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Poor harvest prospects in bimodal areas likely to keep food prices high

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Tanzania
  • January 2013
Poor harvest prospects in bimodal areas likely to keep food prices high

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Below normal Vuli and Msimu rains during November and December has triggered speculative behavior among traders and farmers, an action that could raise already-high food prices across the country.  

    • Off season rainfall is providing much needed moisture to replenish pastures and water points. These prolonged rains in bimodal areas in Kilimanjaro, Kagera, Mwanza, Mara, and some parts of Kigoma could help late planted maize and potato crops. However, the rains will likely have a negative impact on maturing bean and maize crops in Kagera and parts of Mara.

    • While most of the country is not experiencing acute food insecurity, outcomes will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through April in the bimodal-to–unimodal transition areas and some central areas. Food security in these areas will most likely improve when the Msimu harvest arrives in April, increasing food supplies and reducing prices. 





    • High staple food prices across the country continue to limit food access for market-dependent households.
    • Prices will likely remain high in the first quarter of 2013 following poor Vuli rains and anticipated poor Vuli harvests in January.

    Bimodal-to-unimodal transition areas

    • Below normal rainfall during the 2012 Masika and Msimu rains resulted in below average production.  A poor 2012/13 Vuli harvest is expected due to below normal Vuli rains during November and December.
    • The situation is not likely to improve until the arrival of the Msimu harvests from nearby areas starting in April.

    Bimodal rainfall areas

    • Erratic, poor rainfall distribution has impacted bean crops in much of Kagera region, primarily in the northern and northeastern areas.  
    • A below normal harvest will likely reduce food supplies and push bean prices higher in January. They will likely remain high until the Msimu harvest in July.

    Banana and Cassava growing areas

    • Both Banana Bacterial Wilt (BBW) and African Cassava Mosaic Virus (ACMV) continue to reduce the availability of food and cash, resulting in increased demand for non-local food supplies.
    • BBW and ACMV are likely to spread further, increasing market dependence on food sourced from outside the livelihood zone between February and June. 

    Projected Outlook through June 2013

    National:  As the lean season continues across the country, food supplies continue to be stable. Since July, food prices have remained high, increasing further between November and December following poor rainfall performance. In anticipation of a poor Vuli and Msimu season, farmers and traders have reduced maize sales and started holding on to maize supplies. The lean season that should have ended in the bimodal areas in January will likely be prolonged in some areas. The rest of the unimodal areas are in their lean season until the arrival of the green harvests in March. As a result, food prices are expected to remain high over the next few months, possibly increasing if demand for grain crops from neighboring Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kenya persists. Continued high transportation costs and high inflation rates are also keeping food prices high.

    Ongoing Msimu rains in unimodal areas are facilitating the usual land preparation and planting activities and providing much needed casual labor opportunities. Households that have finished their own production food stocks are able to participate in casual labor in order to make the income needed for market purchases. In the short-term, this income will improve poor household purchasing power. However, in the long-term, high and increasing food prices over the outlook period will likely continue to erode purchasing power. In December maize prices were 54 to 120 percent above the five-year average across various markets, while rice has remained between 48 and 94 percent above average. Prices will likely remain high until Msimu rains conclude in March/April and when the green harvests become available in unimodal areas. Increased moisture in these areas has improved pasture and water points for livestock. This will improve milk availability and generate income in livestock-dependent households, in addition to improving dietary diversity.

    This outlook could change significantly if the usual dry spell during the Msimu rains in February extends beyond the normal period and if African armyworm outbreaks outpace control measures.  

    Bimodal areas and the bimodal-to-unimodal transition areas: The September to December Vuli rainy season has ended but off season rains continue in the bimodal areas.  Some parts of Kagera region experienced poor rains and dry spells at the start of the season in September and October. In some areas, a poor bean crop is expected this season due to this poor rainfall performance. Households in the bimodal-to-unimodal transition areas and some of the central marginal areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) at least until the Msimu harvests arrive in April.

    Banana and cassava growing areas of Kagera: Banana bacterial wilt and cassava mosaic diseases have been spreading in these areas, reducing banana and cassava availability at the household and local market levels and limiting household cash from crop sales. Frequent wind has also been breaking banana trees in some areas thus contributing to the reduced banana crop, the major staple in these areas. Households are expected to use alternative food crops, including maize and rice. This increased dependence on food sourced from outside the region is expected to continue contributing to higher maize and rice prices. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Rainfall anomaly, October-December 2012

    Figure 2

    Rainfall anomaly, October-December 2012

    Source: TMA

    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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