A not-so-happy new year as food prices soar

Monday January 03 2022
Four million people in Kenya need food assistance.

Four million people in Kenya need food assistance. PHOTO | FILE

By Johnson Kanamugire

Cash-strapped families have little to smile about this new year as countries in the region battle high commodity prices following weather-induced food supply deficits.

The East Africa seasonal monitor released on December 20 by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) — a USAID platform providing early warning and analysis on food insecurity — shows that rainfall deficits were recorded over much of Uganda, eastern Rwanda and Kenya, eroding crops and livestock production prospects.

Eastern Rwanda, which produces half of the country’s total grain, is experiencing drought.

Though Agriculture and Animal Resources minister Gerardine Mukeshimana downplayed the drought’s likely impact on the overall national food security, she indicated the government is distributing relief food to thousands of families across the Eastern Province.

It is estimated that drought led to wilting of over 50 percent of the maize, beans and other crops planted during the country’s major September-December agriculture season.

But it is Kenya which is most at risk, with Fews Net estimating that three to four million people are in need of emergency food assistance.


The food security alert shows rains failed for the third consecutive season during the October to December season across pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, leading to rapid decline in livestock productivity, and excess livestock deaths.

Rainfall totals have been inadequate for crop development in the affected areas.

“Large-scale humanitarian assistance and livelihoods support are urgently required to cover current needs in northern and eastern Kenya, and assistance should be sustained throughout 2022,” Fews Net indicated.

Low season output, as well as longstanding cross border trade fights over agriculture products, sent prices of key food items up on markets across the region.

In Rwanda, prices had generally increased by between one and 7.6 percent on most items in November. The inflation report shows the biggest increase was recorded on imported products, meat, milk, cheese and eggs, clothing and footwear, transport and education.