Sudan’s Food Crisis: Contributing Factors and Political Ramifications

by Arif Elsawi
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The agreement brokered by Turkey on 22 July between Russia and Ukraine unblocking the exports of Ukrainian wheat to global markets came as a welcome relief. If fully implemented, the deal would dampen the prices of wheat and improve the flow of supplies to the countries, Sudan among them, with critical exposures to serious food deficits in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, Sudan’s serious food supply shortages are primarily driven by domestic factors that must be addressed to improve the country’s food self-sufficiency.

 

In June, the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that 15 million Sudanese, or one third of its population, were facing food insecurity and that this may increase to 40% of the population before the end of the lean season.[1] The reasons for this crisis are numerous: erratic rain patterns during the country’s summer and winter agricultural seasons in 2021/22, mismanagement of land and water resources, and recurrent conflicts in production areas have reduced yields. At the same time, the economic crisis is making it harder to sustain traditional subsidies to the sector and import fertilizer and other agricultural inputs, undermining production, or the import grains to compensate for decreased domestic yields.

 

The October 2021 coup d’état halted the macroeconomic reforms of the civilian-led reformist government that were just beginning to make progress towards stabilizing the economy. In the months that followed, ill-advised public policies implemented by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) and the government-owned Agricultural Bank of Sudan (ABS) negatively impacted access to credit. Severe shortages of foreign currency reserves in the Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS) and the suspension of international aid packages further complicate access to food. The state is failing to respond to the crisis effectively and prepare for the new agricultural season of 2022/23.

 

Sudan’s coup leaders have failed to meet their obligation to feed the population, and are ill-positioned to do so, facing popular rejection at home and international isolation, and having weak, bureaucratic [1] ECHO, “Sudan – Food insecurity,” June 17, 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/sudan/sudan-food-insecurity-dg-echo-wfp-fao-echo-daily-flash-17-june-2022

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