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Poor start to March to May rains anticipated to delay some bimodal harvests

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • March 2024
Poor start to March to May rains anticipated to delay some bimodal harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, a delayed and below-average start to the March to May rains has resulted in delayed and below-average first season planting in March in the most affected areas. Cumulative rainfall from March 1 to 31 ranged from 45 to 75 percent of the long-term average, with the largest deficits in localized parts of the central, northern, and western regions, according to preliminary CHIRPS data. However, atypical off-season rains in February prompted some farmers to start planting in late February and early March, prior to the dry conditions. Early-planted crops in these areas are reportedly experiencing poor germination or wilting due to significant moisture deficits, resulting in poor early crop vigor. In the east, which received more consistent rainfall during the off-season and in March, soil moisture has been sufficient for near-normal crop development, reaching the early vegetative stage by late March. International forecasts indicate cumulative rainfall will be above average and will likely extend into June. Thus, national first season cereal production is anticipated to be average, although with localized near-average production in the areas worst-affected by early season rainfall deficits. In these areas, harvesting will most likely be delayed to late June/July and a larger number of households will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in May and June than previously anticipated. Area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is still expected in bimodal areas through September.
    • In March, annual headline inflation remained stable at 3.3 percent, the seventh consecutive month with relatively stable headline inflation rates. Meanwhile, annual food inflation decreased to -0.4 percent in March, meaning food prices were lower than at the same time last year; a considerable improvement relative to March 2023, when food inflation nearly reached an 11-year high of 20.9 percent. According to the latest price data from Farmgain, retail prices of staple foods (maize, cassava chips, and sorghum) in February 2024 trended 8 to 38 percent lower than the same time last year in most monitored markets in bimodal areas. Prices generally remained stable between January and February, and some markets experienced moderate month-on-month declines. The availability of fresh cassava, sweet potatoes, and maize continues to moderate food prices in bimodal Uganda. While seasonally depleted stocks are expected to drive increases in staple food prices in April and May, prices will likely remain lower than in 2023. In the Karamoja Region, sorghum prices continued to decrease in February, lower than January, last February, and the five-year average. 
    • In Karamoja, despite the ongoing and prolonged lean season, food security has generally improved relative to the same time last year. Atypically low and stable staple food prices and the wide variety of staple foods on the market from Acholi, Lango, Teso, and Bugisu sub-regions have increased financial access to food for poor households. In February, staple food prices were 9 to 29 percent lower month-on-month than in January and trended 30 to 48 percent lower than last February. However, despite the reduced prices, typical livelihood coping strategies are not generating adequate income to meet minimum food and non-food needs for most poor households. As a result, poor households have been engaging in food-based coping strategies, including consuming one meal a day, reducing meal portions and the frequency of eating, and consuming less preferred foods. The forecasted above-average April to September rains are expected to support improved engagement in cultivation and increased agricultural labor demand relative to last year, though access to inputs will likely remain a barrier to planting for some households. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely persist through July. Starting in late July and August, the green and dry harvests are anticipated to support improvement from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in several districts by September.
    • For refugees in settlements, the delayed start to first season cropping activities has reduced the seasonal agricultural labor demand in February and March, limiting income generation for thousands of IDPs. However, according to the 2023 Food Security and Nutrition Assessment in Refugee Settlements data, agricultural labor is the primary source of income for refugees, reported by approximately 30 percent of refugees in settlements. For refugees that are cultivating, limited plot sizes, poor access to agricultural inputs, soil infertility in some settlements, and limited financial capital to hire land in the host community are reportedly negatively affecting first season crop production prospects. Based on findings from a FEWS NET field assessment of the southwest refugee settlements in March, most vulnerable refugee households are already employing negative livelihood coping strategies such as selling productive assets or portions of their allocated plots, engaging children in labor or early child marriage, engaging in physically demanding labor for limited pay, or reducing expenditure on services such as school or medical care to access food. Households will likely continue resorting to food-based coping strategies, such as eating fewer meals, prioritizing children to eat, and borrowing food or money. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist among refugees in settlements through September.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Uganda Key Message Update March 2024: Poor start to March to May rains anticipated to delay some bimodal harvests, 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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