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Atypically high staple food prices continue as lean season progresses

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Burundi
  • May 2013
Atypically high staple food prices continue as lean season progresses

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • The Dépressions de l'Est and Plateaux Humides zones will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity until the next harvest in late June. Several factors driving food insecurity in these areas are: poor season 'A' harvests, climate hazards, crop diseases, above-average food prices, high concentration of returnees, and relatively high vulnerability to food security-related hazards. 

    • Poor households' food stocks have mostly depleted as the lean season continues. This, coupled with above-average staple food prices, is limiting household food access. Poor households outside the Dépressions de l'Est and the Plateaux Humides zones will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity until the June harvests. 

    • Seasonal crops are nearing their maturity phase and a normal harvest is anticipated for June. This will replenish household food stocks to normal levels and will improve food access. As a result, Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes are expected between July and September.  





    • Staple food prices (ex. beans and cassava flour) are currently 14 to 60 percent higher than the five-year average.
    • Prices are expected to follow normal seasonal trends with a decline in June due to the season 'B' harvests and then a steady increase in prices beginning in July.   

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    Due to crop losses caused by plant diseases (banana Xanthomonas wilt, cassava mosaic, and cassava brown streak) and poor rainfall distribution, season 'A' harvests last December to February were below-average, particularly in the Dépressions de l'Est and the Plateaux Humides. As a result, household food stocks were lower than normal and poor households became market dependant one to two months earlier than normal. 

    Rainfall levels in March ranged from 50 to 100 percent above normal which caused localized crop damage, particularly in the northwest (Muyinga, Kayanza and Cibitoke provinces). Rainfall levels then slowed during the months of April and May with some localized areas seeing rainfall deficits ranging from 10 to 25 percent. Overall, seasonal crops (beans, maize, sorghum, and potatoes) are close to maturity and the June harvest is expected to be normal. Localized areas will experience below-average production due to the heavy rainfall in March and a continued high prevalence of plant diseases across the country.

    Staple food prices have generally been stable or slightly increasing compared to March 2013, although they remain above both last year's levels and the five-year average. For example in Bujumbura, April bean prices were stable compared to last month (+4 percent) but 31 and 43 percent above last year's levels and five-year average, respectively. In Ngozi, a key market for the Plateaux Humides zone where last season's crop production was below-average, bean prices increased 11 percent compared to March and 27 percent compared to last year's levels. In the coming months, prices are expected to follow normal seasonal trends. Therefore, prices will decline in June with the next harvest and will then slowly increase starting in July. However this year, the decline in prices in June may be smaller than is seasonally normal as the government is expected to reinstate a tax of food commodities that was lifted in May 2011.  

    Opportunities for agricultural labor, the most important source of income for poor households, have been declining seasonally as land preparation and planting activities are now complete. Wages remain at relatively normal rates (1,500 to 2,000 BIF per day). However, traders exporting fruit to neighboring countries have been reporting informal trade restrictions that are reducing trade flows for this commodity. This is resulting in below-average income for fruit-selling households.

    Average to slightly below-average household income levels, coupled with above-average food prices, have caused household purchasing power to be weaker than normal, limiting household food access through market purchases. As a result, households are employing atypical coping strategies, such as consuming less preferred foods, increasing levels of remittances, migration and animal sales, and removing children from school. For most areas of the country, households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes until the harvests in June and will then face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between July and September. 

    Areas of Concern

    Over 20 percent of households in the following areas of concern are facing more significant difficulties accessing food and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until the harvests in June:

    • Dépressions de l'Est: Poor rainfall distribution during season 'A' caused a decline in crop production compared to normal. As a result, household food stocks in this zone lasted approximately two to three months this year, which is about one to two months less than normal. In addition, this zone is increasingly becoming home to newly arrived returnees as the zone has relatively more land compared to other areas of the country. Until returnees are able to rebuild their livelihoods, they will likely have difficulties meeting basic food needs. With regards to returnee inflows over the remainder of 2013, additional returnees are expected as a tripartite agreement between UNHCR, Burundi, and Uganda, signed in March 2013, is intended 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, crop diseases, low input usage, and poor rainfall performance contributed to below-average crop production levels during the last season. However, poor households in these areas are particularly vulnerable to food security-related hazards due to structural problems (ex. high population density, landholdings less than 1/4 ha). As a result, poor households in these areas are facing increased levels of food insecurity.

    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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