| 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|
Judging from the available data and with all the caveats that such data warrant, four statements may be made by way of a conclusion.
1. The terms of trade of cereals to goats turned largely to the detriment of those selling goats in 1984. This was probably due to two factors acting in tandem to exacerbate what might otherwise have been a local crisis.
A. Local drought and harvest failure in 1983 and 1984 in the important interior grain producing districts of Red Sea Province.
B. Harvest failures elsewhere in the Sudan such that the Red Sea Province deficits could not have made up through the market mechanism. The extent of the harvest failures throughout the Sudan during this period contributed to the food stress experienced by many people in Red Sea Province during the mid-1980s.
2. The terms of trade of cereals to livestock during the early 1980s seems to have not turned against sheep prices as they did against goat prices. The reasons for this are unclear. It may simply be due to the fact that sheep are more expensive than goats (see Hassan Mohammed Salih 1976) or it may be due to any one or all three of the following factors.
A. Because of the extreme annual variation in forage availability in southcentral and southwest Red Sea Province sheep are naturally scarce except for the rainy season.
B. High sheep mortality against relatively low goat mortality during the drought of 1983-1984. Sheep are much less resistant to stress than are goats.
C. The nature of sheep as a preferred commodity relatively immune from market price collapse. Goats are the liquid currency of trade in Red Sea Province. Sheep are a specialty product raised for export to the towns and to Saudia Arabia. The high prices paid for male sheep reflects the high demand and value associated with their use in religious ceremonies three times a year.
3. When free relief grain was made available in 1985 average cereal prices dropped by more than half (56%) and the terms of trade turned against cereals. This trend has been maintained to the present.
4. The terms of trade have been against cereals since 1986 but have dropped in favour of cereals since 1988 and are now levelling off. The reasons behind this change probably lie at the national and international levels rather than the local level and are related to the devaluation of the Sudanese pound and the general and extreme commodity price inflation that has occurred since the early part of 1988.
Although one would normally expect cereal prices to drop after the unprecedented harvest of 1988 they have not done so. There is an explanation for this that goes some way in resolving the sluggish response of the market: commercial producers are storing their cereals to sell at a later date and small producers are storing their harvest as a security measure. In any case, the alarmingly high cereal prices and the declining terms of trade against livestock deserves watching. People who do not farm and those who have few or no livestock are at risk. Particularly vulnerable are households headed by women in rural areas. They may not have been able to build up assets when the terms of trade were overwhelmingly against cereals.