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Drought leads to sharp rise in food prices in East Africa

Drought throughout East Africa has sharply curbed harvests and pushed the prices of cereals and other staple foods to unusually high levels, posing a heavy burden to households and special risks for pastoralists in the region, the FAO reveals

shutterstock 413761537 1Somalia’s maize and sorghum harvests are estimated to be 75 per cent down from their usual level. (Image source: Pitipat Usanakornkul/Shutterstock)

Local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals are near or at record levels in swathes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, according to the latest FAO Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin (FPMA).

Inadequate rainfall in most areas of the sub-region has put enormous strain on livestock and their keepers. Poor livestock body conditions due to pasture and water shortages and forcible culls mean animals command lower prices, leaving pastoralists with even less income to purchase basic foodstuffs.

“Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity,” said Mario Zappacosta, FAO senior economist and coordinator 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 FAO's Food Price Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of traded food commodities.

The difference is due to the drought that is hammering the sub-region, where food stocks were already depleted by the strong El Niño weather event that ended only last year. Poor and erratic rainfall in recent months, crucial for local growing seasons, are denting farm output.


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