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Sudan OCHA bulletin 12: Prices of cereals surging to record levels

July 14 - 2018 KHARTOUM

Prices of sorghum, millet and wheat reached record or near-record highs in all monitored markets in Sudan.

Prices of sorghum more than doubled between October 2017 and May 2018 in the markets of Khartoum and El Gedaref, the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) reported in its country brief on June 14. Prices of millet -mainly grown and consumed in western regions- and prices of wheat grain -mostly sourced from the international market- followed similar trends.

The surge in cereal prices was mainly driven by the removal of wheat subsidies in the 2018 budget, which increased demand for millet and sorghum as substitutes for wheat and the strong depreciation of the local currency, triggering a significant rise in the general inflation rate. The Sudanese Pound value in US Dollar terms declined sharply since late 2017, after the partial lifting of international sanctions scheduled to end a two decade trade embargo and unfreeze the country’s financial assets, but which caused an upsurge in demand by importers for US Dollars.

The removal of subsidies on household electricity, coupled with limited availability of fuel across the country, with consequent higher transport costs, contributed to underpin increased food prices. Crop production shortfalls in 2017 provided further reasons for the increase in the price of cereals.

Concerns over 2018 agricultural season

Shortages and high prices of both fuel and agricultural inputs may compromise Sudan’s 2018 cropping season, GIEWS further said.

While average to above-average seasonal rains are expected, planted area and yields may be compromised by severe fuel shortages, and by low availability and high prices of agricultural inputs. This is due to both sustained inflation and dwindling foreign currency reserves resulting in imports constraints, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan reported in its latest biweekly bulletin.

Sudan needs more support for refugees

Urgent funds are needed to support the about 1.2 million refugees and host communities in Sudan according to the Sudanese Commission for Refugees (COR) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

With 84 per cent of its refugee population stemming from South Sudan, funding for the South Sudanese refugee response in Sudan is at 8 per cent of the $327 million required for 2018.

Additional asylum seekers and refugees come from Eritrea, Syria, and Yemen, among others.

Inter-agency mission identifies new Jebel Marra displaced

A report by the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) issued on June 21 in Kass, South Darfur, said since May an estimated 2,150 people were newly displaced from parts of Jebel Marra because of ongoing armed conflict.

The new displaced -most of them women and children- have taken refuge in Kass and camps surrounding the town. Community leaders report that more people were displaced but are stranded due to insecurity, and blocked routes to safe areas.

A joint inter-agency rapid needs assessment mission visited Kass town between 5 and 7 June, and received reports of the arrival of about 450 families.

An estimated 200 families (about 1,000 people) are reportedly sheltering in unsafe areas with no access to basic services or food.

Access to health services is also of concern, with diarrhoea, malaria, eye infections and upper respiratory infections commonly reported amongst the new displaces. New arrivals are reportedly unable to afford SDG 20 (about $1.11) healthcare in Kass

Cash-based-transfers change lives

Where markets are functioning and local conditions favourable, cash-based transfers (CBTs) are an effective tool to accelerate progress towards Zero Hunger and reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the OCHA bulletin reads.

Cash transfers are increasingly being used for humanitarian response with the recognition that it can complement the provision of in-kind assistance during emergencies and especially in protracted displacement situations. These transfers come in various forms, from traditional banknotes, bank transfers or value vouchers to more innovative electronic platforms such as smart card or mobile money.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) first introduced value vouchers in Darfur in 2011 and cash transfers in 2016 in Otash camp for the displaced near Nyala, South Darfur.

Cash can be an effective and efficient means of delivering assistance, where markets and operational contexts permit. However, cash interventions should be accompanied by nutritional awareness raising to mitigate the risk of households reverting to less nutritious diets.

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