Strong El Niño weather event that ended only last year and poor erratic rainfall in recent months is driving food prices high causing food insecurity in East Africa region. 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 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin (FPMA). Prices of staple cereals have doubled in some town markets within the region. According to FAO senior economist and coordinator of the Global Information and Early Warning System, Mario Zappacosta, “Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity.”
Additionally, rainfall has reduced in most areas of the sub-region which is putting severe 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. 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 percent on the year in Somalia’s Gedo region. In Somalia, goat prices are up to 60 percent lower than a year ago, while in pastoralist areas of Kenya the prices of goats declined by up to 30 percent over the last twelve months.
About 6.2 million people in Somalia, which is more than half of the country’s total population, now face acute food insecurity, with the majority of those most affected living in rural areas as the country’s maize and sorghum harvests are estimated to be 75 percent down from their usual level. In Mogadishu, prices of maize increased by 23 percent in January, and. the increase was even sharper in the main maize producing region of Lower Shabelle. Overall, in key market towns of central and southern Somalia, coarse grain prices in January have doubled from a year earlier. With an earlier than usual depletion of household stocks during the coming lean season and preliminary weather forecasts raising concerns for the performance of the next rainy season, prices are likely to further escalate in the coming months. Also in Tanzania, maize prices have almost doubled since early 2016. In South Sudan, food prices are now two to four times above their levels of a year earlier, and in Kenya, maize prices are up by around 30 percent.