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Saturday, 31 March 2018

Sudan Crop and Food Supply Assessment in 2018 (2)

Economic Context
Economic conditions in the Sudan remain challenging six years after the secession of South Sudan in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output, the main source of foreign currency and government income. The Government has performed a series of reforms to stabilize the economy, allowing for greater exchange rate flexibility and reducing energy subsidies. However, a difficult external environment, including the limited access to external financing, trade and financial sanctions has continued to constrain the economy. As a result, unsustainable fiscal deficits persist, inflation is high and economic growth remains below potential.
According to the estimates of the Ministry of Finance, the country’s GDP in 2017 is forecast at about SDG 958 billion, to which the agricultural sector contributed about 31 percent, the industrial sector about 18 percent and the
services sector about 51 percent. In real terms, the GDP grew by 4.4 percent in 2017 compared to the 4.7 percent in 2016.
In 2016, the trade balance recorded a deficit of about USD 4.2 billion (around 5 percent of the country’s GDP), slightly below the deficit of USD 5.2 billion (6 percent of the GDP) in 2015. The Sudan’s average trade deficits can be attributed to the lack of manufacturing industry and commercial agriculture, which make the country dependent on imports of food, manufactured goods and machinery, while the country remains a net exporter of gold and livestock. The slight improvement of the trade balance in 2016 was essentially due to higher export prices of gold as well as an increase in exports of most agricultural commodities such as sesame, gum Arabic, cotton, groundnuts and livestock.
During the first ten months of 2017, the value of the main agricultural exports has increased compared to the same period of 2016. The growth was essentially due to the increase in exports of groundnuts and cotton. In particular, exports of groundnuts increased from 17 000 tonnes to 70 000 tonnes and exports of cotton from 52 500 tonnes to 86 500 tonnes (Table 1). Similarly, exports of sesame increased from 324 000 tonnes in 2016 to 357 000 tonnes in 2017. In the first ten months of 2017, the value of meat and livestock exports increased by 11 percent compared to the corresponding period of 2016, mainly on account of higher meat exports.
During the first ten months of 2017, about 2 million tons of wheat were imported, around 7 percent below the level of the same period in 2016 and wheat imports were about 13 percent cheaper due to lower international prices. During the same period, imports of fertilizers declined in quantity (at about 186 000 tons) due to high international prices and the depreciation of the national currency, which made imported goods more expensive.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in October 2017, the year-on-year inflation rate was estimated at 33 percent, reaching record levels of about 60 percent in the health sector and 51 percent in transportation. Among the food categories, prices of meat, oils and fat and fruits have increased the most in 2017. The increase of inflation was driven by the sharp depreciation of the SDG against the USD in the parallel market, from SDG 1 7 in January to SDG 28 in November for USD 1 . The United States of America decided to lift the sanction temporarily in January 2017 and, in October 2017, suspended the trade embargo, unfreezing assets and removing the financial penalties permanently. Due to the increasing demand from importers and traders and the limited supplies of foreign
currency in the country, the Sudanese Pound plunged against the US Dollar in the parallel market, marking an historic low value of SDG 28 in November. The Central Bank of Sudan has held the official exchange rate at an average of SDG 7 to the USD until the end of 2017. The Government lifted the official exchange rate from SDG 7 to SDG 18 in January 2018.


The economy of the Sudan is highly dependent on agriculture, which occupies an estimated 80 percent of its labour force and accounts for about 32 percent of its GDP but could contribute significantly more with greater
investment and better governance. According to the Ministry of Finance, crop production was responsible for 38 percent of the agricultural GDP in 2016 and livestock for 61 percent, with the remaining 1 percent being from
fisheries and forestry. Its crop portfolio is quite diversified, including cereals (such as sorghum, millet, wheat, rice and maize), oilseeds (mainly sesame, groundnuts and sunflowers), industrial crops (cotton and sugarcane), fodder crops (alfalfa, fodder sorghum and Rhodes grass), pulses (broad beans and pigeon peas) and horticultural crops (okra, onions,
tomatoes, citrus, mango, etc.).
Moreover, land in the Sudan is suitable for animal husbandry, with an estimated total livestock population of 107 million heads of cattle, sheep, goats, camels and others.
Crop production in the Sudan is practiced under three main patterns: Irrigated agriculture, which includes ; Large national irrigation schemes (Gezira, Suki, New Halfa and Rahad) using river flow from the Nile and its tributariesl ;
Large spate irrigation schemes (Gash and Tokar) using seasonal floods; Small scale irrigation along the banks of the Nile and its tributaries; Semi-mechanized rainfed agriculture and Traditional rainfed agriculture.
Crop production in the rainfed sectors exhibits very wide annual fluctuations as a result of unreliable rainfall amounts and distribution which can result in late sowing, long dry spells, flooding from intense downpours, the necessity to re-sow and, not uncommonly, complete crop failure. The situation in the irrigated sector, however, is much more predictable. Nevertheless, viewed globally, yields are generally low in all sectors for various reasons as well as rainfall. These include, inter alia, a shortage of efficient, well-maintained farm machinery, a shortage of credit and working capital, the use of low yielding crop varieties with scarce availability of improved seeds, inadequate maintenance of irrigation canals, inefficient irrigation pumps and poor agricultural practices such as weed and pest control.
Regarding commercial crops, the Sudan is the third African major producer of sugarcane in Africa, after Egypt and South Africa, with a total planted area of around 82 000 hectares. The country has also become a very significant importer of sugar, especially from India and Thailand. Unlike India and Thailand and other major sugar producers such as Brazil, the Sudan is allowed, as part of the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, to export unlimited amounts of its own sugar production to the European Union without paying taxes. The EBA is a component of the European Union’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences devised to assist the economies of the Least Developed Countries. The difference between the Sudan’s annual domestic sugar requirement and the sum of its production
and imports allows the country to export substantial amounts.
Until the 1980s, the Sudan was a major cotton producer, frequently exporting more than 1 million bales (217 kg) per year. Cotton production has declined dramatically since then as a consequence of a greatly reduced area and fewer than 100 000 bales exported annually over the last four years. However, in 2017, the production of cotton shows some signs of recovery

Irrigated agriculture

The area under irrigation in the Sudan is estimated at about 1.68 million hectares (4 million feddans). Of this, large scale mechanized federal schemes account for about 1.26 million hectares (3 million feddans), including the Gezira Scheme which, at approximately 1 million hectares (2.38 million feddans), is one of the largest irrigation schemes in the world. Because of its more reliable yield expectations, the irrigated sector is the principal user of the country’s imported agricultural inputs. Nonetheless, crop yields in the federal irrigated schemes remain low by world standards, largely owing to the poor maintenance and silting up of canals, a shortage of efficient modern pumps and poor agricultural practices.
Irrigation is mainly from the River Nile and its tributaries by means of gravity or pumps, or from spate flow from the seasonal rivers at Gash and Tokar deltas. The principal crops of the irrigated sector include sugarcane, cotton, sorghum, groundnuts, wheat, vegetables, fruits and green fodders. According to the season, the sector takes advantage of the rains, especially during the establishment of summer crops. For example, rain is estimated to provide about 40 percent of the water requirements of crops on the Suki Irrigation Scheme. Rain is especially important for reducing the production costs on privately-owned irrigated small holdings along the banks of the Nile and its tributaries that depend on diesel-powered pumps
In recent years, several large private enterprises have emerged, producing fodder crops such as alfalfa and Rhodes grass for export, mainly to the Gulf countries. These enterprises are usually highly mechanized, use efficient irrigation systems such as center pivots and other forms of sprinkler irrigation and generally achieve high yields of good quality fodder.

Semi-mechanized rainfed agriculture

Semi-mechanized rainfed agriculture is so called because mechanization is usually limited to land preparation and seeding. Other field operations, including harvesting, are usually carried out manually, although combined
harvesting is becoming less rare. Semi-mechanized rainfed agriculture is practiced in a broad belt of 6.7 million hectares and receives, on average, more than 500 mm of rainfall annually. It runs through Kassala, Gedarif, Blue Nile, Sennar, White Nile and South Kordofan states. This belt is effectively the granary of the country, with sorghum accounting for about 80 percent of the cultivated land and usually producing about 45 percent of the country’s requirements. Other crops include sesame, sunflowers, millet and cotton.
Farms in the semi-mechanized sector are frequently very large with some covering 50 000 hectares or more. Given the unpredictable nature of the rainfall and, therefore, the possibility that yields will be very low or even that
there may be a complete crop failure, the system may be described as opportunistic. Operations are, therefore, carried out as economically as possible. Standard crop varieties are sown using wide disc seeders with up to 30 discs and no fertilizer is applied. If the rains are favourable, yields of up to 1 tonne/hectare can be achieved, otherwise crops may be sold off as a standing crop to pastoralists for grazing.