Food prices soaring in drought-hit East Africa


  • Economy
  • Thursday, 16 Feb 2017

KAMPALA: Prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals have risen to unusually high levels in some countries in East Africa as a result of a previaling drought, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

In its latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin (FPMA), the FAO says the rising food prices are posing a heavy burden to households in large parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.

“Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity, said Mario Zappacosta, the FAO senior economist and co-ordinator of the Global Information and Early Warning System.

The trends in East Africa, where prices of staple cereals have doubled in some town markets, stand in marked contrast to the stable trend of FAOs Food Price Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of traded food commodities, a media statement from the FAO says.

The difference is the result of the drought which is gripping the sub-region, where food stocks were already depleted by the strong El Nio weather event which ended only last year. 

Poor and erratic rainfalls in recent months, crucial for local growing seasons, are denting farm output.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, prices of maize increased by 23% in January.

In Arusha, Tanzania, the prices have almost doubled since early 2016, while they are 25% higher than 12 months earlier in the country’s largest city, Dar-es-Salaam.

In South Sudan, food prices are now two to four times above their levels of a year earlier, exacerbated by ongoing insecurity and the significant depreciation of the local currency.

In Kenya, maize prices are up by around 30%, with the increase somewhat contained thanks to sustained imports from Uganda.

Cereal prices are not the only ones rising. Beans now cost 40% more in Kenya than a year earlier, while in Uganda, where maize prices are now up to 75% higher than a year earlier, and increasing around the key border trading hub of Busia, the prices of beans and cassava flour are both about 25% higher than a year ago in Kampala.

Drought-affected pastoral areas in the region face even harsher conditions.

In Somalia, goat prices are up to 60% lower than a year ago, while in pastoralist areas of Kenya the prices of goats declined by up to 30% over the last twelve months.

Shortages of pasture and water caused livestock deaths and reduced body mass, prompting herders to sell animals while they can, as is also occurring in drought-wracked southern Ethiopia. 

This also pushes up the prices of milk, which is, for instance, up 40% on the year in Somalia’s Gedo region.-BERNAMA
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