The production of cereals in South Sudan has improved, providing some respite to households grappling with an acute food crisis, says a joint report from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and UN agencies that was launched on Monday.
The Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and the National Bureau of Statistics said in the report that net cereal production hit 936,200 tons during the January-December 2022, an 11.5 percent increase compared to the same period of 2021.
However, FAO said the cereal deficit is estimated at 485,400 tons, 10.2 percent below the deficit estimated for 2022, and two percent below the 2018-2022 average.
Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan, attributed the increase in production to improved security which allowed displaced households to return to their place of origin and engage in agricultural production, and favorable rains over most cropping regions.
“Despite continued challenges, the 2022 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission findings are encouraging because they show South Sudan is headed in the right direction regarding food production. In order to increase food security in the country, South Sudanese need to be able to grow their own food,” Malo said during the report’s launch in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
He said FAO supports farmers with seeds, tools, technical training, and market development, as well as providing assistance to developing the seed sector which brings agriculture in the country one step closer to self-sufficiency.
Malo noted that higher cereal production occurred despite several challenges faced by farmers, including the presence of pests, wildlife and climatic shocks.
Flooding, insecurity, high food and fuel prices, a depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound, reduced humanitarian assistance, and weak market integration all contributed to persistent food insecurity in many areas, Malo said.
He revealed that an estimated 130,000 hectares of cultivated land were damaged by floods, resulting in an estimated loss of 65,000 tons of cereals.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Representative in South Sudan, hailed the increase in cereals production, saying it is critical that farmers have the tools and support they need to be resilient in the face of a multitude of shocks.
McGroarty added that WFP is working with farmers to adapt to climatic stresses, adding that in some areas that are prone to flooding, a partnership with FAO is helping families to begin growing rice which thrives in waterlogged conditions.