(Policy Brief by: IGAD Center for Pastoral Areas, Livestock Development (ICPALD)) - IGAD Center for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (ICPALD)
A recent report by IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) demonstrates the centrality of livestock to the Sudanese economy (IGAD LPI Working Paper No. 01 – 12, The Contribution of Livestock to the Sudanese Economy). The most commonly quoted measure of the importance of an economic sector or industry is the size of its contribution to the nation’s national gross domestic product (GDP). From this perspective, Sudan’s official national accounts reveal the very significant contribution made by livestock to the country’s domestic economy. Using official statistics compiled before the independence of South Sudan, livestock has in recent years consistently provided more than 60% of the estimated value added to the agricultural sector, and is a substantially more important contributor to agricultural GDP than crop farming. With the advent of oil production and exports in the late 1990s, the relative contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP has declined, but at no time in the last decade has the contribution of petroleum to GDP come close to equaling the contribution of agriculture, of which livestock provides the biggest part. Livestock is by value the largest subsector of Sudan’s domestic economy, larger even than petroleum.
While not as large as its domestic economic contribution, livestock’s share of exports is considerable, and it is growing – up from less than 10% in the 1960s to just under 50% today. It would appear that the era in which crops dominated the agricultural export scene is past. Taking a balanced view of their combined domestic and export significance, official figures suggest that the livestock and crop subsectors are now relatively evenly balanced in their contribution to the Sudanese economy.
This report refers to statistics on the Republic of Sudan prior to the independence of South Sudan, and therefore covers what has become both North and South Sudan.
The estimation of agricultural GDP in Sudan
The Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries (MARF) provides most of the official data on livestock production and trade and the Sudan Central Bureau of Statistics (SCBS) prepares the official national accounts estimates.
Sudan follows the production approach to estimating GDP, in which the goods and services produced by all categories of economic activity are summarized to arrive at total GDP. For livestock this approach involves four stages. First, national livestock populations are estimated. Second, production coefficients are applied to the livestock population estimates to generate estimates of the total output of goods such as meat, milk, butter, dung for fuel etc. Third, based on market surveys, a monetary value expressed in Sudanese pounds – the gross value of output – is ascribed to the total output of each kind of livestock product. Finally, input costs (intermediate costs) are deducted from the gross value of output to derive value added. The production approach followed by Sudan is a reliable method for estimating agricultural GDP. The problem in Sudan is that the accuracy of the entire calculation rests on an estimate of the size of the country’s livestock population, and there has been no attempt to count the national herd since 1975. Figure 1 presents official estimates of the numbers of livestock in Sudan from the early 20th century to the present. The numbers in Figure 1 have been generated by a variety of estimation procedures: the subjective estimates of experienced senior veterinary officers in the colonial period, an aerial survey in 1975, constant assumed rates of growth, and since the late 1980s, a herd growth and output model. Except during an extreme drought in the mid-1980s, all these estimation techniques depict an ever larger national herd, with remarkably high rates of growth in the 1990s. Official estimates of the size of Sudan’s livestock populations are currently produced by MARF based on a herd growth model. The growth parameters in this model are reasonable and conform, in general, to those in the scientific literature reviewed for this study. However, there are theoretical reasons to doubt the suitability of the model, which depicts reasonably stable rates of herd growth irrespective of the effects of livestock numbers on resource availability, or the impact of fluctuating weather, security and market conditions. Unfortunately, the small number of state-level livestock surveys that have been conducted since the last national census point in no consistent direction and do little to clarify the national situation. Preparations are underway in the Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries to undertake a new livestock census. In the meantime, this report will use the official livestock population estimates to calculate the contribution of livestock to agricultural GDP. There is no reason to suppose that these figures are particularly accurate, but they are official and there is insufficient available evidence to adjust or amend the official figures to make them more reliable. A truly compelling case for the national economic importance of livestock depends on a new national livestock census. The magnitude of this problem is indicated by the results from recent livestock enumerations in two other IGAD countries, Kenya and Uganda. Like Sudan, both of these countries had neglected to census their livestock for over three decades. When they did count their livestock – Kenya in 2009 and Uganda in 2008 – the results were unexpected. In both countries some livestock populations were officially underestimated by half or more.