Sudanese farmers have expressed serious concerns about the agricultural season which is supposed to start this month. The main rainy season from June to September is expected to be above average and flooding will likely lead to crop losses, warns FEWS NET.
Preparations for this year’s main agricultural season do not exceed 3 percent, said Ahmed Babiker, secretary general of the El Gezira and El Managil Farmers’ Association. Hadees El Nas program from Sudan’s Blue Nile satellite channel on Tuesday. “Farming now is like stepping into the dark.”
Babiker blames state politics for the dire situation. “Despite the great efforts made by farmers during the winter season, serious mistakes made by the transitional government have led to a decline in wheat productivity.”
The last season turned out to be “catastrophic” due to the “lack of commitment by the State to set indicative prices for wheat and cotton, to maintain the irrigation canals, to provide the necessary inputs on time, like fertilizers.
Farmers have been forced to take out loans from the Agricultural Bank to prepare for the last winter season, as the bank’s financing of production inputs stopped five years ago, and they have received no further assistance of the state, he explained. In addition, the government is refusing to buy cotton and wheat, as farmers earlier this year refused the SDG43,000* price set by the Ministry of Agriculture for a 100 kg bag of wheat, as the amount did not cover their expenses. “Now farmers are forced to sell their wheat for less than SDG 30,000.”
“If the situation continues like this, there will be no more cultivation in El Gezira. – Ahmed Babiker, Secretary General of the Association of Farmers of El Gezira and El Managil
Babiker also strongly criticized the lifting of subsidies over the past two years, under Finance Ministry policies that followed World Bank demands. “The Minister of Finance said at the time that removing subsidies would support inputs – which has not happened. On the contrary, the costs of farming have increased significantly, leading to a sharp decrease in the number of acres cultivated.
“If the situation continues like this, there will be no more cultivation in El Gezira. All farmers will migrate to Khartoum to earn a living doing odd jobs and marginal businesses,” he warned, and lamented that the El Gezira project, which was one of the biggest to the world irrigated by pumps, will end in This way.
Farmer El Jeili El Sheikh confirmed from nearby Sennar that the agricultural season during the rainy season last year not only suffered from a lack of rain but also failed due to the delay in funding and the fuel prices rise to “mythical levels” following the removal of subsidies.
Preparation for the summer season in Sennar is “zero” due to the high costs and low yields of previous seasons and farmers already heavily in debt. “About 90% of the farmers here are insolvent,” he said. El Sheikh himself will not plant this season if diesel is not available and the Agricultural Bank will not have adjusted its debt repayment schedule to the current situation.
Urgent intervention needed
Saleh Mohamed Saleh, director of the agriculture bank’s finance department, said the bank “is built on very solid foundations.” He explained to Hadees El Nas program that the capacities of the Agricultural Bank have diminished due to the persistence of high inflation and the scarcity of resources. “When farmers pay off their debts, the value of the pound has gone down dramatically. [..] if we lend a farmer an amount to buy a tractor and agree that he will repay the loan after five years, the same amount will not even buy a tractor wheel.
The capital of the Agricultural Bank is currently SDG 8 billion. The government would inject $125 billion into the bank, “but that didn’t happen due to weak state capacity,” Saleh said.
The financial expert, however, was optimistic about the supply of fertilizer by the Ministry of Finance and government funding of the summer season.
“About 90% of farmers in Sennar are insolvent” – Farmer El Jeili El Sheikh
Journalist Ayoub El Sileik, who specializes in agricultural affairs, described “all the policies of the transitional government” regarding agriculture as “random and confusing”.
“The yields of previous seasons were solely due to the farmers and their diligence,” he said, and also warned of a collapse in agriculture in Sudan. “And if agriculture collapses, Sudan will collapse.”
El Sileik called for urgent intervention by the Ministry of Finance, which “should buy all the wheat that farmers have not yet sold so that they can prepare their land for the new season. “Agriculture in Sudan is headed for the abyss, and the state must intervene as soon as possible and support the Agricultural Bank”.
Growing food insecurity
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), locally produced wheat prices were trading at around SDG 563/kg in May, about 200-250% above last year’s prices and five to seven times above the five -annual average.
FEWS NET predicts that between June and September, large parts of Sudan, mainly in the west, south and east of the country will reach a level of crisis. Above average rainfall resulting in heavy flooding can also be expected. “In agricultural areas, flooding and waterlogging are likely to lead to crop losses and reduced opportunities for agricultural work,” says the international provider of acute food insecurity early warnings.
“More than 18 million Sudanese will face acute hunger by September 2022” – FAO/WFP
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in December last year that around 14.3 million Sudanese in the country – 30% of the population – will need humanitarian assistance in 2022. This is an increase of 0.8 million people from 2021, and the highest number in the last decade.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) warned in March that the combined effects of conflict, economic crisis and poor harvests were significantly affecting access for populations to food and would likely double the number of people facing acute hunger in Sudan to over 18 million people by September 2022.
* Yesterday, one US dollar traded on the parallel foreign exchange market for SDG568 while the official CBoS exchange rate was around SDG446. In early March, the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS) decided to allow the determination of exchange rates without interference from the Central Bank.