Agriculture & Livestock In Sudan

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION DURING 1993, THE SECOND YEAR OF THE COMPREHENSIVE NATIONAL STRATEGY, increased from the previous year by 29%. From there, the sector settled into an average annual growth rate of 5%, through 1996. Between 1997 and 2000, this leading sector grew by 29.9%, an average of about 7.5% annually. However, production growth trailed off in 2003 from 7.3 to 5.2%. Livestock comprises about two-fifths of agricultural production value. With a national herd of 140 million heads, Sudan aims to be a main supplier of red meat to the Arab world and other export markets. Although improvements in veterinary services have facilitated a fourfold growth of the national herd over the past40 years, animal production continues to be mainly from nomadic herds; increased pressures on grazing land resulting from desert expansion and growing herds highlight the need for more modern animal husbandry methods.While major animal diseases have generally been brought under control and improved breeds have been developed, the livestock sector still suffers considerable deficiencies by contemporary world standards.

Significantly, natural grazing results in the meat of Sudanese cattle, sheep, and goats having low cholesterol, which is an attraction in the market. This implies that the key to modernization of Sudan’s animal production culture lies in applying innovations to the traditional modes, wherein the herding communities become accustomed to compromises between their animal husbandry customs and requirements for improved yields and living conditions.

Despite continuing improvements, animal productivity is still low when viewed against indicated potential. Prof. Hashim El Hadi, President of Sudan Veterinary Association and Vice Chancellor of Sudan International University,
notes that traditional herdsmen typically have low aspirations although large herds are culturally and socially desirable (The Status andFuture of Animal Resources in Sudan, 2003). Prof. El Hadi points out that Sudanese animals typically have “low genetic make-up”, which suggests that, with wider spread modernization of production methods, the market value attained by the sector could be much higher than at present, in terms of both herd size and meat, as well as hides. While low aspirations among the herders typically constitute a barrier against acceptance of progressive change, Sudan’s national planners are thereby alerted to the great challenge facing them in this vital
area of the economy.

Investment in transport is needed to improve the marketing mechanism, which should result in higher prices for producers and lower market prices, as the distortions in income distribution in the sector, resulting from an  inefficient marketing network, would no doubt be corrected. One very important aspect of modernization,mobile veterinary services are gradually expanding. Sudan now has a substantial number of livestock experts and private investment in veterinary services has grown in recent years. This is in line with the recommendations of the Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (IABAR).

Hides still suffer bush damage during the animal life and this, along with the lack of a modern hide collection and marketing system, limits the marketing prospects of the vast number of hides produced from domestically slaughtered animals. Sudanese hides bought in the Darfur region by Nigerian tanneries, for example, can only be used for the inner lining and soles of shoes owing to the thorn bruises incidental to primitive grazing. Sudan’s leather production potential is indicated by the high quality of local tanneries’ work, but prospects of  becoming a major leather producer are daunted by deficiencies in both animal husbandry methods and local meat processing.

Most of Sudan’s livestock sector export income is derived from live animals, which offers importing countries opportunities for earning value from the hides. While live animals are culturally preferable in the Gulf Arab states
that import most of Sudan’s livestock, the low cholesterol content of Sudanese meat affords prospects for penetrating packaged meat markets elsewhere, with a view to optimizing processing value-added. As the largest owner of
livestock in the Arab world and the second largest in Africa, Sudan is naturally positioned to haul the market to its own advantage, provided meat processing and packaging standards can be brought up to the internationally expected level.

The national herd of 124 million head consists of 37 million cattle, 46 million sheep, 38 million goats, and 3 million camels. This traditional wealth in livestock is accommodated by extensive pasture, covering about 25 million hectares, and suitable climate. Nomadic herdsmen, found throughout this vast country–North, South, East and West, tend more than 90% of the animal population.

Sudan is considered by FAO experts the world’s third largest strategic food reservoir. The agriculture production potential appears so great the World Bank has estimated that Sudan could feed the whole of Africa, while the Arab League sees Sudan as the key to closing the Middle East’s widening food gap, estimated in value at $17.5bn annually.
Cultivable land is estimated to be around 84 million hectares, of which only 15 million are currently cultivated. Crop terrain under cultivation consists of mechanized rain-fed agriculture (30%), traditional rain-fed agriculture (60%), and irrigated crop production (10%).

Attracting sufficient investment for the country to realize its agriculture production potential requires greater infrastructure investment and an end to wars. Agriculture Minister Dr. Magzoub El Khalifa is optimistic that in the near term, the crop production sector is capable of strong growth and, indeed, his ministry’s policy priorities
include improved technology and agricultural methods, as well as greater crop production diversification. In addition to improving the animal and fish stock positions, Dr. Khalifa is working to expand rice, grain, and oil seed production.

Sudan’s share of the Nile river system provides 18.5 billion cubic meters of water annually,while rainfall on average reaches 1,000 billion cubic millimeters per year, both adding to seasonal streams and rivers and groundwater catchments. Owing to lack of reservoir and irrigation facilities, agriculture production is alternately curtailed by floods and drought. Except for wheat, coffee, and tea, Sudan is self sufficient with respect to the common diet.

Whenever the war ends in the South, it should become possible to grow the national requirements of coffee and tea. Aside from the large portion of the wheat-flour milled in Khartoum that is exported by informal sector traders, the
list of officially exported agriculture products contains about 30 items. While enjoying an impressive variety of
exportable commodities, Sudan’s agricultural sector faces stiff competition in the international market, which along with volatile prices have perennially occasioned fluctuations in production and earning levels. The search for a
stabilized aggro-economy continues, with all factors undergoing incessant review and assessment.

The main cash crops are cotton and sesame, which periodically alternate in providing the highest export earnings. Cotton had been lagging behind sesame in recent years but surged during the 2002/2003 season, with a production
increase of 18.7% and area under cultivation increase of 23.7%; sending export earnings up from $62.2 million to $107.76 million. Meanwhile, sesame export earnings fell off slightly from $74.6m to $74.37m.

During the Anglo-Egyptian condominium era, Sudan became a major cotton producer, with production concentrated in the massive state operated Gezira scheme, located in Central Sudan. Gezira has been privatized and so has Sudan Cotton Company, which marketed 98% of the country’s cotton, domestically as well as internationally. Cotton’s importance to the economy began declining owing to decrease in area brought under cultivation, which was mainly the result of inadequate provision of finance to enable timely and proper preparation
for the season.

During the first half of 2003, 13.8% of commercial bank advances went to the agriculture sector; and during the second half, 12.25%. Total advances to agriculture production during 2003 amounted to $357.15 million. Also, agriculture commodities received the bulk of commercial bank advances allotted for exports, which claimed 12.65% of all advances. Some of the banks operate import & export subsidiaries that buy produce from farmers and either
export or sell in the local market to collect their money before paying the producers their balance.