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South Sudan highly food insecure despite 2020 increase in cereal production, new FAO-WFP report

JUBA – Cereal production in South Sudan in 2020 rose by seven percent over 2019 levels because of favourable rains. But cereals remained far below average production levels reached before conflict erupted in South Sudan in 2013, a new United Nations report on food security finds.

A high cereal deficit expected for 2021 due to the impact of prolonged conflict and floods is leaving millions of South Sudanese extremely food insecure, according to the Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Cereal production in 2020 is estimated at 874,400 metric tons, seven percent higher than 818,500 metric tons in 2019. The marginal growth will cover the needs of only a third of the population, leaving most people reliant on humanitarian food assistance and imports of essential grains, at prices beyond the reach of ordinary South Sudanese.

The alarmingly high deficit in 2021 cereal production, estimated at 465,600 tons, keeps food insecurity at an all-time high. South Sudan needs 1.3 million metric tons of cereal a year to feed its 12.2 million people. 

Of the country’s ten states, only Western Equatoria produced enough cereal for FAO and WFP to purchase locally to feed the hungry in the other nine states. Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile have the highest cereal deficit levels in the country and therefore account for nearly 50 percent of all food insecure people. The combined impacts of recurring conflict and huge floods in the three states severely hampered agriculture.

“The marginal gains in cereal production show that where there is peace and stability, the people of South Sudan are able to turn the page on hunger,” said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Representative and Country Director in South Sudan.

“But in a country still battered by years of war and the ravages of climate change, modest improvements are far from enough to end food insecurity, which is the highest ever. Disrupted livelihoods, heavy losses in livestock and other assets and high food prices are pushing the average family deeper into poverty and hunger,” he added.

"This growth is encouraging, but lasting peace is the precondition to enable communities to benefit from South Sudan fertile soils, produce their own food and exit from humanitarian aid," said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan. “Our priority is to unleash South Sudan's potential, increase crop production and to allow communities to contribute to the expansion of the planted areas.”

Food security is a huge challenge to 7.2 million people, 60 percent of South Sudan’s population. Violence and conflict, competition among groups over resources such as farmland and water, as well as new protracted displacements due to violence and floods both destroyed assets and eroded communities’ resilience.

Last year, WFP reached over 5 million people in South Sudan with life-saving food assistance, nutrition support, cash and livelihoods opportunities to improve the resilience of communities, with a focus on the most vulnerable including women, children and the elderly. WFP is prioritizing ten remote locations where access to food is critically low and people face emergency or catastrophic levels of hunger.

FAO’s priority remains to assist communities to increase their agricultural production and preserve their livelihoods in a way that fosters peaceful co-existence. In 2021, FAO plans to assist 700 000 severely food insecure farming, fishing and agro-pastoral households with lifesaving emergency support. With 35 implementing partners, FAO is racing against time to save the livelihoods of communities in the counties most hit by hunger through the distribution of crop and vegetable seeds, hand tools and fishing kits.


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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Our goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide. We believe that everyone can play a part in ending hunger.

Follow us on Twitter @WFP_SouthSudan and @FAOSouthSudan


South Sudan Food Security Conflicts


FAO: Mattia Romano, Communications Specialist,
FAO, South Sudan;

WFP: Marwa Awad, Communications Officer,
WFP, Juba, South Sudan
+211 926 221 460