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Rising prices reduce access to food and essential non-food supplies for poor households

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Cameroon
  • October 2022 - May 2023
Rising prices reduce access to food and essential non-food supplies for poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Inflationary pressures on food products have intensified in Cameroon since the start of the Ukraine war. According to the National Institute of Statistics, Cameroon had a general inflation rate of 6.61 percent in August 2022, which is above the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) zone inflation threshold of 3 percent. Compared to the same month in 2021, general inflation in August 2022 increased by 7.4 percent in Yaoundé and 6.6 percent in Douala, driven by a 14.5 to 14.9 percent increase in food prices, in particular oils and fats, bread and cereals, and meats. During this period, prices of locally produced food products in these cities also rose by 13.3 to 14.4 percent.

    • FEWS NET’s routine monitoring has reported Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and worse outcomes among primarily market-dependent urban poor households, particularly those in Yaoundé and Douala. Although still recovering from pandemic-related income setbacks, they are now either cutting back on the number of meals they eat, exhausting their previous savings, or accruing debt to survive high food prices.

    • In the Northwest and Southwest regions, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) area-level outcomes are anticipated from November 2022 to May 2023, as increased market reliance and rising staple food prices exacerbate already low household purchasing power. More and more poor households will see their food consumption deteriorate in line with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, exacerbating the lean season experience from March to May 2023.

    • Access to own-produced sorghum, maize, and legumes is increasing food availability and diversity and boosting incomes from crop sales for poor households in Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Sava, and Mayo-Tsanaga divisions of the Far North region, improving outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in October. Above-average prices and low incomes continue limiting poor households’ purchasing power for other foods, such as rice and wheat products, and essential non-food items, compelling them to continue employing Stressed coping strategies.



    Current Situation

    Conflict and insecurity: The conflict between government forces and separatist fighters in the Northwest and Southwest regions (NWSW) continues unabated for the seventh year. As of September 30, 2022, more than 600,000 persons remain internally displaced, while around 548,206 displaced persons have returned to their localities. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project reports that fatalities associated with incidents of violence nearly doubled in 2022, with more fatalities in June 2022 than in any single month since early 2020. Most civilian casualties occurred in Kupe-Manenguba, Manyu, Menchum, and Mezam districts.

    In the Far North region, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) continues its attacks, particularly in Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that more than 14,000 persons were displaced by insurgent attacks in the Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Tsanaga divisions in August 2022, totaling 26,526 persons displaced by Islamists in 2022. There have been more civilian casualties in the third quarter of 2022 than in the third quarter of 2021, with Kolofata accounting for most of the incidents. In the Central African Republic (CAR), violence against civilians has declined since September 2021, bringing levels of relative peace not observed since 2019. The more than 350,000 CAR refugees settled in the Eastern and Adamawa regions continue to exert pressure on host communities, pushing up local prices and increasing competition over resources and employment opportunities.

    The refugee voluntary repatriation exercise for CAR refugees is ongoing, with 1,210 persons repatriated as of August 4th, 2022, according to UNHCR. Years of fighting have significantly disrupted livelihoods, leaving many in need of humanitarian assistance.

    Commodity prices: Inflationary pressures on food and non-food products have intensified in Cameroon since the start of the Ukraine war (Figure 1). According to the National Institute of Statistics, general inflation in August 2022 was almost three times higher than in August 2021, exceeding the CEMAC regional criterion of 3 percent.

    Cameroon is highly dependent on imports for its supply of rice, frozen fish, wheat, vegetable oil, other processed foods, and mineral fertilizers from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries. These products are largely imported by private conglomerates facing challenges in sustaining supplies due to rising global prices and shipping costs and overall disruptions in the global supply chain due to the Ukraine war. This has limited domestic supplies of imported staple foods such as rice, vegetable oil, wheat flour, and fertilizers, driving price increases of 20 to 50 percent. Although price increases for most imported food commodities have now marginally eased or stabilized during the last two months due to government price control measures, prices in September and October 2022 remained significantly above the five-year and 2021 levels. The government’s ban on exporting cereals and vegetable oils, implemented in 2021 to cope with domestic shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, remains active. However, smuggling across Nigeria, Chad, and CAR’s land borders continues to compromise domestic supplies.

    Nevertheless, large government fuel subsidies have limited the impact of fuel price increases on the local population, although localized and temporary shortages have been observed due to disrupted domestic supplies from oil price surges in the international market.

    Markets in the country’s northern zone are currently being supplied with new harvests of sorghum, maize, millet, and legumes to near-average levels, except in areas where persisting insurgency-related insecurity is maintaining below-average supplies driven by a decline in production. Prices of sorghum, maize, and legumes in FEWS NET–monitored markets in the northern zones have begun to stabilize but remain well above seasonal averages.

    In the country’s southern part, seasonally declining own-produced staple food supplies at the household level are pushing some households to begin buying basic grains. In conflict-affected areas, household demand for maize, beans, and potatoes remains above average due to below-average production, which, coupled with high transportation costs, is keeping prices higher than usual.

    Rainfall performance: Cumulative rainfall during the June to September 2022 rainy season in the country’s unimodal northern zone was overall above the 1991 to 2020 average. However, the season was characterized by a late onset in June, erratic and poorly distributed rainfall, and localized deficits. The second rainy season is underway through November in the bimodal zones of the country (East, Center, and South regions), supporting second-cycle maize, beans, rice, and groundnut crops. In the rest of the southern zone, off-season maize, rice, vegetables, onion, and tomato crops are underway, although planting is constrained by high agricultural input prices and reduced access to marshlands in the conflict areas. Seasonal flooding is underway across most of the country’s northern zone following heavy rains in August and September. According to OCHA, ongoing flooding has triggered the displacement of more than 22,776 persons in the Mayo-Danay and Logone-et-Chari divisions and destroyed more than 1,500 hectares of fields and 2,700 animals.

    Crop production: Overall production during the 2022 season was near the five-year average, except in the Northwest and Southwest and parts of the Far North regions, where insecurity persists. In these regions, fall armyworm and elephant pests prevail, and bushfires, drought pockets, and flooding cause localized production declines and crop damage. Seasonal prices of mineral fertilizers remained well above the five-year average across all cropping zones, driven by disrupted supplies due to the Ukraine crisis. Despite efforts made by the government and partners, overall fertilizer subsidies during the 2022 cropping season declined compared to 2021, further reducing access for farmers who already face constraints on their purchasing capacity. As a result, crop yields and total crop production were negatively impacted, particularly cocoa, coffee, and maize.

    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. In October, main-season harvesting is underway in the country’s northern zone, giving poor households access to own-produced sorghum, maize, millet, and legumes and some income from harvesting labor opportunities. Crop production remains below average in Mayo-Tsanaga, Logone-et-Chari, and Mayo-Sava divisions due to protracted insurgency, high agricultural input prices, and localized droughts.

    Livestock production: Livestock production remains below average in livestock-producing areas in the Northwest and Far North regions as widespread insecurity continue to limit access to grazing lands, veterinary drugs and services, feed supplements, and livestock markets. Cattle movements along defined corridors have also been significantly disrupted. Although livestock body conditions have remained satisfactory overall during rainy months from May to September, FEWS NET monitoring data shows that livestock sales remain negatively impacted by continued below-average income and limited cross-border trade. Poultry prices have doubled across most markets, but seasonal poultry sales remain low due to a decline in production caused by the ongoing ban on the importation of fertile eggs, which has led to a scarcity of day-old chicks.

    Poor households’ incomes: High prices of staple food and essential non-food commodities are reducing purchasing power for poor households in urban and rural areas. In conflict-affected areas, the marketing of staple and cash crops remains impacted by low production, high transportation costs, and disrupted market access and functioning (Figures 5 and 6) contributing to reduced incomes from crop sales. Information collected by FEWS NET during field visits to conflict areas in August also revealed a further decline in income from sales relative to other conflict years in some remote areas where armed groups are allegedly imposing taxes on crop sales. Goat-to-sorghum terms of trade, a proxy for pastoral household purchasing power, show decreasing trends compared to last year across most of the Far North region, although above the four-year average (Figure 2). This trend is driven mainly by increasing prices of sorghum in all markets.

    Humanitarian food assistance (HFA): Since the beginning of 2022, the World Food Program, in collaboration with other international and local partners, has been delivering monthly food assistance (in-kind, cash or voucher, and livelihood support) to displaced persons, host households, and refugees across the country. Food rations and cash distributions of 5,000 to 9,300 XAF per person per month cover at least 25 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. Flooding in August and September has severely deteriorated roads in Logone-et-Chari, slowing down humanitarian activities, particularly in the districts of Makari, Fotokol, Blangoua, Zina, and Logone Birni. There have been reports of restrictions on humanitarian access due to the level of insecurity, including the kidnapping of humanitarian workers and the seizing of food supplies. In the NWSW regions, efforts are being made to reach the worst-off areas, such as the Lebialem, Menchum, and Ndian divisions, most of which have not been reached with HFA in recent years. Despite ongoing food assistance, food security needs remain high for the majority of persons still displaced in the NWSW and the Far North regions, including returnees, and for CAR and Nigerian refugees living in host communities.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Northwest and Southwest regions: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in Momo and Menchum divisions in the Northwest and in Lebialem, Meme, and Ndian divisions in the Southwest region, where ongoing violence and insecurity are greatest. Most poor households in these divisions harvested few if any crops this season and have therefore continued relying on market purchases and humanitarian assistance for basic grains. Recent data shows heavy debts incurred by poor households in these divisions to cope with high staple food prices and transportation, education, and medical care costs. Also, food distribution data for these regions suggests that current levels of assistance are insufficient to cover 20 percent of food-insecure persons or fill wide food and income gaps. Outcomes are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for the rest of the NWSW regions, with poor households just beginning to run out of their limited harvests, although five months earlier than in a normal year. These households, the majority of whom had their outcomes improved from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in July, have continued using Stressed coping strategies to access food. A large share is still buying some foods on credit as stocks deplete while reducing their consumption of meat and fish for cheaper legumes such as beans, soybeans, and groundnuts. Low purchasing power is preventing the purchases of imported foods and essential non-food commodities.

    Far North region: Insurgent-affected populations in the Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions are seeing improved outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in October, driven by improved access to food and incomes from own-produced harvests. Above-average prices and incomes continue limiting poor households’ purchasing power for other foods, such as rice and wheat products, and essential non-food items, compelling them to continue employing Stressed coping strategies. Also, ongoing flooding is exacerbating food insecurity across the Far North region, specifically in Logone-et-Chari, where populations are already affected by Islamic insurgency, and in Mayo-Danay divisions. Displaced households in these divisions and those who have lost crops must increasingly rely on markets and HFA and resort to more severe coping strategies to access food and cash to buy food.

    The rest of the country: Overall Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes persist for most poor households in non-conflict areas as they continue to engage in typical levels of livelihood activities driven by near-average access to own-produced food and income. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely persisting for primarily market-dependent urban poor households, particularly those living in Yaoundé and Douala, where high food prices have had a moderate to severe impact on food consumption. Most poor households in these cities have been cutting back on the number of meals they eat, exhausting their previous savings, or accruing debt to survive. Despite the local integration of most CAR refugees, their presence in the Kadey, Mbere, and Lom-et-Djerem divisions in the East and Adamawa regions has contributed to above-average staple food prices. Alongside reduced incomes from increased competition for employment opportunities, this is limiting food access for most poor households in host communities, maintaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.


    The most likely scenario from October 2022 to May 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Levels of conflict and violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions are expected to increase in October and peak between December 2022 to January 2023, driven by an increase in troop presence typically observed during the dry season, when roads become more passable. ISWAP will likely maintain territorial control around Lake Chad, including the Far North region, with the pace of attacks and associated fatalities likely to increase well above 2021 levels, more closely matching levels observed in 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021, given the resurgence of violence in Kolofata.
    • Cameroon’s macroeconomic situation will remain moderately impacted by the war in Ukraine because of the economy’s dependence on imports, which will continue exposing the country to external shocks related to global supply and commodity prices. Inflation rates are expected to remain significantly above the CEMAC zone inflation threshold of 3 percent at least until mid-2023. While large government fuel subsidies have limited the impact of global fuel price increases on the local population, the International Monetary Fund warns that the increased cost of fuel subsidies is likely to place additional pressure on Cameroon’s domestic prices. It is estimated that, by the end of 2022, government fuel subsidies 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 and subsidies on food and non-food essential commodities.
    • Rainfall performance: In the country’s unimodal northern zone, good water availability following the flooding of the Logone plain and floodplains surrounding Lake Chad (Yaeré plains) between August and December will favor recession and off-season cropping in January and February 2023, pasture availability, and fishing activities. However, cropping and fishing activities will remain limited by widespread insecurity, high input prices, and the fear of reprisals in intercommunal clashes. In unimodal and bimodal areas in the country’s southern zone, the main rainy season is expected to be timely in March 2023 and favor a normal start of the 2023 cropping season.
    • Prices of imported food commodities are expected to stay well above last year’s and the five-year average. FEWS NET projections for imported rice in the Mfoundi market in Yaoundé indicate that retail prices will rise 54 to 77 percent above the five-year average and 30 to 42 percent above 2021 levels during this scenario period, despite some possible month-to-month easing in the upcoming months (Figure 3). Higher prices through the outlook period are expected to be driven by persisting disruptions in global supplies exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war and high shipping costs caused by increasing global fuel prices. Further higher prices are expected in areas where conflict and insecurity have already significantly disrupted local supplies.
    • Households affected by conflict and insecurity will remain highly reliant on market purchases of basic grains. Current stocks are likely to deplete on average three to four months faster than usual due to limited harvests in the previous season. Most poor households in the NWSW are expected to start buying most of their basic grains from November 2022 to May 2023, compared to seasonally from March to May in a normal year. In Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari divisions of the Far North region, where grain deficits have more than doubled since 2020 because of widespread insecurity and pest attacks, household cereal stocks through the outlook period are expected to stay below average, increasing market demand.
    • Poor households’ income from crop sales is expected to decline seasonally through the lean season from March to May, as stocks of their harvests run out. Increased production and transportation costs are likely to offset typical income increments from sales of off-season produce and increased sales during end-of-year festivities, Ramadan in March to April 2023, and other national feasts. Poor households are expected to scale up typical income-earning activities, such as charcoal and firewood sales, artisanal fishing, petty trade, and sales of non-timber forest products, to boost incomes. Driven by the need to close the income gap to cope with reduced incomes and high staple food prices, poor households in conflict-affected areas are expected to engage in negative coping strategies such as begging, credit purchases, and the depletion of savings.
    • Pasture and water resources for livestock across the country will be sufficient to support healthy livestock body conditions until late November but will likely become seasonally scarce during the relatively drier season months from December to March 2023. Localities in the Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava divisions, where current field conditions suggest below-average vegetation conditions due to recurrent irregular June to August rainfall, are likely to have relatively scarcer pastures and water resources. Livestock body conditions in these divisions are expected to deteriorate as the dry season deepens, while in the southern zones, body conditions will likely remain normal.
    • Cross-border trade along Cameroon’s borders with Nigeria, CAR, and Chad will remain below average, driven by insecurity-related border closures and tightened customs checks. However, significant smuggling of newly harvested crop products is anticipated to persist, despite the government’s ban on cereal exports, enforced since December 2021.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In the NWSW regions with ongoing conflict, poor households in the most affected divisions, such as Momo and Menchum (Northwest) and Lebialem, Meme, and Ndian (Southwest), are expected to maintain their high reliance on market purchases and humanitarian assistance for basic grains. From October to May 2023, increasing staple food prices are expected to continue severely limiting access to food in these divisions, producing wider food consumption gaps and negative coping strategies characterized by a reduction in meal frequencies to one to two meals per day, and an increased reliance on debt and help from relations. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated to persist throughout the outlook period, with the worst-affected households expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. While current outcomes are supporting Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity for the other divisions in the NWSW regions, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to emerge in November 2022 and persist until May 2023. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes for these areas will be driven by depleted stocks and earlier-than-usual reliance on markets to access food. With below-average incomes from agricultural sales and labor and significantly high food prices, households in these divisions are expected to mitigate food consumption gaps through extreme negative coping strategies.

    In the Far North region, below-average harvests and incomes are anticipated in Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Sava, and Mayo-Tsanaga divisions, where insurgency persists. Most poor households in these areas will likely continue to borrow money or rely on help for school needs, medication, and clothing and are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until at least January 2023. However, these divisions are anticipated to transition to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity from February to May 2023 as increased reliance on livelihood coping to generate income, anticipated high staple prices, and low incomes are likely to widen large consumption gaps among poor households. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worse outcomes are anticipated to persist until at least May 2023 for households currently displaced by floods in Mayo-Danay and Logone-et-Chari divisions, who have lost their crops and livestock. These households will likely sustain an increased reliance on markets and HFA and resort to more severe coping strategies to access food and cash to buy food.

    For the rest of the country, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area-level food security outcomes are likely to persist throughout the scenario period, as the majority of poor households will continue to engage in normal livelihood activities with near-average access to own-produced food and income. However, poor urban households that are mostly market reliant, including refugees and internally displaced persons across the country, are anticipated to have their purchasing power further limited by high inflation and sharp increases in the prices of basic food and essential non-food commodities. The majority of them, including those living in Yaoundé and Douala, are likely to continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and worse outcomes throughout the scenario period. While outcomes will likely remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 1!) for most Nigerian and CAR refugees living in camps, more than half of refugees living in host communities and displaced persons will continue to face Stress (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to insufficient humanitarian food assistance. More severe outcomes are likely for refugees and displaced households in inaccessible and insecure areas not reached by any humanitarian assistance.  

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario.  



    Impact on food security outcomes




    Worse than anticipated macroeconomic conditions

    Food prices may rise further than projected because of further declines in food imports, reducing availability and access for poor households. This would increase the number of persons facing acute food insecurity across the country.



    A lifting of the government ban on cereal exports

    This would likely increase cereal volumes exported to Nigeria, Gabon, CAR, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea, further reducing local supplies and pushing up local prices.



    HFA expanded to at least 25 percent of the total population in worst-off conflict areas

    This would improve access to basic food and cash for poor households affected by conflict and reduce the number of persons facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    Northwest and Southwest Regions

    Peace talks between parties to the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions

    This would likely improve overall security in the zone and drive improvements in agricultural and economic activities, boosting access to food and income for poor households. An increasing number of displaced persons would likely return to their original villages and begin re-engaging in typical livelihood activities.

    Livelihood Zone CM09

    Escalation in insurgent activities and intertribal clashes

    This would increase the number of internally displaced persons and further disrupt livelihoods, affecting agriculture and livestock production, supply chains, market functioning, and prices of basic commodities. The number of persons with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worse outcomes would likely increase.


    Figure 1

    Figure I.

    Source: National Institute of Statistics, Cameroon (INS)

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: Calculations based on data collected by the Regional Delegation of Agriculture …

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Figure 4.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 6

    Figure 5.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 7

    Figure 6.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 8

    Figure 7.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 9

    Figure 8.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 10

    Figure 9.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on data from DRADER, Far North

    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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