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OCHA Sudan: WFP to import 200,000 tons of wheat for Khartoum

April 17 - 2020 KHARTOUM
Wheat in Sudan (File photo: SUNA)
Wheat in Sudan (File photo: SUNA)

The World Food Programme (WFP) has agreed with the Sudanese Ministry of Finance to import 200,000 tons of wheat, which will help ensure a continuous supply of flour to local bakeries. According to Sudan’s Food Security Technical Secretariat the food security will be affected if the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) established portable handwashing stations in Khartoum, the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan reported in its latest Situation Report.

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have an impact on food security and nutrition in Sudan by affecting the pillars of food security. While the situation is changing rapidly, some of the recent developments and trends are set to have a major impact on the situation in the country, OCHA states.

On 13 April, WFP Sudan signed an agreement with the Ministry of Finance to import 200,000 metric tons of wheat, which is equivalent to about 10 per cent of Sudan’s required wheat import for 2020.

The government will repay WFP in Sudanese pounds, which will enable the Central Bank of Sudan to retain more than $50 million in hard currency needed to import strategic commodities.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in March that Sudan’s international reserves were low, estimated at $1.4 billion in October 2019, equivalent to two months of imports.

Limited foreign exchange for fuel imports has led to rationing, persistent shortages, and disruptions to electricity and food supplies, the IMF explained.

For import-dependent crops like wheat, maize, and rice, Sudan usually imports around 70 to 80 per cent of the amount as local production is below the national demand and consumption.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Sudan reported in February that Sudan’s wheat production this year is estimated at 726,000 tonnes, which is about 25 per cent of the country’s total use of wheat (2.9 million tonnes). This indicates that Khartoum needs to import about 2.2 million tonnes of wheat this year.

In 2019, Sudan imported 2.7 million tonnes of wheat and wheat flour at the value of about $1.1 billion, according to the latest foreign trade update from the Central Bank of Sudan.

COVID-19’s possible impact on food security

In its Early Warning Bulletin of April, Sudan’s Food Security Technical Secretariat (FSTS) said if the coronavirus cases continue to increase, the food security will be affected as part of the affected people is part of the productive workforce.

It will also affect food availability and food utilization, as well as parts of the economy more exposed to weakened demand or supply issues such as transportation, energy or manufacturing. The direct effect will be in food markets, shortage of labour, if the situation continues, FSTS said.

Another impact will be seen in transport interruptions and quarantine measures limiting farmers’ access to input and output markets, and an increase in food loss and waste resulting from food supply chain disruptions.

Furthermore, the soaring of food prices and poor purchasing power will negatively affect the food access. The consumption patterns will be shifted towards low quality and quantity food and this will increase the malnourishment rates, FSTS said.

According to FAO, countries with existing humanitarian crises (including Sudan) are particularly exposed to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even as their own domestic needs may be rising as a result of the pandemic, it is critical that donor countries ensure continued delivery of humanitarian assistance where food insecurity is already high.

In its newly released World Economic Outlook (WEO) report on the impact of Covid-19 on the world’s economy, IMF said that after contraction in 2018-2019, Sudan’s economy is expected to contract further by 7.2 per cent.

In 2020, 9.3 million people in Sudan will need humanitarian assistance and the Humanitarian Response Plan partners aim to assist 6.1 million people, including 4.7 million with food and livelihood assistance.

One of the main drivers of the increase in the number of people in need in Sudan over the past few years has been the economic crisis marked by high inflation, poor economic growth, and shortages in fuel, wheat and medicine supplies.

IOM establishes portable handwashing stations in Khartoum

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) has established 20 portable hand washing facilities, which are now accessible for homeless persons in seven locations in Khartoum as part of their emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This initiative was developed in close coordination with the Khartoum state Ministries of Social Development and Health to respond to the community’s urgent need for safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.  

IOM will continue to mobilise to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by setting up and enhancing water and sanitation services. Additional hand washing facilities will be established and donated to the Government of Sudan in their fight against the outbreak of the highly contagious disease.

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