Jun 26, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Sudanese farmers warn of failing harvests as hunger rises

On the fertile clay plains of Sudan’s Gezira program, farmers would normally have started tilling the soil weeks ago before planting rows of sorghum or peanuts, sesame and other crops.

Instead, in a country, Beset by escalating hunger, large parts of the 8,800-square-kilometer agricultural project are untouched.

Farmers speaking to Reuters said the government had cut back the Foreclosed from billions of dollars in international funding in a coup in October earlier this year, they were unable to buy their wheat on the terms promised.

That, they say, means they didn’t have the money to buy the new Funding harvest now.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further complicated the outlook and pushed prices for inputs like fertilizer and fuel to new highs.

This is threatening the current and future season, farmers, say, in an unstable country where the humanitarian situation has deteriorated and it is unclear how the authorities will afford to fin imports of increasingly expensive food.

The Treasury Department did not comment directly on the farmers’ comments about wheat purchases, but told Reuters it was working to provide the necessary funding.

The ministry said in a statement Tuesday it had made a commitment to buy up to 300,000 tons of wheat and 200,000 tons of sorghum, which together cost more than $300 million, and is requesting funds from the central bank.

Reuters spoke to more than 20 farmers from the Gezira program, a huge irrigation project south of the capital Khartoum. All described the situation as desperate, and most said they feared bankruptcy and even jail for not paying their debts.

One, Nazar Abdallah, said he had taken out loans believing that the government would buy its wheat for Sudanese 43,000 pounds (about $75.40) per sack, as agreed last year.

Dozens of those 100kg sacks of grain now being stored under a leaky roof , should have been sold in March.

If his crops fail, he fears he won’t be able to repay his debt. “If it rains, I’ll go straight to jail, no question,” he said, pointing to the holes in the ceiling.

Similar problems plague Gadaref, the eastern state where much of the country traditionally resides Grains, sorghum, are grown.

“We buy the fertilizer and fuel at high prices and then when we sell our crops we don’t find a market. The government impoverishes us,” said a sorghum farmer there who was around Anonymity asked not to get involved in politics.

“The summer season is threatening to collapse. Fifty percent, seventy percent of us may not plant. And that puts the food supply in question,” said Ahmed Abdelmagid, a more Gezira farmers.

Roadshows

Farmers’ problems precede the coup, linked to an economic crisis that began under former head of state Omar al-Bashir, subsidy reforms by the interim government and global cost pressures before the war in Ukraine began The Agricultural Bank, which has long supported farmers and bought up their wheat for strategic reserves, could not supply fertilizer and seeds as prices rose, farmers said.

The Agricultural Bank, as well as the Central Bank and Ministry of Agriculture of Sudan, did not respond to requests for comment.

Fuel costs for farmers increased by more in 2021, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report released in March than 6,500 percent compared to the previous year. The price of fertilizer, which is normally provided as part of the wheat purchase contract, rose by 800 percent, prompting farmers to limit its consumption.

The report also blamed erratic rainfall, pest infestations, conflict and irrigation problems Responsible for a drop of more than 35 percent in the production of Sudan’s three main staple crops – wheat, sorghum and millet – this year.

The FAO says that Sudan has faced a rare sorghum deficit this year is facing.

Just a year ago, the interim government was on the move to market Sudan’s vast untapped agricultural potential to investors as the economy began to open up after Bashir was toppled during mass protests in 2019.

Their work was disrupted by the coup that ended a conflicting power-sharing agreement between civilians and the military. Economic activity stagnates amid political blockades and anti-military demonstrations.

Hunger

The United Nations World Food Program estimates that the number of people affected by crises or emergencies has exceeded the previous stages famine will double this year in Sudan to 18 million, out of a population of 46 million.

And food security concerns in Sudan could grow even more.

Even with At record global wheat price levels, Sudan imported 818,000 tonnes from January to March, three times more than the same period in 2021, central bank figures show.

Although the local wheat crop accounts for a fraction of consumption, subsidies government Wheat farmers provide a necessary, if unsustainable, backbone for agricultural activity, said FAO official Babagana Ahmadu.

“Without them, the situation will out of control,” he added.

Abdallah and other farmers in Gezira would normally plant sorghum and important export crops during the upcoming summer season and use the profits they made from government wheat purchases.

But the governor of the Gezira program, Omar Marzoug, said no funding was available, either from the government or privately.

The Sudanese military leadership has said it is dealing with the problem deal with Farmers criticized a recent purchase announcement as unaffordable terms.

Without liquidity, they wait and sell small batches at the market price of around £28,000 ($49.12) per sack to make ends meet. Agricultural machinery is idle.

The farmer in Gadaref said he and his colleagues are likely to reduce their cultivation of key export commodities such as sesame by up to 80 percent if funding doesn’t arrive this month.

“I expect that without radical changes in the coming crops, there will be even worse problems,” said University of Gadaref agriculture professor Hussein Suleiman. “And I don’t expect any radical change.”