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Food price inflation in Cameroon remained high during the third quarter of 2022. According to available inflation data from the World Bank, food inflation rate in Cameroon stood at 10.0 percent in March 2022, compared to 7.6 percent in December 2021. According to FEWS NET price monitoring, staple food prices across the country have risen by an overall 20 to 35 percent since the Ukraine crisis started, exacerbating a trend of rising food inflation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of August 2022, staple food prices remained higher than last year and significantly above five-year averages. However, prices of wheat flour, pasta, vegetable oil, rice, and frozen fish were stable over the past four weeks, likely due to tighter national price control and ceiling policies. The ongoing harvest in the southern part of the country is driving seasonal price declines for most harvested products due to improved household own-produced crop availability.
Main season harvesting continues in its second month to round up by September across all unimodal and bimodal localities in the country’s southern cropping zone. In general, the seasonal increase in the local food supply, stabilizing food prices, and increasing income from crop sales and harvest labor is leading to improved food security conditions for poor households in these areas of the country. Most poor households in non-conflict affected areas in this zone are expected to engage in normal livelihood activities with near-average access to own-produced food and income and maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes through January 2023.
Access to own-produced beans, potatoes, maize, and vegetables is increasing food availability and boosting incomes from crop sales for poor households across the Northwest and Southwest regions. However, with below-average harvests and incomes amid persisting insecurity, most of these households continue to borrow or rely on help for money to spend on school needs, medication, and clothing and are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least October 2022.
Access to food and income from sales and labor remain significantly low in the Momo and Menchum divisions of the Northwest and in Lebialem, Meme, and Ndian of the Southwest region, where some poor households are facing another successive year of no production or declining harvests, along with the more direct impact of conflict. Despite the harvest underway, most of these poor households, whose essential livelihood assets are depleted, continue to engage in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) negative coping strategies such as selling of assets, debt accumulation, reduction of meal frequencies and portions, and recourse to humanitarian food assistance.
The third and last month of the lean season is underway across the northern zone of the country. Most poor households in this zone have exhausted their limited grain stocks from the previous season and look forward to replenishing from main season harvests that start by the end of September. In divisions affected by Islamic insurgence in the Far North region - Mayo Sava, Mayo Tsanaga, and Logone et Chari, most poor households are unable to meet their basic food needs and are engaging in negative coping strategies such as borrowing food and money to spend on household needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least September 2022 in these divisions, where grain deficits have tripled since 2020 underpinned by widespread insecurity and pest attacks.
Conflict: Following a significant decrease during the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021 and 2020, the number of clashes between government forces and separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions has steadily increased through July, reaching similar levels as those observed in 2021. However, data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) shows that fatalities associated with clashes during this period surpassed those observed from May to July 2021 by 18 percent. The deadliest clashes occurred in Momo, Bui, and Menchum divisions. Recorded incidents of kidnapping, killings, and terrorizing of civilians by government forces and separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions reached similar levels from May to July 2022 as in 2022; however, fatalities associated with incidents of violence nearly doubled in 2022, with June 2022 recording more fatalities than in any single month since early 2020. Most civilian casualties occurred in Kupe-Manenguba, Manyu, Menchum, and Mezam divisions.
In the Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions of the Far North region, where insurgency by the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) persists, attacks on civilians far exceeded those in 2021 when looking at the June to August period. The number of civilian causalities has also exceeded those observed in 2021, with Kolofata accounting for most incidents and for spikes in fatalities. Conflict, insecurity, and intercommunal clashes continue to cause displacements, disrupt livelihoods, restrict trade flows and market functioning, and limit humanitarian access, driving high food security needs among affected populations.
Rainfall performance: The rainy season is ongoing across all unimodal rainfall zones in the northern and southern zones of the country. In the bimodal zones (East, Center, and South regions), the second rainy season is anticipated from September through November. In the unimodal Far North region with Sahelian-type rainfall, the June to August seasonal rainfall has been characterized by irregular and scanty rains, particularly in the month of June. This resulted in below-average vegetation conditions across most of the zone in June. Effective rains starting in the second week of July improved conditions, except in some localities of Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava, where more prolonged rainfall deficits are reported to maintain below-average vegetation conditions. Rainfall deficits recorded in June delayed the planting of main season crops and caused germination failure in fields planted earlier in May. Planting resumed in July after effective rains returned, and crops are currently in their vegetative stage, although there are concerns of poor crop maturity and yield losses due to a shortened growing period, especially in Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Sava, and other areas where planting was significantly delayed.
Crop production: Main season harvesting of maize, beans, cowpea, groundnut, and potatoes continues in its second month across all unimodal and bimodal rainfall areas in the country’s southern cropping zone to round up by September end. Except in the Northwest and Southwest regions where conflict is underway, production is expected to be near the five-year average, with slight declines in cereal harvests anticipated for most poor households. This is due to reduced crop yields resulting from high fertilizer prices and reduced agricultural input support and subsidies from the government and non-governmental organizations. Although no assessments had been done as of the writing of this report, production estimates from the Regional Delegations of Agriculture, along with FEWS NET routine monitoring data, suggest another consecutive below-average season in the Northwest and Southwest regions, where reductions in areas planted persist due to cropland abandonment, the decline in the agricultural workforce, and high costs of fertilizers and improved seeds. Regular no-work days referred to as “ghost town” observed every Mondays and a lockdown in July significantly delayed harvesting and the outflow of products from farm to market in producing areas in the Kupe-Manenguba, Manyu, Bui, Momo, and Menchum divisions. In the country’s northern cropping zone, sorghum maize, millet, and legume crops are undergoing maturity for harvesting to start by the end of September for crops that were planted early in June. Access to agricultural input particularly fertilizers during this season remains low for most poor households and is exacerbated by a decrease in government support and subsidies and household purchases due to record high prices in the local and global market. In insurgent-hit divisions of
the Far North region, that already face significant constraints on their purchasing capacity and where persistent insecurity was already limiting supplies, most poor households are reported to have reduced typical fertilizer doses or no fertilizer at all.
Staple food prices: The Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has increased global food and agricultural input prices, is exacerbating a trend of rising domestic food inflation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. Staple food prices have risen by 20 to 35 percent overall across the country since the start of this crisis, as domestic supplies further dropped due to decreased exports from Russia and Ukraine and increasing demand pressure on Asia, Europe, and the USA. According to available inflation data from the World Bank, food inflation rate in Cameroon stood at 10.0 percent in March 2022. FEWS NET price monitoring data suggest that retail prices of imported staples, including wheat, rice, frozen fish, and vegetable oils, remain significantly above five-year averages, and last year’s averages, underpinned by high shipping costs and global supply chain disruptions, have continued to reduce domestic supplies. In August 2022, the price of wheat flour in Yaoundé and Douala was 40 to 60 percent higher than during the same period last year and has risen by more than 30 percent since the start of the Ukraine war. Imported rice prices in these cities were 10 to 12 percent higher in August 2022 than in the same period last year. The cost of a liter of vegetable oil rose from 1,100 CFA in March to 1,600 CFA in August in all FEWS NET-monitored markets, corresponding to 36 to 50 percent above the pandemic and pre-pandemic averages.
However, price increases for most imported food commodities have eased over the last two months, likely driven by the tightening of government price control measures and the global decline in food prices between June and July 2022 (FAO). The export ban on cereals and vegetable oils implemented in 2021 to cope with domestic shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is still active, although significant smuggling of rice, sorghum, and maize persists across the land borders of Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic. The government has announced plans to suspend tax exemptions on imported rice, fish, and wheat in 2023 to boost local competitiveness and national revenue, as the current tax exemption on wheat and reduced tax rates on rice and fish are costing the state about 49 billion CFA a year. Consumer prices for these products are expected to rise as a result of this move. Domestic fuel prices have remained unchanged since the Ukraine war began, given government subsidies and ceiling policies. However, some areas across the country have been subject to localized and temporary supply shortages driven by disrupted domestic supplies due to oil price surges in the international market.
Meanwhile, markets are currently being supplied with new harvests of beans, maize, potatoes, and groundnuts to a near average level. In some areas in the West, Northwest, and Southwest regions, where extended droughts at the start of the season delayed planting, markets were supplied mainly in August, a month later than usual. A boost in market supplies of newly harvested foods and a decline in effective demand as most households consume own-produced food are driving seasonal price declines for locally produced foods across most surplus-producing areas, although prices remain above the seasonal average. By the second week of August, prices of red beans and dry maize in Douala and Yaoundé had dropped by 21 percent, and 11 percent, respectively, compared to June, while potatoes and cassava sold for an average of 5 to 7 percent lower.
However, in the Northwest and Southwest regions, outflows of newly harvested produce from production basins to Bamenda, Yaoundé, Douala, and destination markets in Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Gabon are currently constrained by an uptick in insecurity. Key informants reveal that in addition to increasing the cost of transportation, producers are required to make payments at multiple checkpoints, including paying taxes levied by non-state armed groups for each product evacuated or sold. Motorbikes are currently the only means of transportation along farm-to-market roads, as trucks no longer reach major producing areas. As such, incomes from crops sales remain significantly below average for most poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions, although similar to last year. In Fundong, Bamenda, and most markets in the Southwest regions, seasonal price declines for newly harvested products were observable only beginning in August, three to four weeks later than usual, as market supplies remain tight.
Cereal prices across most markets in the Far North region were 5 to 10 percent higher in July compared to June. Prices for dry season sorghum increased even more, rising by up to 13 percent during the same period in all divisions of the region. As for legumes and particularly groundnuts, prices were up by nearly 15 percent but stabilized in August following supplies of newly harvested groundnuts from the neighboring Adamawa region. Onion prices increased by 33 percent in July compared to May due to the rainy season, characterized by the product’s scarcity and by inaccessibility in remote production basins where roads have become impassable. Seasonal prices of staple foods in the Far North region remain significantly above the five-year average and moderately above 2021 levels.
Humanitarian food assistance: Since the beginning of 2022, the World Food Program, in collaboration with other international and local partners, has been delivering monthly food assistance to displaced persons and refugees in the form of food baskets comprised of beans, corn-soya blend, high-energy biscuits, iodized salt, rice, sorghum/millet, split peas, and vegetable oils. The monthly food ration covers 50 percent of daily kilocalorie needs, but food security needs remain high for the majority of displaced persons and host households affected by the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions, for more than 50 percent of Central African and Nigerian refugees living in host communities, and for close to 350,000 persons displaced by insurgent groups and intercommunal conflict in the Far North region.
Current food security outcomes: In general, the seasonal increase in the local food supply, stabilizing food prices, and increasing income from crop sales and harvest labor are leading to improved food security conditions for poor households across most the country. Except for parts of the Northwest and Southwest regions and parts of the Far North region, most areas of the country remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) conditions of food security. However, market-dependent poor urban households living in the cities of Yaoundé and Douala are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2), because their typically low purchasing power is being further restricted by increases in already high commodity prices.
Seasonal improvement in food security outcomes is also observed for most poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions, apart from localized divisions, who are currently reducing their dependence on market purchases as the harvest progress. Urban households in these regions are also benefiting from seasonal price declines underway for potatoes, legumes, and fresh maize. However, outcomes remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as significantly reduced incomes from crop and livestock sales and harvest-related casual labor continue to limit purchasing power to non-produced foods and essential non‐food needs. On the other hand, access to food and income from sales and labor remain significantly low in the Momo and Menchum divisions of the Northwest and in Lebialem, Meme, and Ndian of the Southwest region, where some poor households are facing another successive year of no production or declining harvests, along with the more direct impact of conflict. Despite the harvest underway, most of these poor households, whose essential livelihood assets are depleted, continue to engage in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) negative coping strategies such as selling of assets, debt accumulation, reduction of meal frequencies and portions, and recourse to humanitarian food assistance.
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes also persist for poor households affected by insurgence and intercommunal conflict in the Mayo Tsanaga, Mayo Sava, and Logone-et-Chari divisions of the Far North region, who continue to intensify consumption coping strategies such as borrowing and begging to cope with significantly high staple food prices. Below-average incomes from crops and livestock sales continue to further limit their access to imported foods and ability to meet non-food needs during the ongoing lean season. According to FEWS NET’s assessment, grain reserves of most poor households affected by the insurgency are completely or almost completely depleted because production in the last season was estimated to be 25 to 30 percent below the average of pre-crisis years. These households are currently harvesting wild cocoa (Bel Bel) and leaves (tasba, loulou, okok) to close food gaps and have stepped up typical income-earning activities such as fuelwood and charcoal sales and agricultural labor, although incomes from these sources remain limited by the insecurity situation.
The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Cameroon Food Security Outlook from June 2022 to January 2023 remain unchanged except for the following updated assumptions:
- A significant decline in staple food prices is not expected within this scenario period. Despite globally declining food prices reported since June 2022 (FAO) and the current relative easing of staple food price hikes across most markets, domestic food inflation is anticipated to remain high. Despite the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine via the Black Sea, global supplies are likely to remain tight amid high global fuel prices and shipping costs, maintaining the domestic supply of imported staples like rice, wheat, fish, and vegetable oils at below-average levels and seasonal prices above the five-year average.
- Due to the impact of a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war, the country’s macroeconomic conditions are expected to continue deteriorating. While large government fuel subsidies have limited the impact of fuel price increases on the local population, concerns remain about the government’s ability to sustain these subsidies in the medium to long term, given that two years of COVID-19 have already considerably affected the government budget. Economic experts estimate that government fuel subsidies by the end of 2022 are likely to be double the amount initially approved by the collective budget, with likely negative implications on other public expenditures, including import tariffs and other taxes/subsidies on food and non-food essential commodities.
- The provision of emergency food assistance is expected to continue at current levels through the end of 2022, although a revision in the minimum expenditure basket (MEB) for food and non-food commodities has been announced by the WFP to cope with the rising prices of food staples. Access to assistance is expected to remain constrained in areas where conflict and insecurity result in frequent road blockages and ghost days.
PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes are anticipated through January 2023 for most poor households in non-conflict areas in the southern zone as they are expected to engage in normal livelihood activities with near-average access to own-produced food and income. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to persist for those living in Yaoundé and Douala, who are primarily market-dependent and have low purchasing power amid high food prices. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes that emerged in July for most poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions are expected to persist until October as households consume their own-produced food. A seasonal increase in crop sales will also improve incomes, although anticipated below-average incomes will continue to limit access to imported foods and other essential needs like education, clothing, and medical care.
However, the food consumption of most households in the Northwest and Southwest regions will likely start deteriorating as their limited harvests from the last season are anticipated to begin to run out, and doing so, earlier than normal. More and more poor households are expected to start buying most of their basic grains, which with a low purchasing power and high food prices is expected to product Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes beginning November until January 2023. For the relatively more insecure and inaccessible Momo and Menchum divisions in the Northwest and for Lebialem, Meme, and Ndian divisions in the Southwest, where households have been most affected by the ongoing conflict and where production declines are estimated to be more significant, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated until January 2023.
Poor households affected by insurgence in the Far North regions will benefit from green harvests in September and begin recovery from a severe lean season. As a result, improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions are expected only from October, when dry harvests should improve the local food supply and stabilize food prices. Income from the sale of newly harvested agricultural products will enhance access to market purchases of other foods but will be lower than usual and insufficient to repay debt accrued by most poor households trying to cope with income gaps.
FEWS NET: Cameroon Food Security Outlook Update: Unfavorable production prospects and high food prices to maintain high needs in conflict-affected areas, August 2022.
Source: FEWS NET
Source: FEWS NET based on data from DRADER Littoral and Centre
Source: FEWS NET based on data from DRADER Littoral and Centre
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.