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Cablegate: Senegal Food Security Threatened by Cereal and Forage

VZCZCXRO9922
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDK #0236/01 0591540
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281540Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0109
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC
RUEADWD/DA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DAKAR 000236

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/EPS, EB/IFD/ODF
ADDIS ALSO FOR U.S. MISSION TO THE AFRICAN UNION
USDA FOR FAS/OCRA DIABY, OCBD CROUSHORN AND PHILLIPS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID ECON PGOV SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL FOOD SECURITY THREATENED BY CEREAL AND FORAGE
DEFICITS


DAKAR 00000236 001.2 OF 002


1. SUMMARY: Senegal's food security for the remainder of the dry
season in 2008 is threatened by the effects of late and erratic
rains that ended early in many areas throughout Senegal in 2007.
The net effect has been a reduced cereal crop (sorghum, millet and
rice) and an acute shortage of forage crops for livestock. A
multi-agency food security task force recently reported that outside
of Dakar, the cereal shortage is estimated at 1.08 million tons, of
which approximately 800,000 should be met by commercial trade and a
small amount (10,000 tones) by foreign donations, leaving a net
deficit of approximately 269,000 tons. Meanwhile, high world
commodity prices have led the Government of Senegal to issue a
decree fixing the profit margin on the importation and distribution
of rice, which is the country's most important imported cereal. END
SUMMARY.

SENEGAL'S FOOD SECURITY AT RISK
-------------------------------
2. The National Food Security Council, on behalf of a multi-agency
taskforce, recently reported that outside of Dakar, there is a
cereal shortage of 1.08 million tons. Approximately 800,000 tons of
this deficit is expected to be met by commercial trade (mostly rice)
and a small amount (10,000 tons) by regular foreign donations. The
net deficit is estimated at 269,000 tons. The departments of Saint
Louis, Louga, Thies, Mbacke, Tivaouane and Kebemer are the worst off
with food stores of only two months or less. While The World Food
Program (WFP) is preparing to do a follow-up confirmatory survey,
the Government of Senegal has yet to ask the international community
for emergency food assistance.

3. In 2007 Senegal experienced late and erratic rains that ended
early in many areas. The rainfall deficit reduced cereal crop
production (sorghum, millet and rice) and significantly reduced
forage crops for livestock. In addition to a lack of rainfall, the
2007 cereal crops, harvested during the last quarter of 2007, faced
high pest pressure, including grain eating birds in the northern
river valley where the majority of rice is grown. Inputs such as
fertilizer and pesticide also arrived late in many areas. There was
also isolated flooding along the Senegal River that destroyed many
irrigated crops. A growing fear in advance of the next production
campaign is that many farmers will have consumed their seed stock.

4. In anticipation of an early-start of the hunger season
("soudure," as it is known in Senegal), a food security task force
was set up by the Government under the leadership of the Ministry of
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, composed of the Ministry of
Family, the Food Security Commissariat, the Statistics Service and
the National Association of Rural Communities (ANCR). This
commission was established on December 19, 2007 by Prime Minister
Soumare with the main objective of rebuilding security stocks and
planning its distribution throughout the country, with priority to
most affected regions (central, southern, and northern).

CASH CROPS, LIVESTOCK AND ENVIRONMENT ALSO IMPACTED
--------------------------------------------- ------
5. The effect on peanut production, the primary cash crop in
Senegal, is mixed - some production areas received adequate rainfall
while farmers in some areas lost their entire crop. Senegal
produces a small amount of cotton which appears to have been spared
as most of it is grown in the Tambacounda area which received
relatively normal rainfall. Cotton production is still down from
last year's record level, however. Beyond cash, cereal, and
traditional forage crops, there are important forest areas that are
expected to face increasing strain and pressure, as
herders/livestock migrate in search of pasture. While food crops
can be imported and distributed, the lack of forage and distribution
problems faced by a nomadic animal herders leave them little
recourse other than to migrate south.

6. Considering the cereal and fodder deficits, the task force
recommended, among others, immediate assistance in food aid and
cattle fodder in the most affected areas, subsidizing prices for
cattle feed, coordination among food relief institutions, and
support for agricultural inputs especially in vegetable growing
areas.

INCREASED SUFFERING EXPECTED, RURAL AND URBAN
---------------------------------------------
7. The ultimate effect is rising food prices (and acute food
insecurity in some areas), an acute shortage of animal feed, and a
potential shortage of seed stock which is exacerbated by poor
distribution networks and very high world food prices. The local
cereal and forage deficit has arrived amid a long and steady climb
in world commodity prices. Dakar's major wheat millers, which also
produce animal feed as a by-product of flour, are facing a backlog

DAKAR 00000236 002.2 OF 002


in demand. Looking forward, they are finding it increasingly
difficult to secure wheat at prices that are feasible given local
price controls on flour and bread. Dating back to October 2007, the
government has taken gradual steps to curb the rising cost of many
imported staples, such as wheat, rice, milk powder, vegetable oil
and sugar by lowering many duties and waiving value-added taxes.
Still, local processors such as millers and bakers feel their
profits squeezed between the rising cost of inputs and fixed prices
for their products. Recently, the Government of Senegal issued a
decree fixing the profit margin on the importation and distribution
of rice, which is the most important imported cereal.

8. While there may be food in Senegal's cities, it comes at an
increasingly high price. Adding to the problem in urban areas is a
reported influx of migrants from the countryside, many arriving in
desperation after the poor harvest, building on an existing trend of
economic migration from traditional rural livelihoods. The strains
of the current situation will continue to grow until the rains
arrive in July. Presumably emergency food aid and distribution will
be needed sooner.

9. Despite the lack of an official GOS request for food aid, the
international NGO World Vision has already contacted Peace Corps
Senegal to request assistance in implementing a new food-for-work
program to help address obvious localized food shortages.

COMMENT
-------
10. The social frustrations in Senegal are mounting due to higher
fuel, electricity, and food prices. Poor harvests and reduced
incomes in rural areas will exacerbate the situation. We would not
be surprised to see grass-roots protests, similar to what happened
last week in Burkina Faso with the potential for disturbances in
major cities as a result of increases in the price of food. With
local elections slated for May, it is likely that the government's
agricultural policy, or lack thereof, will be scrutinized by the
opposition in an attempt to use it to bolster their argument that
the ruling PDS has mismanaged the country's resources and is not
serious about reducing rural poverty. Any significant USG response
to Senegal's current food insecurity will require the GOS to first
admit there is a problem and declare an agriculture/food
catastrophe.

SMITH

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