(Bloomberg) -- Almost half of Sudan’s population will face hunger this year as the fallout from October’s coup and the war in Ukraine make it more difficult for the cash-strapped African nation to source food.
About 20 million people will likely be classed as suffering from “emergency” or “crisis” levels of “acute food insecurity,” double 2021’s figure, according to the World Food Programme. The situation has worsened due to soaring global grain prices, a local shortage of foreign currency for imports and spiraling civil conflict and drought in some parts of Sudan.
“It doesn’t look good at all,” the WFP’s deputy country director in Sudan, Marianne Ward, said in an interview. “People are just not going to be able to afford their basic food basket.”
The forecast marks the latest blow for the country of 44 million, which was seeking to emerge from decades of dictatorship and economic mismanagement with the 2019 overthrow of veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir. Plans for Sudan’s democratic transition ran aground when the military seized back power in October, prompting foreign donors to suspend billions of dollars in crucial budget aid.
Sudan, which depended on Russia and Ukraine for about 35% of its wheat imports in 2021, will need to look for an alternative and pay higher prices. Ukrainian ports shut when the war erupted, and exports from Russia have slowed. The two countries together account for about a quarter of global grains trade, International Grains Council data show.
Benchmark wheat futures in Chicago are up 20% this month and soared to an all-time high in early March.
Post-coup, the WFP has had to suspend help it gave Sudan to secure fair prices for wheat as part of its subsidized bread program. Local production will struggle to fill the gap, according to Ward.
Large portions of Sudan’s private agriculture sector have held off purchasing inputs such as fertilizers due to uncertainty surrounding Sudan’s exchange rate, which she said is “galloping out of control.”
Sudan’s central bank last week allowed the pound to freely float from its then-rate of 448 per U.S. dollar. It had weakened to 609 per dollar by Tuesday, according to the Bank of Khartoum, a private lender.
“For the first time since 1984, we’re looking at a cereals-production deficit for Sudan,” Ward said.
The WFP reached about 8.9 million of the roughly 10 million people in need of food aid in Sudan last year. In 2022, it hopes to reach 9.3 million -- less than half the total likely to need assistance.
“WFP resources are not looking good,” Ward said. “The situation is worse and we have less ability to respond.”
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