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Cablegate: Niger: Food Insecurity Disaster Alert

VZCZCXRO9011
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0862/01 3081701
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041701Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5427
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1690
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0317
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0216
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME 0012
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0016
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000862

SIPDIS
AIDAC
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, EEB/TPP/MTAA/ABT, AND AF/PDPA
PLS PASS USAID/AFR/WA NFREEMAN, LDOORES-FENDELL, GBERTOLIN
OFDA/W FOR ACONVERY, CCHAN, FSHANKS, MSHIRLEY, JMCINTOSH
FFP/W FOR JBORNS, ASINK, TMCRAE
ACCRA ALSO FOR AFR/WA
DAKAR FOR RDAVIS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
ROME FOR US MISSION RNEWBERG, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USAID PBROWN
NEW YORK FOR DMERCADO
NSC FOR CPRATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR PGOV EAID SOCI NG
SUBJECT: Niger: Food Insecurity Disaster Alert

Ref: Niamey 00813

NIAMEY 00000862 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary: This message provides an alert that Niger may be
moving towards a full-scale disaster declaration. The Government of
Niger (GON) Ministry of Agricultural Development (MDA) released the
"Pre-Evaluation and Provisional Results of the Agricultural Season -
2009/2010," indicating a cereals harvest 28 percent lower than 2008.
Moreover, the Office of the Prime Minister released the "Monthly
Bulletin of Information on National Food Security" with an alert of
impending problems. FEWSNET is reporting a food security alert, and
notes that "production deficits will drive increased food insecurity
in Niger in 2010." The FEWS-NET alert notes that food assistance
needs are expected to be large and begin early. Post continues to
receive alarming reports from the field about the seriousness of the
food insecurity situation. End summary.

MDA Assessment: Cereals Production Down 28 Percent
--------------------------------------------- -----
2. (U) The MDA recently issued its assessment of the 2009 rain-fed
agricultural production campaign. MDA's estimation is based on a
sample of 9,195 households in 96 agricultural villages monitored
throughout Niger. Based on this survey of observed yields,
multiplied by an estimation of land planted, the 2009 gross rain-fed
production of cereals is estimated at 3,575,315 tons. When compared
to the 2008 harvest of 4,956,915 tons, the 2009 rain-fed cereals
production is 27.87% less than that of 2008. In absolute terms, the
2009 cereals production is 1,381,600 tons less than the 2008
production. The report indicates an equally poor harvest of cowpeas
(black-eyed peas), peanuts, and sesame. The main determinant of the
final harvest and its reduction from last year was the late start,
early conclusion, and frequent interruption of the rains.

2009 Production to Lag Consumption by 290k MT
---------------------------------------------
3. (U) According to the assessment, the yields for the 2009 crop
season are down 17.69% compared to 2008, and down 11.97% for millet
and 27.04% for sorghum compared to an average of the last three
years. Less area was planted successfully, as seeds failed to
germinate early in the season. According to MDA's report, the
balance between production and the consumption requirement for an
estimated population of 14,626,346 is a negative 289,985 MT. This
is mitigated somewhat by stocks on hand and anticipated imports.
One very important chart in the report indicates that within the
seven regions of the country, 16 departments have produced modest
surpluses, four seem to be in balance, and 16 are deficit with
respect to needs. All departments of Diffa and Agadez are deficit,
while four out of six in Tillaberi are negative.

Cereal Prices Higher than Five-Year Average
-------------------------------------------
4. (U) The October 15 edition of the National Food Crisis Prevention
and Management Mechanism monthly bulletin on food security and
nutrition notes that following the new harvest, and imports from
Benin and Nigeria, cereals supply improved in cereal markets in
September. Thus cereals prices have decreased compared to their
levels in August 2009. Millet is down minus 9%, maize 4%, and
sorghum 6%. Compared to the average cereals price over the last
five years, however, the current level of cereal prices remain 22%
higher for millet, 18% for sorghum, and 26% for imported rice. This
situation does not favor the vast majority of households with low
purchasing power.

Nutrition Centers' Admissions Up; Migration High and Early
--------------------------------------------- -------
5. (U) The monthly bulletin reports that with respect to nutrition,
the epidemiology systems registered an increase in admissions to
nutrition centers. There were 18,693 admissions in August 2009
compared 7,615 admissions in August 2008. Eighty per cent of the
new admissions are in the Maradi and Zinder regions. The October
report concluded that there will be problems with respect to
availability and access to cereals resulting from agriculture

NIAMEY 00000862 002.2 OF 002


production and animal forage deficits in some of the agricultural
and pastoral zones, the high levels of under-nutrition observed in
some regions of the country, the agriculture production deficit in
northern Nigeria, and locust attacks in Mauritania. Early recourse
to survival/coping strategies, an increase in admission to health
centers, and high levels of human and animal migration indicate that
the situation is already deteriorating.

FEWSNET Calls Situation a "Food Security Alert"
--------------------------------------------- --
6. (SBU) The FEWSNET report of October 27 is called a "Food Security
Alert," and is headlined "Production Deficits will Drive Increased
Food Insecurity in Niger in 2010." The full one-page alert with map
is available at the FEWS.NET/Niger web site. The alert concludes by
stating that "Even with reduced food production, food availability
is expected to be sufficient through December 2009, and access will
be facilitated by high demand for migrant labor in cities and border
towns, strong incentives for off-season market gardening, favorable
exchange rates for importing cereals from neighboring Nigeria, the
arrival of irrigated rice harvests from the Niger River in
November/December, and targeted interventions by the government and
partners. Provided that a favorable economic climate persists, food
insecurity will be moderate through December. Thereafter, declining
food stocks, rising cereal prices, and falling livestock prices will
reduce household purchasing power, causing moderate to high food
insecurity, especially among agro pastoral and pastoral households,
through August 2010. Food assistance needs are expected to be
large, and to begin earlier than normal, yet government procurement
plans are insufficient, and the WFP pipeline is limited. To address
likely food deficits in 2010, affected areas need immediate
assistance to encourage off-season production (i.e., agricultural
inputs) as well as resources to rebuild community cereal and animal
feed banks."

Comment
-------
7. (SBU) None of the above three reports mentions a possible number
or per cent of the population that might be in need of assistance.
Only the FEWSNET report communicates any sense of urgency. The
senior GON authorities have demonstrated persistent reluctance to
acknowledge the possibility of a crisis or an emergency, and have
threatened others who may make that claim. UN agencies and NGOs are
already manifesting extreme reticence. There are analysts close to
or inside the GON who believe cereal production numbers are
inflated. The vulnerability assessment now underway, however, might
provide some parameters. The mission continues to get an increasing
number of credible reports of a very serious situation developing
across the country. Households with failed harvests and no assets
find themselves unable to access what might be available locally.
Some regional government officials are using the words "catastrophe"
or "disaster." FEWSNET does go so far as to say food assistance
needs are expected to be large. The Mission recommends early
planning for a worst-case scenario until proven otherwise.
Therefore, the Mission has determined that a disaster alert is
appropriate at this time. End comment.

ALLEN

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