KHARTOUM, SUDAN — In Sudan, harvesting of the 2015 sorghum and millet crops is under way and production is expected at below-average levels, according to a Nov. 11 GIEWS Country Brief from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The rainy season started in May with almost one month delay lowering area planted in some areas. Generally poor rains followed in June and July, negatively affecting germination and crop establishment, especially in central and eastern cropping areas. In main sorghum producing areas of Gadarif, Sennar and Kassala states as well as in parts of North Kordofan, North and East Darfur, the cumulative rainfall received in June and July was up to 35% below-average.

Despite the above-average rainfall in August and early September, poor vegetation conditions persisted in most key-growing areas until the start of the harvest at the end of October. In addition, civil insecurity and displacements have disrupted agricultural activities in conflict-affected areas of East, Central and North Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. In some eastern and central semi-mechanized commercial farming areas, fuel shortages have hampered agricultural activities.

A recent mid-season assessment led by the government of the Sudan and supported by FAO and United Nations World Food Program (WFP) indicated that the 2015 total planted area of crops is 62% of the targeted area and about 27% less than last season. Cereal production in 2015 (including the small irrigated wheat crop to be harvested in March 2016) is tentatively forecast at about 4.7 million tonnes, about 40% below last year’s record output and slightly below the last five-year average. The upcoming annual government-led Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) is planned for December and will be supported by FAO and WFP. In addition, the government of the Sudan is currently preparing a post-harvest assessment and has begun the process in several states. The results of these assessments are expected to provide final production estimates by the end of the year.

Prices of locally-produced sorghum and millet, the main staples, began to increase between June and October, by up to 30% in some markets, following normal seasonal patterns but also compounded by concerns about the performance of the 2015 main cropping season. This follows a relatively low and stable period in the first half of 2015 in most monitored markets. However, in October grains prices were still about 30% lower than 12 months earlier, due to the abundant supply from the record 2014 cereal production.

Similarly, prices of imported wheat increased by 8%-12% between June and October in Khartoum market, but are currently still 10%-12% below their levels of last year.

Countrywide, food security conditions have significantly improved during the last 12 months, as the bumper 2014 cereal crop production increased local supply and reduced most vulnerable households’ dependence on markets. As a result of the ample availabilities, the lean season in 2015 started in June, about one month later than usual. FAO-Sudan is currently finalizing a recent assessment on crop performance and livestock health in traditional rain fed agricultural areas, which indicates an increased risk of low production surpluses for the 2015-16 harvest. The full impact of a poor harvest will be felt most acutely in March-June 2016 during an intensified lean season, with significant decreases to local food availability and increased food and nutrition insecurity, especially among small-scale farmers and pastoralists who make up the bulk of the Sudan’s rural poor.