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Diminished household purchasing power and high food prices limit food access.

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burundi
  • August 2022
Diminished household purchasing power and high food prices limit food access.

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  • Key Messages
  • CURRENT SITUATION
  • UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS
  • PROJECTED OUTCOMES THROUGH JANUARY 2023
  • Key Messages
    • Most areas in Burundi will continue to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through January 2023, supported by food stocks from the near-average 2022 B Season harvest, average 2022 C Season crop production, and regular access to income sources and 2022. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Eastern Dry Plateau livelihood zones through January 2023, driven by below-average income from bean sales, high staple food prices, and below-average income from cross-border trade with Tanzania and Rwanda.

    • The extended La Nina conditions from October to December are expected to lead to localized below-average rainfall. The low-altitude areas of the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Imbo Plains livelihood zones are typically the most vulnerable to being impacted by below-average rainfall. The forecast below-average rainfall will likely result in localized decreases in 2023 A Season bean and maize production, particularly in the low-altitude areas.

    • In August, staple food prices are around 20 to 30 percent above the five-year average and 5 to 40 percent above prices last year. The rise in food prices is primarily driven by increased transportation costs, high production costs, and high inflation rates. Between January and July, fuel prices have increased nearly 40 percent on the official market but are three times higher on the parallel market. The high fuel prices are increasing transportation and food costs. However, the lifting of the maize import ban that has been in place since March 2021 is likely to improve maize imports through January 2023, slightly improving its availability and lowering food prices.

    • In August 2022, WFP provided a three-month package of humanitarian food assistance to 55,556 refugees from DRC and around 2,450 returnees. Additionally, WFP assisted around 10,800 food-insecure people affected by torrential rains, violent winds, landslides, and river flooding in Cibitoke and Bubanza provinces. The daily ration in each three-month package is equivalent to 360 g of cereals, 120 g of beans, 25 g of vegetable oil, and 5 g of salt per person. Due to cereal stock shortages, maize assistance for refugees and returnees has been replaced by 13,000 BIF per person per month. The humanitarian assistance is supporting Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) acute food insecurity outcomes among beneficiaries. However, around 6,350 returnees from January to April 2022 have likely exhausted their three-month food assistance rations and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) having not yet established typical sources of income and crop production.


    CURRENT SITUATION

    In August, household food stocks from the 2022 B season typically decline, with most households earning income from daily agricultural labor opportunities such as weeding for the 2022 B season and land preparation for the 2023 A season. According to key informants, labor opportunities are currently normal.  

    Across most of Burundi, agricultural labor wages are 10 to 20 percent higher than last year and the four-year average, improving poor household access to income and maintaining household purchasing power as food prices increase (Figure 1). However, labor wages remain close to the four-year average and around 10 percent below last year for the Eastern and Northern lowlands, and the East Arid plateaus livelihood zones due to increased competition for agricultural labor opportunities following lower than normal access to cross-border labor opportunities.

    Across Burundi, food prices are atypically high due to high fuel and food transportation costs and low fuel supplies. In urban centers, key informants report that it can take up to three days to refuel at a gas station. From January to July 2022, fuel prices have increased almost 40 percent in the official market and are retailing in Bujumbura at 3,250 BIF/liter for gas (~6.02 USD/gallon) on average. Still, fuel retails at three times the official price on the informal market, where most transportation trucks are sourcing gas. Due to the high fuel prices, stable food prices are 20 to 30 percent above the five-year average and 5 to 40 percent above last year (Figure 2). Relatedly, a high inflation rate and limited access to hard currency limits imports.  According to the Institut des Etudes Statistiques du Burundi (ISTEEBU), the Consumer Price Index has increased by 30 percent from July 2021 to July 2022, which is reducing household purchasing power.

    Across Burundi, the number of reported Rift Valley Fever (RVF) cases is declining after a peak in cases in June 2022. A vaccination campaign that started in July is likely driving the decline in RVF cases in cattle in the most affected provinces. Butchering is now being allowed in localized areas, slightly improving labor opportunities, even though livestock markets remain closed throughout the nation.

    In early August 2022, WFP undertook a food security survey through the Food Security and Monitoring System (WFP/FSMS) to better determine food insecurity outcomes across Burundi. Key findings indicate that nationally around 80 percent of households are likely facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, while 15 and 5 percent are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food security outcomes. However, in the northern and eastern areas of Burundi, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to be present as at least one in five people reported a Borderline or Poor food consumption score (FCS) and slight to moderate Household Hunger Score (HHS), indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes. As these areas are typically the largest producers and suppliers of beans, the anticipated below-average 2022 B Season beans harvest will likely reduce household incomes. The increase in food and transportation costs are also likely decreasing household purchasing power, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Furthermore, the lack of typical crop production from poor households who used to cultivate on rented land in Tanzania is primarily driving food insecurity in the Eastern Lowlands and the Eastern Dry Plateau livelihood zones. While in the Northern Lowlands livelihood zone, the lack of cross-border opportunities due to border closures has resulted in crop production being the primary source of income for poor households. Key informants also reported that poor households atypically sold 2022 Season B food stocks to pay back debts incurred to purchase food from January to May 2022, accelerating the exhaustion of 2022 Season B stocks. According to findings from the WFP/FSMS survey, around 45 percent of food stocks are exhausted in August, and most households purchase food from the market. In the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Eastern Dry Plateau livelihood zone, the increasing food prices at markets (bean and maize prices increased by 7 to 10 percent from July to mid-August) and lower labor wages than last year likely increased reliance on food stocks resulting in a faster than normal decline, along with lower than normal purchasing power of poor and very poor households, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. 


    UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario discussed in June 2022 to January 2023 Food Security Outlook Report remain unchanged, except for the following:

    • The government's removal of the maize import ban in July 2022 is expected to resume maize imports through January 2023 and improve its availability during the lean season of October to December 2022. However, the depreciation of the BIF and high regional maize prices will limit the volume of imports. The resumption of maize imports will also allow WFP to import maize into Burundi, reducing demand for local maize stocks.
    • Fuel shortages are expected to persist through January 2023, along with additional increases in fuel prices. Fuel prices on the parallel market will likely remain two to three times above the official fuel price. The high fuel prices will continue to drive very high food transportation costs, keeping food prices above average.
    • The start of the Rift Valley Fever vaccination program and the decline in cases is likely to increase cattle butchering and allow livestock markets to reopen. This will likely improve labor opportunities in livestock husbandry, marketing, and butchering. 

    PROJECTED OUTCOMES THROUGH JANUARY 2023

    In August and September 2022, most households are supported by food stocks from the near average 2022 B Season harvest during this post-harvest period. With typical access to income and coping strategies, most areas of Burundi are likely facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, with the upcoming October to December lean season, households’ food stocks are declining, increasing household reliance on market purchases. However, in the Northern and Eastern Lowland and the Eastern Dry Plateau livelihood zones, at least one in five households are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to below-normal access to income from a below-normal bean harvest, below-normal cross-border opportunities, and high food and transportation costs.

    From October 2022 to January 2023, at least 20 percent of households in the Eastern and Northern Lowlands and Eastern Dry Plateaus livelihood zone population will continue facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to continued reliance on market purchases to meet food needs, along with below-normal access to income and increased stable food prices. With humanitarian assistance expected to follow historical trends, returnees and refugees will likely experience Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes throughout the outlook period. Returnees who exhaust the three months of food assistance and IDPs who are not receiving humanitarian food assistance are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes before accessing their crop production and income sources. Across the rest of Burundi, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will persist as households maintain normal access to income-earning opportunities, access food from the 2022 C Season harvest, and purchase food from the market.

    Figures Labour wage trend in provinces of Burundi. Labour wage for Eastern lowlands, Northern lowlands and East Arid plateaus was low

    Figure 1

    Labour wage trend in provinces of Burundi.

    Source: mVAM/WFP

    Staple food prices in Gitega province, compared to July 2022, June 2022 and July 2021.

    Figure 2

    Staple food prices in Gitega province

    Source: WFP/ mVAM

    Burundi Seasonal Calendar  Season A planting is from October through January, and the harvest is from December through Januar

    Figure 3

    Burundi Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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