Food prices to rise as EA braces for poor harvest

Tuesday April 04 2017

East Africa will witness a reduction in maize and beans harvests this year. FILE

East Africa will witness a reduction in maize and beans harvests this year, a situation that is expected to trigger food price increases, according to a new report.

The latest Regional Supply and Market Outlook East Africa by USAid’s Famine Early Warning Systems attributes the supply shocks to erratic weather conditions, including the late start of seasonal rains, followed by heavy rains that caused flooding in parts of some countries, and then a long dry spell in the region.

Combined, the regional net maize volumes, which have averaged 2,711 tonnes since 2011, are expected to drop to 1,204 tonnes this year.
Beans volumes increased marginally by 1 per cent, from 4,316 tonnes in 2015/16 to 4,343 tonnes this marketing year. But the projected net supply of beans in the region cannot sustain the export market.

Uganda, the only country that produces a surplus, is expected to harvest 1,013 tonnes, down from 1,184 tonnes in 2015/16.

Experts warn that the low supply of grains will strain many poor households’ budgets as they will find it increasingly hard to afford a meal. High maize prices will hurt agroprocessing industries, as input costs for brewers using maize as an ingredient remain high, making them uncompetitive.

The regional maize harvest, which has averaged 12,319 tonnes in the past five years, is forecast to drop to 11,148 tonnes.


“Tanzania and Uganda, East Africa’s main maize producers and exporters, are experiencing below-average net supplies due to the below-average harvest,” the report says.

While Burundi is described in the report as a maize deficit country, its harvest is expected to grow from 150 tonnes to 158 tonnes.

Rwanda is expected to record a sharp drop in maize production, as major growing areas have suffered prolonged drought and heavy rains, which caused flooding.

The report projects that its maize production will drop to 495 tonnes in 2016/17, from 550 tonnes the previous year.