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) maize prices in Arusha have almost doubled since early 2016, while they are 25 percent higher than 12 months earlier in the country's largest city, Dar es Salaam. FPMA report says that inadequate rainfall in most areas of the sub-region has put enormous strain on livestock and their keepers.
It said 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 the report.
In December 2016, wholesale prices of rice, beans and potatoes were lower than in the corresponding period in 2015, while those of maize and sorghum were higher.
The situation was somewhat different between November and December 2016, as prices of all food crops increased, except for potatoes which declined. Viewing price changes on year-on-year basis, it is apparent that there were no significant deviations from the path observed in past two years.
The food stocks held by the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) at the end of December 2016 amounted to 89,692 tonnes, slightly below a two-month consecutive unchanged level of about 90,900 tonnes. The decline was on account of release of food to areas experiencing shortages.
The release of food was made through purchases of 203.9 tonnes by Disaster Relief Coordination Unit of the Prime Minister’s Office, 422.3 tonnes by the Prisons Department, and 599.8 tonnes by private traders.
Meanwhile, NFRA purchased food from within the country amounting to 16.9 tonnes.
However, the FPMA report shows that 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 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO’s) Food Price Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of traded food commodities.