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Drought Pushing Food Prices Up Sharply in East Africa
USAgNet - 02/16/2017

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.

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).

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, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (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 Nino weather event that ended only last year. Poor and erratic rainfall in recent months, crucial for local growing seasons, are denting farm output.

Somalia's maize and sorghum harvests are estimated to be 75 percent down from their usual level, and some 6.2 million people, 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.

The FPMA Bulletin tracks food price trends on a granular level and in local terms, with an eye to flagging instances where the prices of essential food commodities increase sharply or are abnormally high.

FAO uses its proprietary FPMA Tool, accessible to the public online, to monitor local markets and gather data for more than 1350 domestic price series in 91 countries around the globe in order to produce its Indicator of Food Price Anomalies.

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