| Measuring drought and drought impacts in Red Sea Province |
|4. Drought, the market, and the impact of food aid in Red Sea Province, 1980 to 1989. Roy Cole|
The recent drought most commonly referred to in Red Sea Province occurred in 1982 and 1983 in the Tokar area when rainfall was well below the annual mean of sixty millimetres. In the populous interior areas of the province the worst years were 1983 and 1984 where, for example, in the agriculturally important Khor Arab basin there were no floods for both years.
The following figure presents prices for four cereals in the Tokar market: three types of sorghum, Feterita, Hijiri Gedarif, and Hijiri Tokar and one millet.
From 1981 to 1989 average prices in Tokar for the four cereals presented above rose 684% from 22.8 to 156 Sudanese pounds per 100 kilogram sack. Within this trend there are two peaks and two troughs. More properly speaking, perhaps the peaks should be called one peak and one plateau rather than two peaks. Although it is too early to tell how 1989 will turn out, our data for 1989 run to August, and prices should fall after harvest near the end of the year. Because of this uncertainty, what appears now to be a 1988-89 plateau may well be a peak. However that may be, the first peak in our present dataset was in 1984. From 1981 to 1984, cereals prices rose 346%, from 22.8 to 79 Sudanese pounds per 100 kilogram sack. Cereals prices dropped 56% in 1985 and 1986, almost to their 1983 levels then rose 457% in a second peak from 1988 to the present, from 34 to 156 Sudanese pounds per sack.
The figures for Derudeb Town present a partial but much the same story as the Tokar market. The two cereals for which we have data are Feterita and Mugud Gedarif sorghum. The increase in the average price of these two sorghums from 1986 to 1989 was 249%, from 38.8 to 96.9 Sudanese pounds per 100 kilogram bag. Some caution should be exercised with the Derudeb data because the 1989 dataset has only one month's observation. The actual difference is probably higher because the observation that we have is from not long after the harvest of 1988 and prices generally rise between harvests.
It is important to place changes in cereal prices in the context of changes in two other commodities: cash crops in Tokar and sorghum in Gedarif, the principal source area for cereal imports into Red Sea Province. The figure below presents the prices of a cash crop from the Tokar market Egyptian beans (ful masry). Interestingly, the Egyptian bean price changes exhibit an upward curve of constantly inflating prices quite different from that of cereals prices in the same market. Prices since 1987 have risen further although we do not have figures from the Tokar market.
There is much mechanised rainfed cereal production in the Gedarif area. It is one of the few surplus producing areas in the Sudan. Cereals from Gedarif are readily available in all Red Sea Province markets and make up shortfalls in local production. The following figure presents the prices for Feterita sorghum in the Gedarif market from 1970 to 1988.
The Department of Agricultural Economics of the Ministry of Agriculture estimated (1988) that after the excellent crop year of 1986 in the Gedarif area cropped area declined 71% for several reasons:
1. The low prices received by farmers in 1986 discouraged them from planting more.
2. Low and unevenly distributed rainfall and late plantings.
3. Pest infestations.
4. Unavailability of engine oil at planting time for mechanised agriculture.
The Department of Agricultural Economics (1985) found that the 1984 and 1985 seasons were affected by drought, particularly in Gedarif. Only a third of the planted areas were harvested in 1985 and prices were highest during that year. On the area that was harvested yields were below average.
It is interesting to compare the cereal prices in the Tokar market with those from Gedarif, a major source of imported grain for Red Sea Province, to show that production outside Red Sea Province had little to do with the fall in cereal prices in Red Sea Province from 1985 to 1987. The free food deliveries beginning in early 1985 in Red Sea Province had a significant impact on cereal prices and was the principal factor behind the drop in cereal prices after the drought-related inflation of 1983 and 1984. The Gedarif market, in contrast, had exceedingly poor performance in 1984 and 1985 and prices were rising during this period. The Red Sea Province prices began falling a full year before those of Gedarif did so.