Following a disagreement regarding the integration of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) into the Sudanese military, a full-blown war erupted between the two factions. Initially, the RSF had supported the October 2021 coup executed by the Sudanese military, however, tensions between the groups escalated into violent conflict following disagreements.
These conflicts will disrupt agricultural production and exports in the world’s 5th largest producer and 3rd largest exporter of peanuts. The majority of clashes have taken place in the country’s largest cities many of them located within peanut-growing areas, or serving nearby farmers. The production of peanuts in 2023 is likely to experience a significant decline from the previous year's 2.5 million mt (in-shell), and the export volume may fall well short of initial projections for 2023 of 500,000 mt (kernels).
Disruption to Production
Fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and nearby Jebel Aulia is disrupting peanut production at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile (Al Jazirah province) where around a quarter of the country’s peanuts are grown. Irrigated peanuts are usually planted in April-May. Peanuts that have already been planted, could be neglected if the conflicts continue, as obtaining fertilizer and other inputs from nearby Khartoum is near impossible under the current conditions. Farmers that have not yet planted might put production on hold until conditions improve. Peanuts in the region are normally of late-maturing variety (120-140 days), produced under irrigation and comparatively modern techniques. One option would be to plant early maturing varieties (90-120 days) later in the season if there is a reasonable end to the conflicts. Irrigated peanuts are comparatively more reliant on fertilizer than Sudan's rainfed peanuts, but importing fertilizer is nearly impossible in current conditions. Other inputs could also be in short supply due to port and airbase closures.
Around 70% of peanut production takes place in the west/southwest of Sudan, in Darfur and Kordofan. Peanuts in the west, which are mostly rainfed, will be planted in just over a month, in June-July, to be harvested in September-October. As such, the growing season of peanuts coincides with the rainy season in southern Sudan. If planting is delayed, the yield will drop significantly as the final growing phase falls outside the rainy season. Rainfed peanuts are less reliant on fertilizer as they are grown on the fertile plains of southwestern Sudan, but targeted applications are still needed.
Source: USDA, WeatherAtlas
While some important growing areas like West Kordofan have not reported significant conflict between the military and RSF, the highway connecting to the capital and port has been shut down. If farmers cannot obtain other inputs such as seed, fuel, herbicides, and pesticides in time for planting, yields of late-planted peanuts will be poor. Alternatively, farmers may opt for dry-season crops like sesame.
Disruptions to Exports
Fighting has spread to Port Sudan, which hosts the only port for bulk exports. 90% of the country’s foreign trade passes through this port, which has all ground to a halt. Several logistic companies have temporarily closed their offices in the Port of Sudan. Sudan exports an average of 500,000 mt of peanut kernels per year. Over the last three years, 93% of Sudan’s peanut exports have been destined for China. The main export season is between March and August after which China’s domestic crop is harvested and Sudanese exports drop drastically. China’s poor harvest in 2022 led to imports from Sudan coming in earlier, but these shipments will grind to a halt just when they were peaking. There are virtually no alternative routes to export peanuts by.
Source: General Administration of Customs People's Republic of China
Peanuts play an important role in Sudan’s economy, and in 2021, Sudan’s peanut exports raked in 9% of total export revenue and were the most important export after precious metals and minerals. The peanut industry has been caught in the crossfire, with no exports leaving the country at the moment, and farmers left with the impossible task of procuring inputs.
As of April 19th, leaders of both factions have rejected peace talks, and neither has gained a clear upper hand. The longer the conflict persists, the greater the losses incurred by the Sudanese peanut industry will be. Other major agricultural products such as sesame, cotton, and sorghum will experience similar damaging effects.