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Erratic first season rains likely to delay harvests, threaten crop production prospects

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • April 2024
Erratic first season rains likely to delay harvests, threaten crop production prospects

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, rainfall in April has been spatially and temporally erratic, with periodic heavy rains resulting in localized flooding interspersed with short dry spells. Cumulative rainfall was 60 to 90 percent of the long-term average in parts of the north and west, while ranging from average to slightly above average in the central and eastern regions in April, according to preliminary CHIRPS data. Near-normal levels of engagement in cultivation activities are reportedly ongoing in most regions. As of mid-April, cereal and legume crops are generally at the early vegetative stage (15-45 percent growth) in eastern, central, and southwest regions and at the emerging stage (less than 15 percent) in northern Uganda. Updated international forecasts indicate March-May rainfall will likely be average and continue into June. Due to the delayed and erratic start of the rains, harvesting will likely be delayed two to four weeks, and national production prospects remain average, with localized below-average production in areas where crops have suffered moisture stress or damage from flooding. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will be sustained by seasonal access to income and carryover stocks from 2023, followed by first season harvests beginning in June.
    • In unimodal Karamoja, above-average rainfall in April is generally supporting a normal start to seasonal cultivation activities – including plowing and planting – and labor opportunities. The below-average staple food prices since January have increased household purchasing power, enabling more households to access seeds and hire labor than in recent years. This, coupled with the forecasted above-average rains, is anticipated to support near-average engagement in crop cultivation. However, excess rainfall in the lowland cropping areas of Karamoja is likely to cause some waterlogging and cereal crop loss. In March, staple food prices in Karamoja have seasonally increased due to reduced market supply; sorghum prices increased by 10 to 18 percent from February to March in key reference markets. While the sustained impacts of the multi-season drought, including low coping capacity and limited household assets, continue to result in widespread area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, an increasing number of households will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.
    • The retail price of staple foods has seasonally increased slightly from February to March in key reference markets in bimodal areas, according to the latest price data from Farmgain. However, prices range from 9 to 43 percent lower than last March, while remaining slightly above the five-year average. The month-on-month increase in the price of beans, maize, and sorghum is primarily driven by seasonally reduced market supply and increased purchase reliance for food associated with reduced household food stocks. Staple food prices are generally anticipated to continue increasing until the start of the bimodal harvest in June. Meanwhile, following the recent availability of cassava and sweet potato harvests, cassava chip prices have declined by 13 to 38 percent month-on-month. With staple food prices at consistently lower levels than last year, household purchasing power and financial access to food have improved, particularly for urban and peri-urban households. 
    • Of the approximately 45,800 new refugee arrivals in Uganda since January 2024, nearly 40 percent (17,600 refugees) are from Sudan. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) is settling all Sudanese refugees in Kiryandongo settlement, despite already exceeding maximum capacity. New arrivals are reportedly being settled on existing refugees’ sub-divided plots. As such, the 96,860 (as of April 25) refugees in Kiryandongo have reportedly been instructed not to cultivate on their plots. During the FEWS NET food security assessment in southwest refugee settlements in March, no households were observed preparing land for first season cultivation in Kiryandongo. New arrivals receive rations equivalent to 100 percent of their minimum daily caloric requirements for their first three months and then are categorized by vulnerability.[1] While most refugees rely on petty trade and limited casual labor for income, income-generating opportunities are limited and highly competitive. This, coupled with the lack of cultivation and amid seasonally increasing food prices, is expected to sustain Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September, with a growing number of households in Kiryandongo settlement in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). All other refugee settlements continue facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

      [1] Category 1 refugees receive 60 percent of the ration whereas category 2 refugees receive 30 percent ration.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Uganda Key Message Update April 2024: Erratic first season rains likely to delay harvests, threaten crop production prospects, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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