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Delayed and below-average rainfall results in a slow start of the first agricultural season

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • March 2021
Delayed and below-average rainfall results in a slow start of the first agricultural season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, delayed and below-average cumulative rainfall since late February has led many farmers to plant later than normal and resulted in below-normal pasture and water availability. Deficits are most significant in parts of Acholi, Lango, Teso, and West Nile sub-regions, where rainfall is 25-50 percent of the long-term average. Planting conditions are relatively more favorable in the Southwest. However, forecasts indicate an increased likelihood of above-average rainfall in April and, as of late March, episodic rainstorms have already occurred in some localized areas and destroyed developing and standing crops. Based on these factors, the first season harvest will likely begin late in June/July. Crop production totals and pasture and water availability, which FEWS NET previously projected would be above average, are now likely to vary at the sub-regional level.

    • In March, Kenya imposed a temporary ban on maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania before announcing enhanced food safety standards to control mycotoxin levels. The unanticipated disruption to the local and cross-border maize trade led to a sudden decline in formal exports, though this was partially offset by informal trade and smuggling. Consequently, retail maize prices fell by 3-7 percent in rural markets such as Masindi, Kamwenge, Kyegegwa, and Mubende in early March. Although regional trade in food commodities showed signs of recovery in the last quarter of 2020, the uncertain regulatory environment is now likely to suppress maize exports and maize prices in the short-to-medium term. However, sorghum and bean exports to Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan are still most likely to be above the five-year average.

    • Despite the poor start of the agricultural season, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will most likely be sustained through September across rural bimodal areas and urban areas. However, the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is still likely to be higher than the five-year average. Household and market food supplies remain higher than normal following near-to above-average crop production in late 2020 and suppressed demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stable to below-average retail staple food prices continue to facilitate food access for purchase-dependent households, whose income levels are affected by below-normal agricultural labor demand and the slow recovery of income-generating activities in urban areas. Labor demand is also expected to rise as farmers complete planting in April.

    • In Karamoja, the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is rising and expected to peak before the harvest in July. Household income from all livelihood sources is insufficient to meet their food and non-food needs during the ongoing lean season. Many households have inadequate livestock to sell, face high competition for labor and natural resource sales, and have eroded coping capacity amid the economic impacts of the pandemic and limited school feeding programs. The retail price of sorghum dropped sharply in February and ranged as much as 25 percent below the five-year average, but this was driven by low demand linked to insufficient household income and the availability of substitutes (e.g., cassava and potatoes). According to WFP, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition is atypically high in Moroto and Napak, which prompted blanket supplementary feeding.

    • Many refugees continue to face slight to moderate food consumption gaps or engage in negative livelihoods coping strategies. Food stocks from the second season are already exhausted, and the delay in first season rainfall has likely reduced already limited access to on-farm labor and related income sources. Further, refugee households have low coping capacity due to the impacts of more stringent COVID-19 restrictions in refugee-hosting districts in 2020 on local economic activity. With food assistance reduced to a 60 percent ration (cash or in-kind) as of February, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely prevalent. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected even during the June/July harvest period, when an anticipated pipeline break in food assistance funding may cause further reductions in rations after May. According to UNHCR/OPM, Uganda hosted 1,462,164 refugees and asylum seekers as of February 28.

    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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