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Above-average food prices limit household food access in the Northeast

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Burundi
  • August 2014
Above-average food prices limit household food access in the Northeast

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected outlook through January 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Land preparation is underway in most zones across the country. This is seasonably providing labor opportunities, especially to the poor.

    • Staple food prices stabilized from June to July but range between 15 and 45 percent above the five-year average. Above-average prices are due to Season B production deficits of between 40 to 60 percent, particularly in Northeastern livelihood zones.

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity is expected to persist among poor households in the Northeast until December when food availability and access will improve with Season A harvests.


    Current Anomalies

    Projected Anomalies


    • May-June-July period has been drier than normal, seasonal dryness is still continuous across livelihood zones.
    • Above-normal cumulative rainfall is expected from October through December.
    • Prices of most staples are higher than the five-year average.
    • Above-average prices are likely to persist until Season A harvests replenish household stocks and market supply in December.
    • Household stocks, especially for the poor are lower than normal due to below average Season B production.

    Projected outlook through January 2014

    Land preparation for Season A planting has started in most zones as normally happens this time of the year, offering labor opportunities for the poor, with normal wages ranging between 700 and 1000 Burundian Francs (BIF) per day. Vegetables are currently available from Season C harvests; other staples such as beans, maize and irish potatoes planted during the same season will be available through October. Although harvests have contributed to improved food availability, Season C production, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of annual production, is insufficient to mitigate Season B deficits.


    In general, staple food prices stabilized from June to July but remain above average.  Bean prices declined in July and were slightly lower than last year, but remained roughly 16 percent above the five-year average in most markets. For example, bean prices in Kirundo and Gitega markets stabilized and are consistent with last year’s prices but are 16 and 19 percent above the five-year average, respectively. Sweet potato prices also declined in July, although prices remained above average in nearly half of markets across Burundi, up to 40 percent above the five-year average. Whole maize prices decreased from June to July but are 14 percent more expensive than last year’s prices and 46 percent above the five-year average. Increased market demand as a result of early depletion of household food stocks is likely putting upward pressure on staple food prices. Prices will likely increase between August and November as market dependence increases with the start of the lean season.  


    Beans and sweet potatoes are primary staple foods consumed by poor households, especially in rural areas. Even in post-harvest periods, poor households source much of their food from markets because landholdings are too small to produce enough crops for household needs. Household stocks are even smaller this year because of production deficits in June. Above-average prices have weakened household capacity to meet food requirements without reducing non-food expenditures, as wages have not kept pace with food prices.


    Access to food is expected to decline until December, when Season A harvests begin. Moreover, because poor households have very limited assets and few labor opportunities, they are particularly vulnerable to price variability and have a lower capacity to respond to shocks than better-off households. Field assessment reports indicate atypical migration from Kirundo Province to Bugesera District in Rwanda for labor opportunities. Other coping strategies were reported such as sale of productive assets, theft, and begging. This was particularly observed in Bugabira, Nyabikenke, Busoni and Cewe districts of Dépressions du Nord livelihood zone.


    Poor households in Northeastern livelihood zones including in Kirundo, Cankuzo, Gitega, Muyinga and Rutana provinces of Dépressions du Nord, Plateaux Secs de l’Est and Dépressions de l’Est, where production deficits were the highest, currently face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. Even with stabilizing prices, households face substantial food deficits because of poor production during season B, coupled with the structural deficit at the household level even during normal production seasons. Improvements are expected with the availability of Season A green harvests in December, when poor households are expected to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar of typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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