Skip to main content

Crop production shortfalls likely in bimodal Uganda following severe dryness

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • May 2024
Crop production shortfalls likely in bimodal Uganda following severe dryness

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal Uganda, northwestern areas, representing nearly half of the country, have suffered a meteorological drought characterized by considerably below-average March to May (MAM) rainfall. According to CHIRPS data, the West Nile subregion is worst affected, facing one of the driest MAM seasons on record (since 1981), followed by Lango and Acholi subregions. Extended dry spells and cumulative seasonal precipitation deficits of up to 100 to 200 millimeters (mm) compared to the long-term average (1981-2020) have resulted in moisture stress and the wilting and drying of crops in the worst-affected areas. The atypically early cessation of rainfall during the vegetative to reproductive stages (45 to 75 percent developmental stage) for crops is expected to result in poor grain filling and reduce the yield of cereals and legumes. While the June to August dry season rainfall forecast indicates chances for above-average rainfall, it is unlikely to reverse the crop damage already inflicted by the poor March to May rainfall. 
    • Additionally, according to the Uganda Red Cross (URCS), approximately 39,190 people in 14 districts were affected by flooding in May, and the rising levels of Lake Victoria and Kyoga have caused localized displacement. Heavy rains between January and April also caused flooding and land/mudslides around the Elgon and Rwenzori Mountains, displacing 37,866 people according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM); some fatalities and destruction of physical infrastructure including roads, health centers, and schools have also been reported. Given the localized nature of the flooding events, impacts on crop production and food availability are not anticipated to be widespread. 
    • National first season cereal and legume production is expected to be below average but similar to last year, with the most significant shortfalls anticipated in parts of western and northern Uganda. The rainfall deficits and erratic spatial and temporal distribution of rains, in combination with the early season delays in planting across parts of the north, are anticipated to result in below-normal household income from agricultural labor availability and crop sales. It will also likely limit typical seasonal access to food stocks in May and June. Additionally, the limited seasonal increase in food availability and market supply is anticipated to elevate staple food prices in some of the worst-affected areas. In parts of the north and west, the impacts of the below-average crop production are expected to result in at least 20 percent of the population facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes from June through September.
    • As the lean season progresses in Karamoja, seasonal agricultural labor opportunities and the availability of wild vegetables due to the cumulative above-average rainfall are supporting some access to food and income. However, frequent dry spells in May resulted in moisture stress among newly germinated and early vegetative stage crops.  CHIRPS rainfall data and GEFS forecasts, cumulative April to June rainfall is expected to be above average. When combined with improved relative security and agricultural land access in the wet belts, near-normal cereal production is expected in July/August, better overall than the previous two to three consecutive seasons. However, areas impacted by floods and water logging earlier in the season are likely to have reduced area planted and reduced production. In May, poor households remain extremely vulnerable with limited household and productive assets and high competition for the few income opportunities available. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated to persist through at least July/August when the green harvest will end the lean season, improving some areas to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 
    • Staple food prices mostly remain below 2023 and the five-year average levels in key reference markets in bimodal areas due to domestic carryover stocks, reduced cross-border demand, and high regional supply from Tanzania. Based on the latest price data from Farmgain, retail prices of beans and maize grain increased 6 to 27 percent between March and April but remained 8 to 20 percent lower than in 2023. Prices of cassava chips and sorghum not only declined by 5 to 40 percent but were also 24 to 68 percent below 2023 and the five-year average across reference markets. In Karamoja, sorghum price trends are mixed between March and April: prices are trending 40 to 47 percent and 13 to 29 percent below 2023 and five-year average levels, respectively, across monitored markets, improving household purchasing power. In June/July, despite the anticipated below-average bimodal harvest, domestic staple food prices are still expected to seasonally reduce slightly through at least September.
    • The influx of refugees into Uganda from January to mid-May 2024 (54,196) is outpacing the rate of new arrivals last year (99,059 total in 2023). Notably, over 20,428 refugees have arrived from Sudan since the start of the year. Most new arrivals lack assets or resources and are heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance for food and basic services, straining available resources in the receiving settlements. The majority of existing refugees continue to rely on income-earning activities with limited earning potential, such as casual labor, petty trade, and the sale of natural resource products. Cases of crime and prostitution have reportedly continued to increase in refugee settlements as households struggle to meet their basic needs. According to Key Informants, most refugee households are reducing expenditure on non-food items such as school fees/materials and medical care to increase expenditure on food. WFP rations are inadequate to meet the minimum food needs of the refugee population as refugees continue to rely on food-based coping strategies such as eating fewer meals, prioritizing children and the elderly to eat first, and borrowing food/money. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are expected to persist through September.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Uganda Key Message Update May 2024: Crop production shortfalls likely in bimodal Uganda following severe dryness, 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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top