South Sudan highly food insecure despite 2020 increase in cereal production

Rain sacks of dried beans and lentils displayed in the open air marketplace, where food and produce is sold. (Photo by Wendy Stone/Corbis via Getty Images)

Cereal production in South Sudan in 2020 rose by seven percent over 2019 levels because of favourable rains, however cereals remained far below average production levels, a new United Nations report on food security finds.

A high cereal deficit expected for 2021 due to the impact of prolonged conflict and floods is leaving millions of South Sudanese extremely food insecure, according to the Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Cereal production in 2020 is estimated at 874,400 metric tons, seven percent higher than 818,500 metric tons in 2019.

The marginal growth will cover the needs of only a third of the population, leaving most people reliant on humanitarian food assistance and imports of essential grains, at prices beyond the reach of ordinary South Sudanese.

The alarmingly high deficit in 2021 cereal production, estimated at 465,600 tons, keeps food insecurity at an all-time high. South Sudan needs 1.3 million metric tons of cereal a year to feed its 12.2 million people.

“The marginal gains in cereal production show that where there is peace and stability, the people of South Sudan are able to turn the page on hunger,” Mathew Hollingworth, WFP Representative and Country Director in South Sudan said.

“But in a country still battered by years of war and the ravages of climate change, modest improvements are far from enough to end food insecurity, which is the highest ever”

Disrupted livelihoods, heavy losses in livestock and other assets and high food prices are pushing the average family deeper into poverty and hunger,” he added.

Food security is a huge challenge to 7.2 million people, 60 percent of South Sudan’s population. Violence and conflict, competition among groups over resources such as farmland and water, as well as new protracted displacements due to violence and floods both destroyed assets and eroded communities’ resilience.

Last year, WFP reached over 5 million people in South Sudan with life-saving food assistance, nutrition support, cash and livelihoods opportunities to improve the resilience of communities, with a focus on the most vulnerable including women, children and the elderly. WFP is prioritizing ten remote locations where access to food is critically low and people face emergency or catastrophic levels of hunger.