.

Sudan relies on wheat imported from the Black Sea region, but due to the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, the flow of grains into Sudan has been disrupted and has caused food prices to rise higher, according to the press release.

Currently, the wheat price in Sudan has already surpassed 550 U.S. dollars per ton, up 180 percent from the same period in 2021.

In 2021, the WFP was a lifeline for almost 9 million Sudanese, who were suffering from political unrests and economic uncertainty. However, WFP food reserves in Sudan are dangerously low this year, and without new funding, they would run out by May, according to a WFP report.

A budget shortage has already compelled the WFP to target the most vulnerable individuals, said the report.

“Urgent support is required to provide essential agriculture inputs to vulnerable farming households before the main agriculture season starts in June so that they can produce enough food and become self-reliant,” the FAO said in Wednesday’s press release.

Sudan has been facing an economic crisis since the United States and international agencies suspended aid after Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the general commander of the Sudanese armed forces, declared a state of emergency on Oct. 25, 2021, and dissolved the Sovereign Council.

The U.S. has suspended 700 million dollars in economic aid to Sudan, while the World Bank failed to provide 500 million dollars to Sudan, which was expected in November 2021. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also halted 150 million dollars in special drawing rights for Sudan.

Sudan’s debt relief process under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative of the IMF has also been suspended.

Sudan has been plagued by an economic crisis since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, due to which Sudan has lost 75 percent of its oil revenues.