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Below-average crop production and high food and non-food inflation to drive acute food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Below-average crop production and high food and non-food inflation to drive acute food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, localized green/dry second season harvests of mostly legumes and maize are improving food availability in some areas (mostly in southwestern, central, eastern, and parts of northern Uganda) as of late October. With the progression of harvesting in November/December, the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes is expected to decline with further availability of seasonal food and income from crop production. However, due to below-average crop production at the national level following another poor rainfall season, most poor rural households will likely stock less than normal and access below-normal seasonal income from crop sales. Given this and above-average market prices, area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist throughout the projection period in much of the greater north, Bukedea and Teso.

    • Retail prices of staple foods generally followed seasonal patterns in September, increasing due to declining household and market stocks prior to the second season harvest. Across most monitored markets, prices of beans, maize grain, and cassava chips increased by 11 to 30 percent from August to September. Prices in September remain above the five-year average and prices recorded last year, driven by three consecutive seasons of below-average crop production (since the first season harvest of 2021), atypically high regional demand for Ugandan staples, and high transportation costs due largely by high fuel prices. High staple food prices and below-average seasonal income-earning continue to limit food access for many poor households.

    • In Karamoja, clinical admission rates of children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) declined in September due to a combination of nutrition assistance interventions and improved food availability from the main season harvest. However, significantly below-average crop production (estimated to be only around half of normal levels) for a third consecutive season and localized insecurity continue to disrupt typical livelihoods and reduce income-earning across Karamoja. Given this and above-average prices, the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remains atypically high for a postharvest period. In the coming months, many households will likely exhaust food stocks earlier than normal. Below-average purchasing power, and limited remaining coping capacity, an increasing number of households will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes throughout the projection period. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected to persist in some areas and re-emerge in others by early 2023.

    • Assistance needs remain high among refugees living in settlements due to highly limited livelihood and income-earning opportunities and above-average prices. Throughout the projection period, additional arrivals of refugees from the DRC and South Sudan are expected. This will further strain already inadequate humanitarian assistance funding. Among refugee households who farm, the second season harvest in November/December will provide some limited seasonal support. However, those in northern in West Nile settlements are likely to experience a second consecutive below average harvest. Overall, area-level Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to persist, supported by significant humanitarian assistance, though with many worst-affected households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    In bimodal areas, the September to December second rainy season generally started on time in September. As of the end of October, cumulative rainfall has been near average in most areas but below average in much of the northern region and parts of other regions (Figure 1). However, even in areas with near-average cumulative totals, the quality of the season has been variable due to the erratic nature of the rainfall (Figure 2); some areas have experienced atypical short dry spells, while other areas received localized heavy episodic rainfall events that in some cases resulted in floods. Additionally, after mid-September, cumulative rainfall was generally below average in much the central, eastern, and northern parts of the country. This has resulted in moisture stress and poor crop-growing conditions for most key crops including millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, beans, and maize. In addition, some localized areas have experienced longer dry spells, strong winds, and hailstorms that have destroyed crops.

    Following below-average rainfall late in the March to June first rainy season, some risk-averse farmers began planting maize and beans for the second season as early as August to allow for sufficient growing time in case of similar early cessation of rainfall. Overall, planting was generally completed on time in September. As of late October, second-season crops were generally in early flowering to grain filling and seed setting stages, depending on the time of planting, which is average to below average for the time of year. Some localized areas in parts of Teso and Bukedea that were affected by more significant rainfall deficits are experiencing slower growth. Meanwhile, some localized areas where planting was completed in August are already accessing the green harvest for maize and beans and, in some cases, have supplied dry beans to the market.

    As of late October, dry conditions and below-average soil moisture levels are threatening normal flowering and grain filling in the central, northern, and eastern parts of the country – particularly in Teso and Bukedea subregions – and in parts of the southwest. Meanwhile, in parts of central, southwestern, and eastern Uganda, atypically high temperatures (of around 2 to 7 degrees Celsius above average) have further contributed to moisture stress, causing localized yellowing and stunting of crops. October is normally a peak period for on-farm labor demand, coinciding with the peak of the rainy season. However, due to below-average crop development, seasonal labor opportunities from agricultural activities – including weeding of cereals, pulses, and tubers and pruning of perennial crops – have been less available than usual, with income-earning below average as a result.

    As of late October, vegetation and pasture conditions are generally average to below average across the country despite seasonal improvements since the start of the rainy season. Even in areas with below-average conditions, pasture has generally been sufficient to support near-average livestock productivity. However, in some areas of the cattle corridor (in the southwest and in Karamoja) where vegetation conditions have been below average due to dry conditions and high temperatures, it is expected that high competition for available pasture has strained livelihoods.

    According to the Bank of Uganda’s Monetary Policy Statement for October 2022, the domestic economy continues to slowly recover from recent shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic. The Composite Index of Economic Activity (CIEA) increased very slightly by 1.2 percent from the quarter ending in May 2022 to the quarter ending in August 2022, attributed to increased industrial activity and improved business sentiments. This is likely improving income-earning opportunities for the urban poor. However, higher costs of production and doing business driven by high costs of fuel and other goods continue to limit the pace of growth.

    Uganda’s national annual (12-month) headline inflation rate has rapidly increased in 2022, reaching 10.7 percent in October according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Figure 3). The annual inflation rate of the food crops and related items sub-index (which contributes 10 percent of the headline inflation index) has increased the most, reaching 25.6 percent in October 2022. This has been largely driven by the vegetables, tubers, plantains, cooking bananas, and pulses category, with annual inflation increasing from 30.3 percent in September to 33.8 percent in October. Prices of staple food items included in the core inflation sub-index have also increased significantly. For instance, the annual inflation rates for maize flour, sugar, and rice stood at 91.5 percent, 57.7 percent, and 43.3 percent, respectively. On the other hand, the annual inflate rate of energy, fuel, and utilities has declined for two consecutive months after peaking at close to 20 percent in August, though remained very high in October at 15.2 percent. The annual inflation rate of services (a sub-category of core inflation which includes education and transportation) remains comparatively lower, at 4.4 percent in October 2022.

    Staple food prices in bimodal areas have generally continue to increase in September alongside declining household and market stocks from the first season of 2022 (Figure 4). However, the beginning of the second season dry harvest of beans and green harvest of maize has started to boost market supply in some areas, reducing upward pressure on prices. Increased availability of fresh cassava in the markets of Gulu, Masindi, Kampala, Arua, Lira, and Soroti is also expected to be supporting stable or declining prices. Overall, however, prices in September remain significantly above the five-year average (Figure 5) and prices recorded last year, driven by three consecutive seasons of below-average crop production (since the first season harvest of 2021), atypically high regional demand for Ugandan staples, and high transportation costs due largely by high fuel prices.

    Meanwhile, in Karamoja, retail prices of staple sorghum grain were generally stable in September, though declined by 19 percent in Kaabong, likely at least partially attributable to reduced market demand given relatively higher levels of food assistance since August. Sorghum prices remained 64 to 160 percent above the five-year average across monitored markets, driven largely by below-average production for the three consecutive seasons in both surplus-producing bimodal areas (in both seasons of 2021 and the first season of 2022) and in unimodal Karamoja (in the main season of 2020, 2021, and 2022) coupled with high production and transportation costs.

    A first case of Ebola Virus Disease was confirmed in Uganda on September 19, 2022. As of October 31, a total 130 cases have been confirmed according to the World Health Organization, with a case fatality ratio of 33 percent. In addition to the initially affected districts of Mubende, Kassanda, Kyegegwa, Bunangabu, and Kagadi, cases have now been confirmed in Wakiso and Kampala. As of late October, only Kassanda and Mubende districts are under lockdown to limit the movement of people and reduce the spread of the virus. While movement of goods is permitted into and through the districts, open-air markets that sell livestock and other food and merchandise are closed. The restricted movement of people has significantly affected many households’ ability to earn income from their typical livelihoods and constrained their ability to access food and other non-food items. While households are generally able to access some retail shops to purchase food and non-food items, they are expected to be paying higher prices than they would normally pay at the typical open-air markets. Given that the second season harvest is not yet widely available, many households in both urban and rural areas continue to rely on market purchases as a major source of food. Prior to the lockdowns, above-average prices were already straining poor households’ available resources, and the impacts of the lockdown on income-earning and prices are likely causing many poor households to be unable to meet their needs. The Office of the Prime Minister has distributed some food assistance to vulnerable groups whose livelihoods have been affected, including daily roadside market vendors, boda boda riders, taxi drivers, and conductors. However, likely at least in part due to limited funding, beneficiary households received only one distribution and many affected households did not receive assistance.

    In Karamoja, the 2022 main season harvest is nearly complete as of late October. Production of staple sorghum – the predominant crop – is expected to have been significantly below-average to significantly below-normal area cultivated given constrained access to expensive inputs and erratic and below-average rainfall during the April to September main rainy season. Crop losses also occurred through the impacts of moisture stress, crop destruction by wild animals, and crop diseases. Currently, households are mostly engaged in post-harvest activities, including threshing, bagging, and marketing. However, due to below-average production, seasonal labor demand for on-farm activities continues to be below normal levels, constraining income-earning for poor households. Meanwhile, though the disarmament process to rid people of firearms used in livestock raids and thefts continues with relative success, occasional conflict continues to disrupt normal livelihood activities, livestock marketing, and movement of people and goods. Localized incidents of cattle raids and goat thefts persist, causing loss of livestock assets and of food and income sources for households who have had their livestock stolen. Access to markets to sell livestock remains constrained due to insecurity along the routes to the markets, resulting in farmers receiving lower prices for their livestock. Additionally, Turkana herders have recently migrated into the Karamoja region in search of pasture and water resources, causing local herders to move westward, especially from Kotido to the neighboring districts of Agago, Lango, and Teso, to avoid inevitable conflict. As a result, some household members have lost access to nutrient-rich milk and blood, as the animals have moved further away from the homesteads. Previously, armed Turkana herders were accused of livestock raids and violence leading to loss of human life before they were expelled to return to Kenya in April 2022.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas, some households are experiencing temporary improvement in access to food and income from labor opportunities associated with the second season and, in areas that have already started harvesting, from own-crop production and sales. Typical production of fast-growing cultivated and wild vegetables and horticultural crops during the rainy season is also providing households with some additional food and income. However, availability of these sources of food and income are below normal following the poor rainy season and below-average crop production. As such, many households are currently dependent on markets for an atypically large share of their food before the second season harvest arrives, with significantly above-average market prices constraining household purchasing power. This follows three consecutive prior production seasons – with northern areas worst-affected – and, as such, households’ food stocks and availability monetary resources are below normal, and coping capacity is very constrained.  Many poor households are likely unable to meet all their food and essential non-food needs and are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes. In areas worst-affected by poor crop production – including the greater north, the Teso subregion, and parts of central and eastern Uganda – area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely widespread, with some worst-affected poor households likely experiencing consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Although area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected in other bimodal areas, the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in both rural and urban areas is atypically high, driven by above-average prices, below-average income-earning, and localized weather shocks.

    In Karamoja, the recently concluded harvest has somewhat improved households’ access to seasonal food from own-crop production and income from agricultural labor and crop sales. However, crop production was significantly below average. Household and market stocks remain below normal levels, and many worst-affected households harvested little or nothing or consumed their harvest in green form. Others are selling their available harvest to repay debts or purchase other food and non-food items. As such, although this is a post-harvest period, poor households continue to rely on markets for much of their food. Due to significantly above-average prices, below-average income-earning, and highly eroded coping capacity given a third consecutive below-average production season, both poor and better-off households have low purchasing power. Most households continue to rely on less-preferred, cheaper foods and wild vegetables. Many are consuming diets lacking in protein and other essential nutrients. Some poor households continue to skip meals or are otherwise consuming reduced food quantities. While high levels of acute malnutrition have declined somewhat following scale-up of humanitarian food and nutrition interventions since August, the emergency response remains insufficient to meet the high levels of need. Many poor households continue to face poor food consumption and nutrition outcomes. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in many districts, with some worst-affected households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    In urban areas, sustained above-average food prices and below-average income-earning continue to constrain poor households’ resources and erode remaining coping capacity. Most poor households are likely unable to meet all their essential non-food needs, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes expected.

    Refugees living in settlements have highly limited livelihood options and are dependent on markets and humanitarian assistance for most of their food. Below-average income-earning since the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020/21 and above-average staple food prices throughout 2022 have eroded already limited coping capacity. Many refugees exhaust food assistance rations around the midway point between distributions. Overall, below-average access to food and income from typical sources throughout 2022 and, for some, reduced food assistance rations since November 2021 have likely led to progressively worsening food and nutrition outcomes. Across northern West Nile settlements, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) increased slightly from 6.9 percent in 2020 to 8.2 percent in 2022, while in the southwestern settlements GAM prevalence increased from 5.1 to 6.3 percent.[1] Overall, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes likely persist at the area level, supported by significant humanitarian assistance, although an increasing number of worst-affected households are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, particularly prior to assistance distributions.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on cumulative rainfall in September and October and Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) forecasts through November 25, cumulative rainfall during the 2022 second rainy season in bimodal Uganda is likely to be below average in most areas but near average in the southwestern region and in parts of the eastern and northern regions.
    • Based on available international forecasts, the start of the March to June 2023 first rainy season in bimodal areas is most likely to be near average. However, significant uncertainty exists due to the long lead time of the forecast.
    • Given the impacts of erratic rainfall performance to date in the 2022 second season – including dry spells and episodes of heavy rainfall – second season cereal and legume crop production is expected to be below average at the national level. Given this, the national export surplus of legumes, pulses, and cereals is expected to be below average.
    • Slightly below-normal agricultural labor demand and near normal wage rates are anticipated throughout the remainder of the 2022 second season, with households continuing to access income from agricultural labor associated with the harvest through December. Given near average rainfall expected in the 2023 first rainy season, normal agricultural labor opportunities from land preparation, planting, and weeding are likely from January to May 2023.
    • Pasture conditions are expected to continue improving through November, as is typical following the second rainy season. However, due to below-average precipitation across much of the country coupled with high temperatures in many areas, pasture and water availability in the cattle corridor districts will likely remain below average and will seasonally decline again during the dry period through February. Following the start of the 2023 first rainy season in March, pasture and water resources will seasonally improve again during the rest of the projection period and will likely return to normal levels. Overall, livestock productivity will likely be normal to slightly below normal before seasonal improvements in early 2023.
    • Given expectations for continued high global fuel prices, domestic fuel prices are expected to remain above average and higher than levels before the Ukraine/Russia war throughout the projection period. Transportation costs are expected to remain significantly elevated, sustaining the upward pressure on prices of food and non-food commodities.
    • Atypically high inflation is expected to persist throughout the projection period, driven by global inflationary pressures, monetary policy tightening by advanced countries and by the Bank of Uganda, high transportation costs and supply chain disruptions, and domestic weather shocks contributing to higher food prices. Slow economic growth is expected to continue, with GDP now projected to grow by 2.5 to 3.0 percent in 2022, down from the 4.5 to 5.0 percent projection made in July 2022. As such, income-earning is expected to continue to recover but remain below normal.
    • Given below-average economic activity and reduced purchasing power among those who hire labor, availability of casual labor opportunities is expected to be average throughout the projection period. Wage rates are also expected to remain near normal levels, with the real value of earnings declining due to inflation.
    • Staple food prices in bimodal areas are expected to follow seasonal trends – declining with the new harvests in November and December then rising through April before seasonal declines in May – but remain above average due to consecutive seasons of below-average national production, above-average regional demand for Ugandan staples, and high fuel and transportation costs. Price increases are likely to be highest in greater northern Uganda due to limited supplies from the previous season, limited diversity of substitute perennial staples to cushion food gaps, and higher fuel prices.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas, a limited number of additional households are likely to access green harvests in early November, improving food availability. For most households, seasonal improvements in food and income from the second season harvest are expected in late November to early December. Although this will reduce the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes, below-average income-earning, below-average purchasing power, and reduced coping capacity will continue to pressure many households, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely for the worst-affected. Given expectations for a fourth consecutive below-average harvest, most households are likely to exhaust food stocks by March/April 2023. During this time, seasonally rising food prices are expected to further constrain households’ available resources, with a growing number of households expected to deteriorate back to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Given this and high prices of agricultural inputs, some poor households will likely be unable to invest in 2023 first season agricultural production activities. With the start of the March to June 2023 first rainy season, seasonal agricultural labor opportunities will provide some additional income, reducing the number of households experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Overall, however, area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to persist throughout the projection period in parts of northern, central, and eastern Uganda, including Teso and Bukedea subregions.

    In urban areas, poor households without savings and with limited coping capacity are expected to continue experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions amid high inflation and below-average income-earning.

    In Karamoja, many households will continue relying on market purchases for much of their food even during the post-harvest period. Those with any remaining stocks will likely deplete them by December/January, marking an early start to the lean season. Throughout the projection period, insecurity is expected to continue disrupting normal livelihoods and income-earning. Given this, above-average prices, and insufficient humanitarian assistance, many poor households will likely again begin to experience consumption gaps or widening food consumption gaps as the lean season progresses throughout the projection period. Overall, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least May 2023, with worst-affected households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    Arrivals of new refugees are expected throughout the projection period, further straining limited available resources in refugee settlements. Humanitarian food assistance rations are expected to continue supporting 40 to 70 percent of most refugee households’ energy needs. Among the estimated 40 percent of refugee households who engage in crop production, the second season harvest in November/December will provide some limited seasonal support. However, stocks will be exhausted quickly (within one month), and most households in West Nile settlements are expected to receive below-average production and consume their harvest fully in green form. Most households are expected to continue relying on humanitarian assistance and market purchases for the majority of their food. Despite assistance, an increasing number of refugee households will likely be unable to meet all food and essential non-food needs due to below-average income-earning and above-average prices. Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes expected to persist throughout the projection period, supported by significant assistance. However, in settlements where assistance rations cover only 40 to 60 percent of households’ total energy needs, an increasing number of households will likely be facing consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes through May.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    National

    Higher than anticipated global energy and/or commodity prices

    Prices of food and non-food commodities would increase beyond what is projected, further restricting purchasing power of poor households. Income-earning opportunities would also likely decline due to reduced economic activity. This would most likely increase the number of poor urban households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes and increase the number of rural households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

    Karamoja

    Food and nutrition assistance is further scaled up

    This would likely improve household access to some food, mitigating food consumption gaps and reducing the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

    Refugee settlements

    Significantly reduced humanitarian food assistance rations

    A significant reduction in rations or the total absence of humanitarian food assistance would likely result in widespread food consumptions gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, with many worst-affected facing wide consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Malnutrition prevalence would likely increase if these outcomes are sustained.

     

    [1] FEWS NET has viewed the preliminary results of the assessment, including GAM point estimates, but not the confidence intervals; as such, it is possible that confidence intervals from 2020 and 2022 overlap, which would preclude concluding that GAM prevalence increased in that timeframe

    Figures Uganda seasonal calendar. In bimodal, land preparation, dry sowing in the east and north are from January to march. Planting

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    The greater north is in Stressed and Karamoja is in Crisis; refugee settlements are in Stressed!

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2022

    Source: FEWS NET

    Cumulative rainfall was significantly below normal in the last ten days of October. From September 1 to October 31, cumulativ

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Rainfall has been erratic, with all regions (Northern, Eastern, Western, and Central) experiencing pentads of notably below-a

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    The annual headline inflation rate has increased significantly in 2022. All component indices have also increased, though the

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: Uganda Bureau of Statistics

    Prices of beans, cassava chips, maize grain, and sorghum grain increased in most bimodal markets

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: Farmgain

    Prices of beans, cassava chips, maize grain, and sorghum grain were significantly above average in most bimodal markets

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: Farmgain

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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