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The overall favorable 2020/2021 Season A harvest has increased food availability and contributed to low food prices. Increased market supply of produce, particularly potatoes, beans, and maize, has driven a decline in rural market food prices and increased household purchasing power. Improved household food access and income from the sale of crops is driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in rural areas.
Following a three-week lockdown in Kigali, economic activity has resumed but remains below average. Restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 remain in place, including an 8 pm to 4 am curfew, travel restrictions between Kigali and other provinces and districts, and 30 percent of essential staff at businesses. The COVID-19 restrictions continue to limit food and income-earning opportunities, particularly among the urban poor households engaged in casual labor, petty trade, and small business. However, the recent loosening of COVID-19 measures is expected to increase income-earning opportunities and maintain area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in urban areas.
On February 12, WFP announced that it requires 9 million USD to avert a 60 percent reduction of food assistance to refugees beginning in March. Approximately 135,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees currently rely on humanitarian assistance. Despite the reductions, WFP will maintain full rations for around 51,000 refugees identified as particularly vulnerable, including children under two years, pregnant and nursing mothers, people living with HIV, and tuberculosis patients under treatment. Ration reductions are expected to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity within refugee communities.
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In February, the 2020/2021 Season A harvest culminated with an average maize harvest increasing food availability and access across Rwanda. In general, food prices have continued to decline since the start of harvest in November/December 2020. In February, according to key informants, maize is being sold at 180 RWF/kg at the farm gate and 200- 220 RWF/kg at the market. In March, following the end of the harvest, maize prices are expected to decrease to 150 RWF/kg due to the increased market supply of local dry maize. However, bean prices are expected to remain higher than the five-year average as the Gatuna border post with Uganda, a traditional supplier that typically bridges deficit gaps, remains closed. In the Southern Province, an overall below-average Season A bean harvest due to the delayed start of adequate rainfall is driving bean prices from 450 RWF/kg in January to 600 RWF/kg in February. However, increased food availability and income from crop sales are maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in rural areas.
Following a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in December and January, Kigali was placed under a lockdown from January 18 to February 8, 2021. Following the lockdown, restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 have been loosened. From February 23 to March 15, all businesses can operate at 30 percent occupancy, while markets and malls can continue with 50 percent of registered traders, and public transport cannot exceed 75 percent capacity; however, all businesses must close by 6 pm. An 8 pm to 4 am curfew, and restricted travel between districts remain in place. Although the relaxed COVID-19 restrictions increase income-earning opportunities, economic activity remains below-average, particularly for local and cross-border traders. Urban poor households continue to have below-average casual labor and petty trade opportunities. Reduced purchasing power is likely increasing the urban poor population facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Many urban poor households with strong linkages to rural areas moved back to their rural homes at the beginning of the lockdown to better access food and income. In rural areas, the movement restrictions limit farm produce sales and reduce agricultural migrant labor traveling from the Northern province to the Eastern province for Season B land preparation and planting activities. The reduced labor supplies have increased agricultural labor wages to 16 percent above normal in the Eastern Province. However, as movement restrictions are relaxed, Season B planted area is likely to be average.
To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, the government is providing food rations of 3 kg of beans and 4 kg of maize flour or rice per person per week to the most vulnerable households. Approximately 130,000 households are receiving food rations in Kigali city, while an estimated 500,000 most vulnerable rural households receive food assistance every 15 days. On February 13, Rwanda received 102,960 doses of Pfizer BioNTech Oxford and has begun COVID-19 vaccinations. An additional 996,000 doses are expected by March. Rwanda aims to vaccinate 60 percent of the population by the end of 2021.
According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the national consumer price index (CPI) in January 2021 decreased by 0.8 percent compared to December 2020, which was 3.5 percent higher than the respective prices last year. In urban and rural areas, the price of 'food and non-alcoholic beverages' decreased by 1.5 and 2.8 percent, respectively, compared to December 2020. The decrease in January prices is primarily driven by the ongoing Season A harvest, with 'vegetable' prices in Urban and Rural areas decreasing by 5.6 and 5.7 percent compared to December 2020. However, the cost of 'meat' in January 2021 increased by 1.2 percent across Rwanda compared to December 2021, 8.8 percent higher than respective prices in 2020, driven by the movement restrictions and high animal feed prices.
In 2021, UNHCR plans to repatriate 40,000 Burundian refugees and reduce the refugee and asylum-seeker population from 137,387 to 108,921. On February 12, WFP announced that in March, food assistance to refugees would be reduced by 60 percent due to a 9 million USD shortfall. Due to a lack of income-earning opportunities, a reduction in food assistance will likely drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among refugees.
Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from RATIN
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