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Atypical increases in staple food prices in several markets in the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Burkina Faso
  • December 2021
Atypical increases in staple food prices in several markets in the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In the far north, and particularly in the hard-to-reach areas of Oudalan Province, the loss of food produced for personal consumption and of assets, as well as the atypical increase in staple food prices, pushes poor internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host households to increasingly resort to negative coping strategies such as begging, consuming only one meal, and decreasing portion sizes and consumption for adults. Visible signs of malnutrition are mainly observed among IDPs facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. 

    • Since the end of the rainy season, the country has been experiencing significantly more attacks by militant groups than in previous months and the same period in 2020. These attacks continue to increase internal population displacement and there are growing numbers of IDPs in the provincial capitals of Yatenga, Loroum (Nord region), Séno, Soum and Oudalan (Sahel region) and in all provinces of the Centre-Nord region. At the national level, the number of IDPs, which reached 1.48 million at the end of October (Permanent Secretariat of the Burkinabe Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (SP/CONASUR)), could increase again in November and December. 

    • In November, basic cereal prices generally remain above their levels of last year and the five-year average due to supply difficulties, decreases in production, pressure from traders to gather crops, and early household purchases. Prices have almost doubled locally for millet and sorghum in Loroum, Yatenga, Soum, Oudalan, Yagha, and Komondjari provinces, worsening the terms of livestock and cereal trade.


    Since the end of the 2021 rainy season in mid-October, the country has been experiencing a significant increase in attacks by militant groups, both compared with previous months and, more drastically, compared with the same period in 2020. At least 199 attacks were reported between October and November 2021, an increase of more than 265 percent compared with the same period in 2020. After the highest number of conflict-related deaths nationwide during the attack between Gorgadji and Arbinda in August, deaths also continued to rise, with 460 people dying in October and November (according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) fatality data).

    Attacks have also become more frequent and intense in the southwestern and southeastern regions of the country, where militant groups are attempting to extend their control over the Burkina Faso–Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso–Togo borders and the associated smuggling routes.

    Attacks and threats from jihadist groups have forced people to abandon their homes for safer locations, particularly urban centers. Between September and December, cases of abandonment were noted in the communes of Déou (in Oudalan), Ouindigui and Titao (in Loroum), Thiou (in Yatenga), and Dablo (in Sanmatenga), resulting in a significant increase in the number of IDPs in the provincial capitals of Yatenga, Loroum (Nord region), Séno, Soum and Oudalan (Sahel region), and in all provinces of the Centre-Nord region. At the national level, the cumulative number of IDPs reached more than 1.48 million at the end of October (SP/CONASUR), an increase of about 5 percent compared with the previous month.

    The availability of agricultural products remains below normal and market supply is slow. Due to production decreases, small-scale producers do not have enough to sell. Large-scale producers with surpluses below the average are cautious about selling their products. The supply of local cereals in the markets is atypically dominated by maize, which accounts for 80 percent of the supply. Demand is atypically high. IDPs, whose numbers continue to grow, are more dependent on markets. The assessment conducted in October by SP/CONASUR indicates that market purchases are the main source of food for nearly 76 percent of IDPs.

    Therefore, instead of a seasonal decline, basic cereal prices in November generally remain above those of the same period during the previous year: 36 percent for maize, 20 percent for millet and 32 percent for sorghum. Compared to the five-year average, prices are up 42 percent for maize, 31 percent for sorghum, and 27 percent for millet. Millet prices almost doubled in the markets at Haaba, Titao, Pouytenga, Solenzo and Sebba, as did sorghum prices in the markets at Sankaryaré (Ouagadougou), Ouahigouya, Haaba, Yalgo, and Bobo-Dioulasso. In the far north in particular, the majority of households were unable to cultivate this season due to displacement and the deteriorating security situation. The minority that did cultivate suffered significant crop losses due to irregular and inadequate rainfall and damage from grain-eating birds. At the Déou market (Oudalan Province), basic cereal prices more than doubled in December compared with last year due to market supply difficulties.

    At the major livestock markets, the ongoing increase in demand due to end-of-year-festivities is keeping livestock prices above last year's levels. Prices for rams are stable at the Djibo market, but up 40 percent at the Dori market. Prices for goats are up 13 percent in Djibo and 23 percent in Dori. For bulls, prices are up 14 percent in Dori, but down 9 percent in Djibo. However, at the secondary markets, which are less frequented by buyers, supply exceeds demand, resulting in lower prices. At the markets in Sebba (Yagha Province) and Markoye (Oudalan Province), small ruminant prices are down between 20 and 40 percent compared with the same period last year.

    Overall, in both the major and secondary markets, the terms of trade for goat/millet or goat/sorghum declined by 20 to 45 percent relative to the average, mainly due to higher prices for basic cereals. As a result of previous looting and destocking, households (especially IDPs) have depleted their livestock assets. Fearing that commodity prices will be volatile over the coming months, those who still have some livestock are forced to destock to procure grain supplies early.

    In the more peaceful areas in the south and west, the majority of households have at least two meals a day from their own production and face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. The end of assistance programs for the lean season and difficulties in humanitarian access have contributed to a reduction in humanitarian assistance. Apart from the provinces of Soum and Sanmatenga, where assistance in October was expected to reach 30 and 24 percent of the population respectively, assistance in the other provinces was low. Consolidated data are not yet available for November and December, but coverage levels are expected to be similar. Thanks to this assistance, these two provinces are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). In contrast, in the far north, particularly in the hard-to-reach communes of Oudalan, food assistance, the market and begging are the main sources of food for IDPs. Host households rely on market purchases and partly on food produced for their own consumption, as stocks will only cover their needs for two months. IDPs and host households are therefore involved in gold mining and sell wood and fodder. However, the proportion of host households selling more livestock than usual increased by about 50 percent. Meanwhile, IDPs are more likely to be involved in selling water (about 15 percent) and begging (about 30 percent), and are more reliant on cash transfers from humanitarian actors (about 30 percent). With low incomes and rising food prices, IDPs and host households have access to one meal per day. In addition, they reduce their portions and adults are forced to limit their consumption so that children can eat. According to key informants, signs of malnutrition are visible in approximately 10–15 percent of IDPs; however, malnutrition-related deaths are low. IDPs in the communes of Markoye, Tin-Akoff, Oursi and Déou, which account for 24 percent of the province's population, continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. It is also likely less than 20 percent of the population in other communes where poor IDPs and host households lack access to basic social services will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity. This is the case in the communes of Mansila (Yagha Province), Arbinda, Kelbo and Tongomayel (Soum Province) and Gorgadji (Séno Province).


    The changing national context has not fundamentally changed FEWS NET's assumptions for the most-likely food security scenario from October 2021 to May 2022, except for the following updated assumptions:

    • On the security front, attacks by militant groups perpetrated against civilians and the military are expected to continue to increase until May 2022, coinciding with the prime gold-mining season — often a source of income for these groups. Attacks will likely exceed the levels observed during the same period in 2020–2021 and occur primarily in the Est, Nord, Centre-Nord, and Sahel regions. In addition to this seasonal increase in violence, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) forces are likely to increase violence perpetrated against civilians and government forces in the northern and eastern regions of the country. It is also likely that with jihadists' increasing access to smuggling routes in the south, similar trends will be observed in the Cascades, Haut-Bassins and Sud-Ouest regions, as well as in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
    • The following factors will put pressure on the markets and cause prices to increase above their seasonal averages: competition for replenishing trader stocks, institutional procurement for the humanitarian response intended to mitigate declining production, IDPs' dependence on the market, early depletion of households' own production, and the impacts on domestic prices of rising prices at the global level. Locally, it is likely that difficulties in humanitarian access and supply due to insecurity will increase pressure and cause atypical price increases.


    In the more peaceful areas in the south and west, the lean season will begin early in April/May, as opposed to June as usual, and the below-average seasonal price level will limit access to food. Nevertheless, until May, it is expected that at least 80 percent of poor households will continue to have typical consumption through the sale of poultry and small ruminants at above-average prices, and also through income from gold mining, market gardening, selling charcoal or firewood, and labor for field preparation. Food insecurity in these areas is therefore expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until May 2022.

    In the northern half of the country, stocks from households' own production may be depleted early between January and February. Host households and IDPs will likely be heavily dependent on markets and assistance from March. It is likely that high food prices and low incomes will worsen their food access and that they will increasingly be forced to turn to unusual food restriction strategies, begging, and consuming wild foods. In provinces with a high presence of IDPs — all provinces of the Centre-Nord region, the provinces of Yagha, Soum, and Séno (Sahel region), Loroum and Yatenga (Nord region), and Komondjari and Gourma (Est region) — IDPs and poor host households will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes between February and May 2022.

    With the deteriorating security situation limiting humanitarian assistance, the depletion of self-production and the atypical rise in staple food prices, animal destocking will likely continue, particularly in the hard-to-reach communes of Oudalan Province. In these areas, food restriction practices and the use of begging or forced migration may intensify between February and May, keeping IDPs and host households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). 


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: ACLED data

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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