Dongola — The Wali (governor) of Sudan’s Northern State has issued an emergency order banning the transfer of locally produced wheat out of the state. This amid concerns of a general shortage and soaring prices of wheat in Sudan, which is dependent on imports from the Black Sea region, currently disrupted by the war in Ukraine.
On Friday, Wali El Baqir Ahmed Ali issued an emergency order banning the transfer of any quantity of the locally produced wheat crop out of Northern State, without written permission From the Ministry of Production and Economic Resources. This does not include small quantities deemed to be for personal use.
The authorities warn that violation of this order carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years, and a fine of at least SDG 100,000.Any wheat found to be transported in violation of the order will be seized by the Northern State government. The order also authorises the seizure of any vehicles used for illegal transport.
Food crisis looming
A worsening food crisis is looming in Sudan amid the economic downturn, displacement, and ruined crops, exacerbated by the aftermath of the October 25 military coup. A report in March by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warns that that the combined effects of conflict, economic crisis, and poor harvests are significantly affecting people’s access to food and will likely double the number of people facing acute hunger in Sudan to more than 18 million people by September 2022.
In recent months, there has been a surge in the numbers of people displaced due to conflict in parts of Darfur and Kordofan. This insecurity has eroded livelihoods, damaged farms, and triggered widespread unemployment.
The depreciation of the Sudanese Pound (SDG) in addition to rising food and transportation costs are making it harder for families to put food on the table. A lack of access to hard currencies is likely to result in the Sudanese Pound further depreciating.
The Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report by FAO and WFP indicates that the domestic cereal production from the 2021/22 agricultural season is expected to produce 5.1 million metric tons. This will only cover the needs of less than two thirds of the population, leaving many reliant on humanitarian food assistance and dependant on imports of essential grains at prices beyond the reach of most people.
The situation looks grim for millions as the conflict in Ukraine is causing further spikes in food costs, as Sudan is dependent on wheat imports from the Black Sea region. Interruption to the flow of grain into Sudan will increase prices and make it more difficult to import wheat. Currently, local prices of wheat are at over $550 per ton – an increase of 180 percent compared to the same period in 2021.
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A WFP report in April laments that the national average retail price of food in Sudan has significantly increased, making “nutritious food unaffordable for many families”.
The WFP said that the average retail price of sorghum in Sudan during March was SDG198 per kilo, marking a sharp rise of 20 per cent compared to February. While the price of wheat flour stood at SDG681 pounds per kilo, a marked increase of 14 per cent compared to the previous month. The average price of a goat SDG18,958 per head was down slightly by 1.33 per cent, compared to the previous month. The price of peanuts reached SDG11,548 per sack, representing a significant increase of 14 per cent, compared to the previous month.
The WFP stated, “the average cost of the WFP domestic food basket rose to SDG349.93, a sharp increase of nearly 20 per cent, compared to the previous month”.