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Food prices remain elevated despite supply from harvests and increasing imports from Tanzania

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • February 2020
Food prices remain elevated despite supply from harvests and increasing imports from Tanzania

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Above-average Season 2020 A harvests have increased household food stocks and market supply. Overall, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are anticipated across the country through September 2020, given current food availability and expectations for another favorable harvest in May/June.

    • According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), food prices decreased slightly in January for the second consecutive month. This is attributed to increasing market supply following the harvests as well as increasing cereal imports from Tanzania. However, prices remain substantially elevated, likely due to overall lower levels of imports driven by tensions with Uganda.

    • According to UNHCR, Rwanda hosted 150,574 refugees and asylum seekers as of 31 January 2020. Ongoing humanitarian support – including basic services, cash transfers, and food and nutrition assistance – is expected to support Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes among these populations through at least September 2020.





    The Gatuna border post in northern Rwanda has remained closed since March 2019 due to political tensions with Uganda. This has reduced food import levels and significantly elevated prices of key staples – including maize grain, maize flour, and beans – as well as animal feeds.

    In the absence of information, the Gatuna border post is expected to remain closed throughout the scenario period, limiting food imports from Uganda. Above-average food prices – especially of maize and beans – are therefore expected to be sustained in Rwanda. However, imports from Tanzania will likely continue increasing, putting some downward pressure on prices.


    According to the FAO, above-average rainfall coupled with free and subsidized agricultural inputs distributed by the government have likely supported above-average Season 2020 A cereal production. Meanwhile, though production of beans and Irish potatoes is expected to be below-average, other staple crops such as bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes have benefited from the rainfall. Overall, harvests have boosted household food stocks and increased access to income from crop sales. Additionally, increased market supply has likely contributed to some declines in food prices. Given the current forecast of average rainfall from February to May 2020, another favorable harvest is anticipated in May/June. Current and anticipated food availability are expected to sustain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through September 2020.

    Despite overall favorable crop production, heavy rainfall also caused localized flooding and landslides that have resulted in livestock and crop losses, infrastructural damage, and damage to moisture-sensitive crops – especially beans and Irish potatoes. Worst-affected areas include Ngororero, Nyabihu, Nyamasheke, and Rusizi districts in the Western Province, Musanze and Rulindo in the Northern Province, and Gisagara in the Southern Province. According to key informants, bean production was particularly affected by the heavy rainfall, with national yields estimated to be approximately 20 percent below the five-year average. In the Northern Province where bean production is reported to be approximately 30 percent below average, prices are significantly elevated. In the Musanze market, a reference market for the Northern Province, prices increased by approximately 50 percent – from 650-700 to 1000 Rwandan Francs (RWF) per kilogram – between December 2019 and January 2020. Meanwhile, improving disaster assistance from the government and other stakeholders continues to support stable food security conditions among flood-affected populations. The assistance includes the provision of food and essential non-food items, health services, disaster risk reduction activities, and livelihoods support including agricultural inputs and cash-for-work transfers. Continued and improving humanitarian assistance is expected to support Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes among these populations through at least September.

    According to the NISR consumer price index for food and non-alcoholic beverages, food prices decreased by an estimated 0.6 percent and 2.9 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively, between December 2019 and January 2020. In rural areas, the index for bread and cereals (driven by cereals) decreased by 0.7 percent and the index for vegetables (mainly non-cereal staples) decreased by 5.8 percent during this time. Declining prices over the past two months are largely attributed to the increasing availability of cereals and vegetables from the Season 2020 A harvest as well as increasing import levels – mainly of maize and beans – from Tanzania. However, food prices remain above average and substantially higher than prices observed last year (Figure 1). Generally, food prices are expected to follow seasonal trends, decreasing through March following the harvest and then gradually increasing during the lean season. Throughout the projection period, atypically high prices of cereals and beans are expected to persist due to reduced imports from Uganda and below-average Season 2020 A bean production.

    By the end of January 2020, Rwanda hosted an estimated 150,574 refugees and asylum seekers according to UNHCR, representing a marginal increase of only 0.4 percent over the previous month. Of the total refugee population in Rwanda, approximately 50.8 percent are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 48.9 percent from Burundi. With the approach of the May 2020 presidential election in Burundi, an increase in refugee arrivals may be expected. Due to the ongoing provision of basic services, cash transfers, and food and nutrition assistance, Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes are expected to be sustained among these populations. In addition, ongoing integration of refugees into national economic and social systems is gradually increasing purchasing power and self-reliance.

    Figures Graph of wholesale maize prices in Kigali, September 2019 - January 2020 (observed) and February - December 2020 (projected).

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from RATIN

    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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