Rome — Prices of wheat, sorghum, and millet, the main staples in Sudan, rose sharply for the third consecutive month in January, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its latest Food Price Monitoring Bulletin.
Prices reached record highs, more than twice their year-earlier values, despite the recently completed main season harvest, the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) in Sudan quoted FAO in its latest biweekly bulletin.
Prices of sorghum doubled in Khartoum in October last year, and at the market of El Gedaref which is a key surplus-producing area. Prices of millet increased by more than 50 per cent at the market of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur State.
In Khartoum, prices of wheat grain reached SDG 1,000 ($ 56*) in January this year, an increase by 80 per cent compared to October 2017. This represents more than a double year-on-year increase, compared to January 2017.
The increase in prices was driven by the removal of wheat subsidies under the new budget of 2018, which increased the demand for millet and sorghum as substitutes for wheat. The strong depreciation of the local currency in the parallel forex market was another cause.
Substantial crop production shortfalls in a number of areas are affecting the current harvest, and contribute to further cereal price increases, the FAO bulletin reads.
The removal of wheat subsidies under the new budget of 2018 increased the demand for millet and sorghum as substitutes for wheat.
According to preliminary findings of the 2017 FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, the 2017 aggregate cereal production is estimated at 5.2 million metric tons (MT), about 40 per cent lower than the record 2016 output. This is mainly due to production shortfalls in eastern Sudan's El Gedaref and Kassala, and in North Darfur, where harvests were 66-90 per cent lower than in 2016, following poor and erratic rainfall.
The World Food Programme (WFP) reported as well a sharp increase in the average price of sorghum in January 2018. The UN food agency stated in its latest Market Update that the sorghum prices increased by 32 per cent compared to December 2017.
When compared to January 2017, the current national retail price of sorghum has increased by 76 per cent. This has been attributed to a significant decrease in sorghum production in the current 2017-2018 season, because of the poor rainfall in a number of areas, in addition to the lifting of wheat subsidies and the devaluation of the Sudanese Pound.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reported atypical price increases for sorghum and millet already in November. The increases occurred at a time when prices typically begin to decrease as harvested crops start to arrive in markets, FEWS NET reported in its Food Security Outlook of December.
According to Majdi Yasin, the Sudanese State Minister for Finance, Sudan imported 2 million MT of wheat in 2017, while local wheat production stood at 445,000 MT.
Sorghum, millet, and wheat are the most important food commodities in Sudan. Sorghum is the staple food for the majority of poor households in central and eastern regions, millet for the majority of households in Darfur and some parts of Kordofan. Wheat is the staple food for the northern Sudanese states.
* Based on the official US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS)