GIEWS Country Brief South Sudan: 01-August-2019


Dire food security situation, with about 7 million people (60 percent of total population) estimated to be severely food insecure

Delayed first season harvests in southern key producing areas due to late onset of seasonal rains affected planting operations

Average to above-average rainfall at start of cropping season in uni-modal central and northern areas befitting crop planting and establishment

Some central and northern lowland cropping areas affected by flooding and waterlogging

High food prices constraining access to food for large segments of population

Dire food security situation, with 60 percent of total population severely food insecure

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, 6.96 million people (about 60 percent of the total population) are estimated to be severely food insecure between May and July 2019, the highest food insecurity caseload on record. The current situation is mainly driven by a harsh and prolonged lean season, which started early as stocks from the record low 2018 harvest were quickly depleted and it is expected to last longer due to a late onset of the 2019 seasonal rains that will likely delay the first season harvest. The lingering impact of the prolonged conflict, which caused severe damages to productive assets and resulted in a major economic crisis, is critically affecting income-earning opportunities, severely constraining food availability and access for large segments of the population.

The areas of major concern are former Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states, where 65 75 percent of the population is estimated to be in IPC Phases 3: Crisis, 4: Emergency and 5: Catastrophe levels of acute food insecurity.

The implementation of the September 2018 peace deal resulted in a lower intensity of the conflict in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile regions and enabled some returns of displaced populations. An estimated 500 000 displaced people have recently returned to their places of origin, out of which about 40 percent were refugees hosted in neighbouring countries. The return rate increased from about 18 000 people per month in 2018 until September 2018 to about 76 000 per month thereafter. However, about 1.9 million people remain internally displaced and 2.3 million South Sudanese refugees are still residing in neighbouring countries (Uganda, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya).

Delayed first season harvests in southern key producing areas

The recent improvements of the security situation resulted in better access to fields and in some voluntary returns of displaced farmers, thus leading to increased plantings. However, planted area remained below the pre-conflict levels due to the lingering impact of the prolonged conflict, including damage and destruction of productive assets and large numbers of farming households still displaced and unable to farm. In addition, soaring prices of inputs continue to severely affect agricultural activities.

In southern bi-modal rainfall areas of the Greater Equatoria Region, which comprise traditionally cereal surplus producing areas in former Central and Western Equatoria states, harvesting of first season crops will be completed in August with about a one-month delay. Planting operations, usually beginning in March, started in April due to a late onset of seasonal rains. Subsequently, average precipitations in May and above-average rains in June and July benefited crop establishment and development and had a favourable impact on vegetation conditions (see Vegetation Condition Index map) and yields. As a result, the output of the first season harvest is expected to be around or above the average of the previous five years, but still below the pre-conflict levels.

In central and northern uni-modal rainfall areas, 2019 crops, for harvest from September, were planted in May following a timely onset of seasonal rains. So far, cumulative precipitations have been average to above average, leading to favourable vegetation conditions over most areas (see Vegetation Condition Index map). However, in several lowland cropping areas of former Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap and Abyei states, the abundant rains in June and July have resulted in flooding and waterlogging. The region most affected by the floods is the former Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. In particular, in the Aweil rice scheme sowing has been impeded by the full inundation of fields.

According to the latest weather forecast by the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF), the June-to September rains are expected to be average in northern and western areas, while weather conditions are likely to be drier than usual in southern and eastern areas, with a negative impact on planting and establishment of second season crops. A close monitoring of rainfall performance and vegetation conditions is warranted.

Food prices at exceptionally high levels

In the capital, Juba, prices of sorghum, maize and imported wheat increased by 30 60 percent between December 2018 and July 2019 as the South Sudanese Pound depreciated and seasonal patterns were exacerbated by the early depletion of stocks from the record low 2018 harvest. In July, prices of cereals and other important staples, including groundnuts and cassava, were generally down or around their year earlier levels, but still exceptionally high, more than ten times higher than in July 2015, when they started surging as the country’s currency began to rapidly depreciate. The high price levels are the result of tight supplies, a still volatile security situation hindering market functioning and trade flows, high transport costs and a weak local currency.

Source: Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations