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Nigeria's role in Niger's Food Security

Some land-locked Sahel countries in Africa are dependent
on cross-border trade for their food security. What is
the situation in Niger today? How do the cross-border flows of
staple foodstuffs from Nigeria allow Niger to ensure its food
security? This article describes the trade between these two
countries.

Without the farm and animal
products that arrive
from Nigeria, it is hard to
imagine how food security could be assured
for the people of Niger. Given that
the country has a structural shortfall in
grains, Niger’s food security, in terms
of available foodstuffs, depends on imports,
particularly from Nigeria.

The Intensity of Trade Between
Niger and Nigeria.
Trade between
Niger and Nigeria is favoured by Niger’s
geographical situation: Niger, a
land-locked country dependent on
neighbouring countries to the south
for food supplies, shares a long border
(over 1,500 km) with Nigeria, as
well as complementary agro-pastoral
activities and socio-cultural factors.
The Hausa peoples on both sides of
the border live in symbiotic proximity
by virtue of their shared culture,
language, and social and religious
values. Their family ties and multiple
relationships of friendship and
patronage form the social basis for
this cross-border trade.
The territory surrounding the cities
of Maradi in Niger, Katsina and Kano
in Nigeria (the “K²M axis”) is one of the
oldest development corridors opened
to the Gulf of Guinea. With its dense
urban fabric clustered around the city
of Kano, this corridor demonstrates
the magnetic attraction of Nigeria on
Niger’s economy. The K²M axis, along
with the Cotonou-Lagos axis, are the
areas of the most intense cross-border
activity in West Africa. Trade and commerce
are very strong, in particular for
livestock, cowpeas (niebe), peppers and
tigernuts (souchet) from Niger, grains
and manufactured goods from Nigeria,
and other products re-exported to
Nigeria. Apart from its role in Niger’s
food security, this cross-border trade
enables the two countries to make
the most of their respective competitive
advantages, using their resources
more efficiently and augmenting their
wealth. Niger exploits its advantageous position in livestock production and
trade, almost entirely (97%) exported
to Nigeria.

Nigeria, Grain Supplier to Niger.
Cross-border flows of dry grains are
difficult to evaluate, especially as, unlike
livestock, they are not subject to
mandatory reporting at the foreign
trade registration office. It is estimated
that hundreds of thousands of tonnes
of grain cross the Niger-Nigeria border
between March-April and August-September
each year. Most, but not all, of
this trade flows from Nigeria into Niger.
In addition to the truck-loads of
freight transported for the big Hausa
merchant networks that are active in
cross-border trade, farmers with a few
sacks of grain on a cart cross the border
in both directions, depending on
the going price of grain.
Estimates in the 1980s advanced
a figure of 200,000 tonnes per year
for the volume of millet and maize
entering Niger from Nigeria. Even
today, although the sources of food
supply in Niger have been diversified,
Nigeria continues to supply most of
the country’s dry grain imports [1], 60%
to 70% on average, depending on the
estimates. Millet and sorghum are the
main grains imported; the quantity of
maize imports varies with the state of
foodstuffs and the animal feed processing
industry in Nigeria.
If harvests are normal on both
sides of the border, the price difference
between the two countries for
the March-April harvest is too low
to give merchants in Niger an incentive
to purchase supplies in Nigeria.
During this period, markets in Niger
are supplied mostly by domestic
production. As the pre-harvest season
approaches, coinciding with the end
of grain sales by small producers in Niger, prices rise. At this point, grains
from Nigeria become competitive on
markets in Niger.

Mistakes During the 2005 Food
Crisis.
Lack of rain and an invasion
of locusts led to a serious shortfall in
grain production in Niger in 2004. The
gross grain deficit—harvest less food
needs—was estimated at more than
4500,000 tonnes. Niger thus suffered
a serious food crisis in 2005. This crisis
was compounded by the fact that
Niger could not import as usual from
neighbouring countries, in particular
Nigeria, because harvests had been poor
all across the Sahel and in the northern
regions of coastal countries. Indeed,
Nigeria became a net importer
to cover its domestic grain needs for
poultry farms and breweries. This had
the effect of driving up prices and reversing
the flow of grain (i.e. from Niger
to Nigeria) until the government of
Niger decided to close its land borders
in May 2005.
At the time, Niger’s early warning
system did not detect the direction
and volume of grain flows from Niger
to Nigeria, and failed to anticipate the
impacts. The food situation was analysed
in a national perspective only,
whereas Niger’s economy is highly
dependent on trade with neighbouring
countries. Yet, the West African
production shortfall had been predicted
as early as December 2004 by
the regional food crisis prevention
and management scheme under the
auspices of the standing intergovernmental
committee to fight drought in
the Sahel (the Comité permanent Inter-
États de Lutte contre la Sécheresse
dans le Sahel, CILSS).
The widespread grain shortfall in
the sub-region led to tight supply and
a sudden price rise on the market. Simultaneously,
while the price of grain
doubled, the incomes of Niger’s farmers
dropped precipitously. Already-poor
families sought to sell their onions or
livestock, their essential income-generating resources. But the low level of
demand in Ivory Coast and Ghana
forced down the price for onions, which
were selling for half the 2003 price.
Livestock also lost a great deal of its
value during this period, due to a lack
of pasture land. Furthermore, market
outlets in coastal countries generally
fluctuate in relation to the political
and economic circumstances (in Côte
d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, etc.)
and with the devaluation of the naira.
the collapse of the price relation that
existed between cash crops/grains and
livestock/grains exacerbated the poverty
of the population of Niger.
Finally, the food crisis was aggravated
by the tardy and insufficient
mobilisation of the government of
Niger and its partners. The government
made available only 38,460 tonnes
of grains for sale at a moderate price.
The distribution of free food by humanitarian
organizations began in
July 2005, when the rainy season had
already started and the roads were
impassable. An analysis of the subregional
market should have pushed
Niger and its partners to buy grains
on the international market in early
2005, instead of waiting for the rainy
season to look for supplies on the regional
market.


Primary cross-border grain trade flows in the eastern basin (February 2010)
Source: Joint mission by CILLS, FAO, FESNET, WFP, February 2010

Better Management of the Food Crisis
in 2010.
Regarding the economic
situation, the 2010 food crisis in Niger
was also due to a production shortfall
in the 2009 harvest. This shortfall was estimated to be more than 400,000
tonnes of grain, on the same order of
magnitude as in 2005.
But the 2010 crisis did not have the
same impact as the food shortfall in
2005 because grains were available in
neighbouring countries, particularly
Nigeria, and due to swift action the
government and its partners following
an early and consensual assessment
of the food insecurity situation. Early
on in the crisis, the government put
up 60,000 tonnes of grain for sale at
a modest price. Later on, the population
had access to foodstuffs on the
market thanks to the massive intervention
of outside partners via other
instruments.
Grain imported from Nigeria (and to
a lesser extent from Benin) acted very
effectively to regulate supply and helped
stabilise prices. In February 2010, an
assessment of markets and food security
conducted jointly by CILSS, WFP
and FEWS NET showed that 80% to
100% of markets in Niger were supplied
each week with close to 4,300
tonnes of dry grain from Nigeria, 1,750
tonnes from Benin and 240 tonnes
from Burkina Faso. Nigeria was thus
the major grain supplier to Niger, as
seen in the map above.
Thee World Food Programme (WFP)
was able to purchase large quantities
of grain regionally, from government
grain offices (60%) and from major
traders (40%). These supplies were
used to benefit the poorest people in
the population, through the “work for money” scheme and direct distribution.
According to a WFP study, the
price differential for dry grains (millet,
maize, sorghum) between markets
in Niger and markets across the border
remained positive, creating incentives
to export these products to Niger. The
cross-border grain trade continued in
favour of Niger until July-August of
2010, and prices remained stable overall
despite a slight rise during the month
of Ramadan.
During this period, the livestock sector
suffered severe losses, estimated
at several thousand head. This situation
worsened with the flooding in
Niger during the 2010 rainy season.
The pastoral population suffered from
the degradation of the livestock/grain
exchange rate. The poor quality of the
animals brought to market, a glut in
the supply due to the lack of forage,
and the drop in demand in Nigeria
combined to force down livestock
prices. With the money they earned,
cattle farmers were not able to buy what
they needed on the market.
In conclusion, let us emphasise the
extent to which the fate of the poorest
segments of the population in Niger
is closely linked to the health of the
Nigerian economy. This case illustrates
Nigeria’s economic responsibility in
the sub-region and the importance
of regional-scale crisis management
in the Sahel.

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