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Food price inflation will continue to drive high needs across the country

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Cameroon
  • June 2022 - January 2023
Food price inflation will continue to drive high needs across the country

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Key Messages
    • Cameroon’s economic outlook for 2022 is positive afterundergoing economic improvements from 2021 as the country gradually recovered from the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 in 2020. However, the Russia-Ukraine war presents a setback to this recovery by further increasing already high global commodity and energy prices. Overall, food prices across the country have atypically risen since 2020 (Figure 1) and were well above the five-year average in June 2022.

    • Poor households in the Far North, Northwest, and Southwestregions are already vulnerable to price increases amid the shockof conflict and insecurity. The additional rise in prices of food andnon-food essentials is further decreasing the purchasing power ofthese households, most of which currently depend on marketpurchases for food. These conditions, coupled with below-averageincomes, are producing significant food consumption deficits andare compelling most poor households to increase copingstrategies to Crisis levels and severity (IPC Phase 3).


    • Outcomes for most poor households across the country areexpected to improve as they consume own-production and earn
      income from crop sales and farm labor starting in July. Atypical high prices, low incomes from crop and livestock sales, and reduced labor opportunities will likely continue to limit access to food and non-food needs for poor households in the Northwest and Southwest regions producing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes from July through October. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to re-emerge from November 2022 for the entire Northwest and Southwest regions as households’ food stocks deplete, and market dependence increases amidst projected above-average staple prices and low income. For Logone et Chari, Mayo Sava, and Mayo Tsanaga divisions affected by insurgency, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area-level will likely emerge in October 2022 and persist through to January 2023.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    The current period corresponds to the pre-harvest season for the main crops in the southern zone of the country. This period also marks the start of the agricultural lean season in the northern zone spanning from June to August. Key drivers of current acute food insecurity across the country include the socio-political crisis in the Northwest and Southwest regions, Islamist insurgency, and resource-based communal clashes in the Far North region. The presence of over 340,000 Central African refugees in the East and Adamawa regions is exerting enormous pressure on the natural resources of host communities, with severe socioeconomic impact. The impact of these factors is exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, both locally and globally.

    Conflict and insecurity: The Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Sava, and Mayo-Tsanaga divisions of the Far North region have faced frequent terrorist attacks from the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) over the last eight years. Terrorist activities in April 2022 included the killing of two civilians in Dulong Touro village, Mayo Tsanaga division, and the abduction of at least 14 people in Bargaram village, in the Logone-et-Chari division. In the Logone Birni district of the Logone et Chari division, resource-based clashes between Arab herders and Mousgoum fishermen in 2021 internally displaced over 36,000 persons within the Far North region (OCHA) and 43,000 to Chad (UNHCR).

    The conflict between government forces and separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions continues after close to six years of fighting. However, according to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the number of attacks was significantly lower in the first quarter of 2022 than in the same period in 2021 and 2020. The decline in the number of incidences is associated with the concentration of State forces in the urban areas where matches of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) took place. Recent attacks have targeted teachers, school children, political opponents, and humanitarian workers.

    Covid-19 impact: Over the last four months, Cameroon has observed a sustained period of decreasing cases of COVID-19, low active cases per capita, and an improved country status based on the World Health Organization (WHO) classification. During May, 167 daily new cases were reported, compared to 4,447 cases in January 2022. Though, less than 10 percent of the total population have received complete vaccine doses. Government-imposed COVID-19-related restrictions remain largely unchanged. Restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 persons are still in place, including social distancing, and compulsory wearing of face masks in public places. Land, air, and sea borders remain closed to international travel, although freight transport via land and sea routes is subject to increased screening. Commercial activities are gradually increasing with a full or partial resumption of most hotels, markets, restaurants, and bars, positively impacting casual wage labor opportunities. However, prices of imported and processed foods remain 20 to 30 percent above pre-pandemic levels due to pandemic-related global supply disruptions and high shipping costs.

    Russia-Ukraine war impact: More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall reduced export from Russia and Ukraine, and a shift in demand to Asia, Europe, and the USA because of the war and sanctions, are putting additional upward pressure on global prices of commodities. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INS), Russia supplies 46 percent of Cameroon’s wheat supplies and 43 percent of its mineral fertilizers supplies. In contrast, Ukraine supplies 35 percent of iron and steel products to Cameroon annually. Cameroon is also structurally reliant on imported rice, frozen fish, and other processed foods. Disruptions in domestic supplies are pushing up consumer prices. Over the last three months, the prices of wheat and mineral fertilizers have continuously increased in most markets across the country, closely mirroring pandemic and pre-pandemic levels. The cost of a kilogram of wheat flour in FEWS NET monitored markets in Douala and Yaoundé rose from 500 FCFA in February to 600 FCFA in May, increasing respectively by 44 and 69 percent above pandemic and pre-pandemic averages. Prices of Urea and composite NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) fertilizers in most markets have doubled those recorded in 2021 and are almost three times higher than average.

    Rainfall: The 2022 agropastoral season in the southern zone of the country was characterized by a timely onset of rains in March. While rainfall was sporadic between March and April, near average rainfall in May supported the recovery and normal development of maize, beans, potatoes, and legume crops planted in March and April. Rainfall in May also allowed planting to resume in localities where erratic rains delayed planting. Much of the southern part of the country continued to receive its seasonal rains in June. In contrast, widespread light rains that have dominated the northern part of the country since May are delaying main season planting that typically starts in June. Fields that were sown earlier in May in Mokolo, Kaele, and Mora districts are now dry.

    Cropping production: Green harvesting of beans, fresh maize, and potatoes has started across most parts of the southern zone. Price data collected by FEWS NET from monitored markets across the country showed a sharp rise in prices of major fertilizers during the second quarter of 2022. Current prices are double that of 2021 and more than double compared to average. These further reduce government and partner support/subsidy amounts available to farmers and lowers purchasing power. In addition to high input cost, cropland abandonment, a decline in the agricultural workforce, and a reduced number of farm days have caused a decline in crop areas (30 percent below average) across insecure areas in the Northwest, Southwest, and Far North regions.

    Livestock production: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (eVIIRS NDVI) images of the second dekad of June 2022 produced by FEWS NET's science partners (USGS, NOAA, and UCSB CHC) showed dense vegetation conditions (NDVI=0.8 to 0.9) across most of the southern zone of the country driven by two months of average cumulative rainfall. In the northern zone, NDVI figures range from 0.2 to 0.3. Pasture available for livestock has significantly improved, resulting in better livestock body conditions. However, the reduced trade flows of small and large ruminants to neighboring Gabon, Nigeria, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea due to persistent border restrictions and high transportation costs maintains below-average seasonal prices for pastoral households. In insecure areas where less than half of livestock markets are not functioning at typical levels and access to grazing resources is restricted, pastoralists continue selling their livestock at below-average prices, amid declining herd numbers. No major incidence of resource-based intercommunal clashes has been reported since the beginning of 2022.

    Market supplies and prices: High global commodity prices and shipping costs are maintaining the prices of imported and processed products such as rice, frozen fish, wheat flour, and vegetable oil 25 to 60 percent above average following two years of continuous increase. Supply disruptions caused by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has pushed up prices additionally by 15 to 30 percent. According to the INS, Cameroon's food inflation rate has been increasing since 2017 and stood at 4.3 percent in 2021 (Figure 1). The overall inflation rate in the first quarter of 2022 was 2.9 percent compared to 2.3 percent in 2021. While the upward pressure on the staple prices reported between March and April eased in several markets in June following price control measures taken recently by the government, prices remained significantly above pandemic levels and five-year averages. However, official pump prices of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene, and the price of domestic gas across the country have remained largely unchanged over the last three months. As of mid-June, these products were available in sufficient quantities in filling stations across the country. The Government continues to subsidies close to 50 percent of fuel prices.

    Prices of locally produced staples are generally increasing compared to previous months, in line with typical lean season patterns, but overall slightly above 2021 levels as a result of rising prices of imported substitutes like rice and wheat products. Poor households in the Far North, Northwest, and Southwest regions are already vulnerable to price increases amid the shock of conflict and insecurity and the additional rise in prices is further decreasing their purchasing power. Data collected by FEWS NET suggests that above-average prices of local parboil rice, legumes, and tubers have remained relatively stable between April and June though overall slightly higher than the same period last year. Overall, prices remain above the five-year average in markets in the Northwest and Southwest regions but have been increasing more gradually since 2021, with temporary sharp increases before or during extended insecurity lockdowns. In the Far North region, prices of coarse cereals and legumes remain significantly above 2020 levels due mainly to increased demand pressure from Nigeria, where production has been consistently below average.

    Labor wages: Seasonally high and average agricultural labor availability is improving incomes for poor households across the country. However, reduced total area planted and the malfunctioning of major agro-industries are maintaining low incomes in crisis areas. Farm labor wages have been generally stable over the past year across most cropping regions but remain slightly lower than average in insecure areas despite a reduced labor force. Data collected by FEWS NET show a slight increase in wages in the urban towns of Yaoundé and Douala over the last two months associated with slightly reduced supply as laborers migrate to rural areas to participate in farming activities. In April, the purchasing power for laborers in Douala as measured in terms of trade (TOT) between labor wage and imported rice, improved significantly compared to 2020/2021 but was below average (Figure 2). However, changes relative to the five-year average are driven mainly by significantly increased prices of rice over an increase in casual labor rates.

    Humanitarian assistance: Beginning 2022, monthly in-kind, cash/voucher, and livelihood support delivered by the World Food Program and partners have been important sources of food and income for persons affected by the Crisis in the Northwest, Southwest, and the Far North region and for CAR refugees across the country. The NWSW Food Security Cluster reported that 7 percent of persons (326,805) in the NWSW regions received assistance in the form of food (80 percent), cash (16 percent), and agriculture and livelihood support (4 percent) in February. However, due to funding shortfalls, only 1 percent of persons in these regions was reached in March. The Minawao refugee camp that hosts Nigerian refugees received close to 100 percent coverage. Food ration sizes cover about 50 percent of daily kcal needs while cash distribution covers 31 to 55 percent. The WFP's March 2022 Country brief indicated that 123 MT of food was distributed to 23,195 school children under its school feeding program. However, the majority of IDPs and refugees living in make-shift accommodations and host communities are in urgent need of food assistance. Funding shortfalls, abduction of humanitarian workers, seizure of food items, and impassable rural roads have been significant constraints to reaching persons in need in worst-off areas during the first half of 2022.

    Current food security outcomes: Overall, atypically high seasonal prices of basic food and non-food commodities associated with the Russia-Ukraine war further weakened the purchasing power of poor households already made low by COVID-19-related price increases since early 2020. While Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcome persists in areas of the country where average seasonal income levels still allow for near-normal market purchases, food access is restricted for the urban poor, that in addition to being mostly currently market-dependent, have below-average incomes from casual labor opportunities. Therefore, most poor households living within the urban centers of Yaoundé and Douala most affected by price increases and who are not receiving humanitarian food assistance are facing food consumption gaps. Cameroon is prioritizing grain purchases over medical, school, and clothing needs, or are engaging in coping strategies like reducing meal portions and meal frequency, indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    Grain stocks of most conflict-affected households have run out three to five months earlier than usual. As such, market purchases are the primary source of food. However, the current capacity of poor households to access food from the market is lower than at the same time last year and pre-conflict averages. Incomes from crop sales are seasonally lowest and incomes from livestock sales, labor, and coping strategies like sales of charcoal/firewood, stone cracking, and hawking are insufficient to keep up with the rising prices of basic food and non-food commodities. Insecurity and COVID-19 restrictions continue to limit income-earning opportunities, and most poor households are using their minimal earnings to repay accrued debts. Poor households in conflict NW and SW regions and insurgency-hit Mayo Sava, Mayo Tsanaga, and Logone et Chari divisions who are worst affected by recent price increases continue to face significantly declining purchasing power, with a large share of households currently facing deteriorating food consumption and engaging in coping strategies like begging and borrowing, that are indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    The situation of global acute malnutrition in children aged 6 to 59 months remains precarious in the Far North and North regions with a prevalence of 5.9 and 4.8 percent, respectively as reported in the February 2021 SMART-SENS nutritional survey. This survey showed emergency rates of acute malnutrition among Central African refugees on and off-site (12.5 percent). The cholera situation remains critical as the WHO reported 6,652 cholera cases, with 134 deaths between October 29, 2021, and April 30, 2022. Cholera has spread to six out of ten regions of the country (Southwest, South, Centre, Far North, Littoral, North). The Southwest is the most affected region with 70 percent of the reported cases. The vaccination campaign against the cholera outbreak started in April. The ongoing response is constrained by insecurity and poor road infrastructure, increasing the risk of worsening food insecurity amongst affected households in conflict regions.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for June 2022 to January 2023 period is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • A timely start of the second rainy season in mid-September is expected in bimodal rainfall regions of the Center, East, and South, with an anticipated above-average cumulative rainfall based on forecasts provided by FEWS NET's science partners at USGS, NOAA, and UCSB CHC. In the North, the June to August rainfall is projected to be above average.
    • Concerns are high that a prolonged Russia-Ukraine war will drive Cameroon's economy sown. Before the war, the national growth was projected to 4.0 percent in 2022/23 (IMF) from 3.6 percent in 2021, conditioned by a rebound from the COVID-19 impacts. These projections are held back as the war adds another shock to Cameroon's macroeconomy alongside the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial deficits, insecurity, and conflict in the Far North, Northwest, and Southwest regions.
    • From July to September 2022, clashes between government forces and separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions will likely evolve at levels similar to 2021. However, the end of the rainy season in October 2022 will likely allow separatist and Cameroonian forces to mobilize and significantly increase their troop presence, with a likely escalation in clashes.
    • Attacks perpetrated by the ISWAP in the Far North region are likely to remain at current levels or decrease further with the start of the rainy season in mid-May when poor road access is expected to subdue military mobilizations until the end of the rainy season in September.
    • The signing of the Yaoundé Declaration on refugee management by member states in April 2022 will likely improve the management of Central African (CAR) refugees in Cameroon. According to government officials and the UNCHR, about 2,500 persons have been scheduled for repatriation in the second semester of 2022. However, during the scenario period level of violence and humanitarian access is likely to worsen in the north-western and western prefectures (Ouham-Pende and Member-Kadei) of the CAR, as groups such as the 3R (Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation) have increasingly resorted to the use of roadside bombs since April 2021.
    • Security and COVID-19-related border restrictions will continue to constraint small-scale cross-border trade and transhumance across the country, maintaining poor household incomes below average. Restrictions on gatherings, social distancing, and the fear of contamination will continue to limit the daily incomes of poor urban households despite a gradual recovery in the business environment.
    • Cameroon's wheat, fertilizer, iron, and steel supplies are expected to be most adversely affected by supply disruptions from Russia and Ukraine. Driven by Cameroon’s structural reliance on global supplies for these commodities, globally increasing prices are likely to reduce total imports to lower than 2021 levels resulting in insufficient domestic supply. Reduced domestic supplies of these commodities will further drive up already high prices because of the pandemic-related supply chain disruptions over the past two years.
    • While the government and its partners are likely to respond to the anticipated decline in fertilizer supplies by increasing subsidies mirroring their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, support and subsidies are likely to remain insufficient to meet seasonal needs. Fertilizer purchases by poor households will be significantly constrained by soaring prices, resulting in reduced doses or non-use of fertilizer with additional negative implications on crop yields and production.
    • Seasonal supplies of locally produced cereals are expected to increase starting July when new harvests from the 2022 main season enter the market, stabilizing prices. Anticipated below-average seasonal supplies in the insecure Northwest, Southwest, and Far North regions will maintain prices of most staples above average throughout the scenario period.
    • Sales of newly harvested crops and incomes from harvest labor are expected to drive-up incomes of poor households to seasonally average levels starting in July. Earnings will likely increase due to ongoing inflationist tendencies. In conflict areas, crop sales and availability of agricultural labor are expected to remain below average and maintain incomes low and similar to 2020 levels. Most earnings by poor households from these regions will likely go to repay outstanding debts. The anticipated reduction of livestock export to Nigerian markets due to the depreciating value of the Naira, and to CEMAC countries due to border restrictions will keep seasonal local supplies above average and maintain below-average prices and pastoral incomes.
    • Prices of imported staples like rice, wheat, fish, and vegetable oils will continue to rise and stay above their five-year average across the nation due to supply constraints and increasing shipping costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. This upward trend in prices will likely be worsened by increased demand during end-of-year activities.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Poor macroeconomic conditions, conflict and insecurity, and the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to continue to limit food and income access for poor households throughout the projected period. Rising prices of basic food and non-food items will drive further declines in household purchasing power, causing many poor households to exhaust their savings or assets. Poor households affected by conflict/insecurity and those living in urban areas will remain most affected due to their dependence on market purchases for basic food.

    Access to food is expected to improve across the southern part of the country from July when own-produce are expected to increase household food availability throughout the scenario period. Near-average incomes from crop sales and labor will enhance the purchasing power of most poor households for other foods and non-food needs despite high prices and maintain the majority in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security throughout the scenario period. Poor households living in the cities of Yaoundé and Douala, most of whom typically buy most of their food, will benefit from improved market supplies and prices of locally produced staples, but access to imported foods and essential non-food items will remain constrained by pandemic-affected incomes and rising prices, and therefore maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    Food and income gaps are likely to persist amongst conflict-affected households after July as lower than usual earnings from crop sales and labor continue limiting access to imported staples and basic non-food needs like medication, school, and clothing. Therefore, outcomes are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for relatively more accessible divisions of the Northwest and Southwest regions starting July through to October. On the other hand, due to significantly low harvests in the worst-off and relatively less accessible Menchum, Momo, Lebialem, Meme, and Ndian divisions, these households in their majority are expected to continue depending on market purchases and humanitarian assistance for basic grains. With rising staple food prices and low incomes, poor households will maintain low food access and severe coping strategies like borrowing, reduction in meal portions and frequencies, and will rely on gifts from relatives. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will persist in these divisions throughout the projected period and emerge for the entire Northwest and the Southwest regions later in November when food consumption is likely to deteriorate as stocks run out prematurely further.

    Between the lean season months of July and August, outcomes are expected to deteriorate amongst poor households in the northern zone as stocks are expected to be the lowest. A reduction in wage labor and crop and livestock/fish sales are expected to maintain incomes below average in insurgent-hit Logone et Chari, Mayo Sava, and Mayo Tsanaga divisions despite ongoing cash/voucher distributions and ongoing coping strategies like begging and borrowing. A combination of low incomes, low grain stocks, and significantly rising prices will further prevent poor households from accessing basic food and non-food items, resulting in food deficits during the peak lean season (July to August). Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist for these divisions. Following the start of harvests in September, poor households will be able to restock on dry cereals (sorghum, maize, and millet) while income from crop sales and harvest labor will improve purchasing power and improve outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) starting October through to January 2023.

    EVENTS THAT MIGHT CHANGE THE OUTLOOK

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario. 

    AreaEvent

    Impact on food security outcomes

    National

    Up-scaling of humanitarian food assistance to more than 25% of the population

    Improved food access for many poor households in affected areas. Reduced food gaps and more use of less severe coping strategies. Outcomes are likely to improve in the worst affected areas.

     

    The resurgence of COVID-19 with another variant

    Reduced access to livelihood activities and incomes because the government may implement measures that are more restrictive than current ones (closure of aerial, naval, and land borders; social distancing measures; restrictions on gatherings) and that will in turn intensify the pandemic’s negative effect on the urban economy and livelihoods of poor households

     

    Prolongment of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis

    Food prices would likely rise further due to a further decline in food imports, reducing food availability and further pushing up prices across the country. This will increase in persons facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worst outcomes.

     

    Figures Image of seasonal calendar in the Far North

    Figure 1

    CALENDRIER SAISONNIER POUR UNE ANNÉE TYPIQUE (EXTRÊME NORD)

    Source: FEWS NET

    Line graph showing evolution of the inflation rate and food inflation from 2017 to 2021 in Cameroon

    Figure 2

    Évolution du taux d’inflation et de l’inflation des denrées alimentaires de 2017 à 2021 au Cameroun

    Source: FEWS NET

    Bar graph showing terms of trade for labor wage/imported rice in Douala.

    Figure 3

    Termes de l’échange entre les salaires de la main-d’œuvre et le riz importé à Douala

    Source: Calculations based on data collected by DRADER, Littoral (calculs basés sur les…

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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