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Libyan Newswire

FAO GIEWS Country Brief on Libya (16-March-2016)

Reference Date: 16-March-2016


  1. Escalating civil conflict continues to halt economic recovery and deteriorate food security prospects

  2. Security uncertainties disrupted procurement and distribution systems, resulting in lost income opportunities for farmers unable to market their production and leading to food shortages in urban areas

  3. Food-insecure people estimated at 1.28 million

Conflict continues to threaten agricultural production

Planting of 2016 winter wheat and barley for harvest from mid‑April 2016, concluded in mid‑November 2015. Wheat and barley are mostly cultivated in the coastal regions where rainfed production or cropping with supplementary irrigation is possible, and in the arid south under full irrigation. Millet, grown in the southern oases, is usually planted in mid‑March for harvest from mid‑July. Wheat is used for human consumption, while all the other cereals are used for fodder. Anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers have switched from wheat to barley, as a more drought‑tolerant crop due to increasing unreliability of irrigation since 2011.

For the ongoing season, normal meteorological conditions have been reported, suggesting good crop establishment and development, although security‑related concerns are complicating agricultural activities. Farmers reported that security concerns prevented them from purchasing seeds, particularly for crops such as vegetables, where seeds are not normally saved from the previous harvest. Increases in fuel prices also limited farmers’ ability to carry out mechanized operations.

Out of the 2.1 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture, 1.8 million hectares are classified as arable and 300 000 hectares under permanent crops, mostly fruit trees. The area developed for irrigation is about 470 000 hectares but only some 240 000 hectares are currently irrigated.

Escalating civil conflict stemming from two parallel and competing legislative and executive bodies halted economic recovery and led to the deterioration of food security prospects. Civil insecurity, fuelled by the presence of armed groups, brought about the destruction of public infrastructure, disrupted procurement and distribution systems that resulted in food shortages, mainly in urban areas and in the loss of income for farmers that were unable to market their production.

Below-average domestic crop production gathered in 2015

The preliminary forecast for the 2015 cereal crop indicates a lower crop of about 254 000 tonnes, almost 10 percent below average. Libya relies heavily on imports (up to 90 percent) for its cereal consumption requirements. In the 2015/16 marketing year (July/June), the actual import requirement is projected at 3.7 million tonnes, an increase of about 7 percent compared to the previous year.

Continuing conflict a set-back to the economy

Libya is one of the most hydrocarbon‑dependent economies in the world, with oil revenue accounting for more than 80 percent of state revenues. Libyan oil production has recovered faster than expected following the conflict in 2011, but is currently well below the 2010 capacity due to clashes between groups in the oil producing regions.

After a contraction in the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) in 2011 by almost 60 percent caused by the fall in oil production, the economy grew by over 92 percent in 2012 (year-on-year). Continuous political transition and volatile oil production resulted in a contraction of over 23 percent in 2014 and 12 percent in 2015. The economy is expected to contract by an additional 8 percent in 2016, depending on domestic stability as well as international oil prices.

Inflation decreased from almost 16 percent in 2011 to about 9 percent in 2014 due to high subsidies, currency stability and sub‑optimal growth. Insecurity‑induced supply chain disruptions are likely to contribute to increased inflation in 2016, expected to average about 14 percent. The unemployment rate, estimated at 26 percent as of end‑2010, is unlikely to improve in the short run. A large share of the population is normally employed in the public sector.

Libya Humanitarian Needs Overview (issued in September 2015) estimated the number of food‑insecure people at 1.28 million, or 42 percent of the affected population, with most severe cases reported in Benghazi and in the south. The total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance was put at 2.44 million. Food shortages have been reported mostly in the south and east where basic food items, including wheat, bread, flour, pasta, oil, milk and fortified blended foods for children are in short supply. Access to subsidized food among the affected population is limited.

In May 2015, the WFP resumed food assistance to displaced people affected by the continuing armed conflict in the country. By the end of 2016, the WFP aims to assist up to 210 000 beneficiaries (including both domestic population and refugees) affected by the crisis in Libya following the disruption of basic social services and the Public Distribution System.