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Staple food prices remain atypically high throughout the country

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Burundi
  • April 2013
Staple food prices remain atypically high throughout the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • The season 'A' harvests (December to February) were below average due to an above-average prevalence of several plant diseases and poor rainfall performance. This, coupled with atypically high staple food prices, is limiting household food access. Poor households in most areas of Burundi will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity until the next harvests in June. Then between July and September, households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.   

    • Two areas of the country (the Dépressions de l'Est and the Plateaux Humides zones) will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity between April and the next harvest in late June. Several factors driving this food insecurity in these areas are: poor season 'A' harvests, crop diseases, above-average food prices, high concentration of returnees, and poor households' relatively high vulnerability to food security-related hazards. 





    • Staple food prices are generally stable compared to last month but remain above both last year's levels and the five-year average.
    • Prices are expected to increase through the lean season until next June when the season 'B' harvests become available.

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    The cropping season 'B' is ongoing. The main crops grown during this season include beans, maize, sorghum, and potatoes. Harvests of these crops are expected to take place in June. Recent rains have been heavy with rainfall levels in March ranging from 50 to 100 percent above normal. Similarly, rainfall levels during the first 20 days of April ranged from 10 to 15 percent above normal. These heavy rains will likely adversely affect the growth of bean crops, which require moderate soil conditions for optimal yields. There is also an increased risk for erosion on hilly slopes and for flooding in lowland areas. However, forecasts from the Burundi Meteorology Office are predicting near normal rainfall levels for the remainder of the March to May period. Exceptions to this near normal forecast are: 1) the northeast where below-normal rainfall is expected and 2) the Bugarane region where above-normal rainfall is forecasted.   

    Due to poor rainfall distribution and an above-average prevalence of plant diseases (ex. banana Xanthomonas wilt), crop production for most staple foods (legumes and cereals) were below average during the recent season 'A' harvests (December to February). As a result, household food stocks are expected to last two to three months, compared to four to five months during a normal year. The government and its partners (ex. the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)) are working to educate farmers on how to treat fields affected by plant diseases through the removal of infested plants but for the near future, crop diseases are expected to continue at status quo levels.

    Staple food prices have generally been relatively stable compared to February although they remain above both last year's levels and the five year average. For example in Bujumbura, the price of beans increased 18 percent compared to last year's levels and 31 percent compared to the five-year average. Through the lean season, prices are expected to follow normal seasonal trends, meaning that prices will continue to increase until the harvests in June replenish both household and market food stocks. During a normal year, prices would then decrease due to improved market supply and reduced consumer demand. However this year, prices may decline at a slower rate than usual as the government is expected to reinstate a tax on food commodities in June that was lifted in May 2011 in response to high food prices.

    Agricultural labor opportunities, the most important source of income for poor households, have declined seasonally compared to the last several months as land preparation and planting activities have been completed. However, wages remain at relatively normal rates (1,500 to 2,000 BIF per day). This, coupled with above-average food prices, has meant that household purchasing power has been declining.

    Due to poor harvests and below-average food stocks, households became market dependant one to two months earlier than normal. This, along with atypically high market prices for staple commodities, has limited food access for poor households. As a result, households are employing atypical coping strategies, such as reducing the quantity and quality of food consumed, migrating to neighboring countries, removing children from school, and increasing levels of remittances and animal sales. For most regions of the country, households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes until the harvests in June 2013 and will then face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between July and September.

    Areas of Concern

    Over 20 percent of households in the following areas of concern are going to have more intense difficulties accessing food and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until June 2013:

    • Dépressions de l'Est: In this zone, poor rainfall distribution during season 'A' caused an approximate 10 percent decline in legume and cereal production compared to normal. As a result, household food stocks in this zone lasted about two to three months this year, which is about one to two months shorter than normal. In addition, this zone is increasingly becoming the home to many newly arrived returnees as this area has relatively more land compared to other areas of the country. Until these returnees are able to rebuild their livelihoods, they will likely have difficulties meeting their basic food needs. With regards to returnee inflows over the coming months, a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Burundi, and Uganda was signed in March 2013 to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of an additional 13,000 Burundian refugees currently living in Uganda. Many of these returnees will likely settle in the Dépressions de l'Est, increasing humanitarian assistance needs.
    • Plateaux Humides: Similar to other areas of the country, crop diseases, low input usage, and poor rainfall performance contributed to below average, season 'A' crop production. In addition, poor households in these areas are particularly vulnerable to food security-related hazards due to structural problems (ex. high population density, small landholdings generally less than 1/4 ha). As a result, poor households in these areas are facing increased levels of food insecurity.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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