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Atypically high food prices limit access for poor households during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Rwanda
  • November 2013
Atypically high food prices limit access for poor households during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through March 2014
  • Partner
    NUR
    Key Messages
    • Due to the effects of below-average harvests in June/July domestically and in neighboring countries, prices for staple foods, particularly beans, have been rising at an atypically fast rate since August 2013. These high prices are limiting food access for poor, market-dependant households during the ongoing lean season.

    • Poor households in the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral, the East Congo-Nile Highland Farming, and the West Congo-Nile Crest Tea livelihood zones are particularly vulnerable to food security-related shocks. In these areas, below-average stocks and high food prices have caused households to engage in atypical coping strategies to meet basic needs. These households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the next harvests in December.

    • Agricultural season ‘A’ is ongoing, although crop development in eastern regions is about one month behind schedule as farmers had to replant following a dry spell in October. Harvests in affected areas, which normally occur in December/January, will likely be delayed and slightly below average.


    Current situation
    • Progression of agricultural season ‘A’: In most areas of the country, weeding activities are underway for beans, maize, Irish potatoes, and wheat with crops in the flowering to maturation growth stages. Eastern regions are the exception; in these areas, a dry spell in October damaged newly planted seedlings, requiring households to replant. As a result, households finished their planting activities in early November and crop development is approximately one month delayed. Rainfall levels during the first half of November were above average, benefiting crops in the dry-spell-affected areas but causing localized crop damage to bananas in Mushikiri, Nyarubuye, Mahama, Nasho sectors of Kirehe district and Musha sector of Rwamagana district due to strong winds and flooding. Moisture conditions have also been favorable for the development of maize caterpillars and aphids, whose presence this year has been atypically widespread. Crop damages from these pests will likely reduce season ‘A’ yields. Harvests are expected to start normally in December/January, with a month delay in areas where crops were replanted.
    • Food sources: In most areas, the season ‘B’ harvest in June/July was estimated to be approximately 30 percent below normal. Due to this below-average harvest, households depleted their food stocks approximately one month earlier than normal, in September in most regions and in August for three areas of concern (the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral livelihood zone, the East Congo-Nile Highland Farming livelihood zone, and the West Congo-Nile Crest Tea livelihood zone). Poor households throughout the country are currently relying on a combination of market purchases and wild foods to meet food needs. In addition, a recent field assessment to the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral livelihood zone found that most poor households were reducing the quantity and quality of food in their diets.
    • Markets and prices: The below-average, June/July harvests in Rwanda and in neighboring countries (ex. Uganda) have caused tighter market supply than normal. This, along with strong consumer demand from households who become market dependant earlier than normal, has driven prices for staple foods, including pulses, grains, roots and tubers, upward at an atypically fast rate since August 2013. For example at Kabarondo market in Kayonza district, a key market for the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral livelihood zone, bean prices increased 13 percent between September and October and are 73 percent above last year’s levels (Figure 3). However with the start of early green harvests, Irish potato prices in October were relatively stable or declining slightly, although the national average remained 46 percent above the five-year average.
    • Returnees and refugees: In late October, the M23 rebel group in eastern DRC announced a ceasefire. Ongoing peace talks between this group and the DRC government, as well as the commitment of special UN peacekeeping troops to Eastern DRC by heads of state at the Pretoria Summit, have given hope to some DRC refugees in Rwanda and caused 3,000 refugees to return home in November. Refugees and returnees residing within Rwanda are currently meeting their food and nonfood needs through assistance provided by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, in partnership with UNHCR and WFP.
    • Income sources: Wages from labor work, an importance source of income for poor households in Rwanda, are at seasonally normal levels, ranging from 800 to 1,000 RWF per day. However due to the large presence of relatively new returnees in the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral and the East Congo-Nile Highland Farming livelihood zones, competition for labor opportunities has increased, causing wages to fall to 600 to 800 RWF per day in these zones. Households are also selling livestock to generate cash income. However due to large market supply, current prices for pigs, cows, chickens and goats are down 20 percent compared to last year’s levels.  

    Updated assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’ s most likely scenario for October 2013 to March 2014. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the October 2013 to March 2014 Food Security Outlook.


    Projected outlook through March 2014

    Despite the expectation that atypically high food prices will continue through at least the next harvest (December/January), poor households in most areas will be able to offset the effects of these high prices through seasonally normal livelihood activities, including labor work, animal sales, and/or switching to cheaper, less preferred foods. As a result, most areas will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between October 2013 and March 2014. However in the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral livelihood zone, the East Congo-Nile Highland Farming livelihood zone, and the West Congo-Nile Crest Tea livelihood zone, poor households are having trouble meeting food and nonfood needs. In addition to reducing the quantity and quality of food in their diets, they are engaging in a variety of atypical coping strategies, such as temporary migration to other zones and/or the sale of additional small animals. Poor households in these three zones will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes until the next harvests in December/January.

    Figures Figure 3: Monthly bean prices at Kabarondo (RWF/kg)

    Figure 1

    Figure 3: Monthly bean prices at Kabarondo (RWF/kg)

    Source: MINAGRI

    Figure 2

    Source:

    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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