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Cereal prices atypically high in the Far North

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Cameroon
  • April 2018
Cereal prices atypically high in the Far North

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The premature depletion of food stocks is forcing households to turn to markets for food earlier than usual. However, the atypical price increases of staple foods (50 percent increase for sorghum compared with its average, despite the export ban on cereals) will significantly worsen their access to food.

    • The prices of livestock – which is the second largest source of income for households – have continued to fall since last month. The terms of trade are now putting pastoralists at a disadvantage, with higher household sales. At the Moulvoudaye, Yagoua and Mokolo markets, individuals must now sell two small ruminants in return for 100 kilograms of sorghum.

    • Ongoing food assistance remains low and planned food assistance is not fully funded. As a result, the difficulties that poor displaced and host households face in meeting their market needs will lead to a deterioration in their consumption and livelihoods. This will make them vulnerable to Crisis level (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity in the lean season, which lasts from May to September.





    • Around 658,070 displaced persons and refugees, including 249,370 Central African refugees and 87,804 Nigerian refugees, live in the country, mainly in the Far North, North, Adamaoua and East regions.
    • Continued incursions and suicide attacks by Boko Haram in villages bordering Nigeria and increased violence by armed groups in Central Africa have led to new arrivals of populations in Cameroon.

    Far North

    • 342,416 displaced persons, including 241,030 internally displaced persons, 31,656 refugees outside camps and 69,730 returning refugees.


    • Atypical price increases for basic cereals compared with the five-year average: 48 percent for sorghum and 21 percent for maize.
    • Lower household incomes due to the slowdown in economic activity; lower selling prices for onions and livestock.
    • Ongoing food assistance (food distribution, money and malnutrition management: World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Plan) is mainly provided in the Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava departments. It supports around 134,400 displaced persons and refugees, representing 31 percent of these targets and 3 percent of the total population.
    • Redeployment of the army and security forces in some zones, encouraging the return of displaced persons and resuming economic activities in the urban centers of these zones. In one year (January–December 2017), the number of returning refugees increased by 96 percent.
    • People are relying on markets more than usual due to the premature depletion of stocks.
    • Staple food prices remain high compared with the seasonal average until the new harvests in October.
    • Assistance is planned until September but is unlikely: distribution of food or money (WFP and ICRC), distribution of food stamps (Catholic Relief Services – CRS), destocking of livestock and distribution of meat (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – FAO), malnutrition management (UNICEF). This assistance could help 426,000 individuals, which is 10 percent of the population and 26 percent of the populations that are vulnerable to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity.


    Although there has been a decrease in incursions and suicide attacks by Boko Haram in recent months, the security situation remains precarious in the Far North region. The increased presence of the army and security forces is encouraging some displaced persons to return to their places of origin and is also helping economic activities to resume in the more secure urban centers. 

    Market supplies of staple foods are satisfactory. Since last February, the opening of certain corridors has encouraged cereals from Nigeria (particularly maize from Bouhra) and Chad to enter Cameroon through the “duck beak” area (Gobo, Guere). Legumes (particularly cowpeas) are being exported to Nigeria, which has caused prices to increase by 24 percent compared with the five-year average. Moreover, local authorities have taken measures to ban cereal exports.

    However, due to the depletion of stocks, there is an ever-growing household demand – especially among the poor – in the markets. In March, there was an atypical rise in cereal prices compared with the five-year average for the same period: 50 percent for rainfed sorghum, 48 percent for dry season sorghum and 21 percent for maize. Price increases above 50 percent for sorghum were observed in markets in Maroua, Yagoua and Mora. Contrastingly, in the markets in areas receiving food assistance (Koussiri in Logone-et-Chari and Mokolo in Mayo-Tsanaga), price increases are moderate, at no more than 30 percent.

    In addition to agricultural production, host households and displaced persons earn an income mainly from livestock sales, agricultural labor, timber sales and small-scale trade. Despite the decline in onion production, its price is 51 percent lower than average. Livestock prices are also below average, as in the main markets (Maroua, Moulvoudaye, Yagoua and Mokolo) supply is higher than demand.

    As a result, farmers must sell more than one ram or at least two goats at livestock markets in the region in order to buy one bag of cereals. The exception to this is the Maroua assembly market, where the prices of small ruminants (XAF 35,000 for a 3-year-old ram and XAF 30,000 for a 1-year-old goat) allow households to purchase at least one 100 kilogram bag of cereals. Compared with this time last year, the terms of trade for livestock and cereals have deteriorated by an average of 24 percent due to the high price of cereals.

    Until the lean season ends in September, displaced and poor host households (roughly 30 percent of the population) will heavily rely on markets for their food. The projected prices for sorghum at the Maroua market could remain between 60 and 75 percent above the seasonal average from May to September. Food distributions mainly take place in the Logone-et-Chari and Mayo-Sava departments, where around 67,800 displaced persons and refugees and 3,000 displaced households benefit respectively. 

    Given the depletion of stocks, the high prices of staple foods, the drop in incomes and the low coverage of assistance, poor households’ food consumption (which is currently under stress) will continue to deteriorate due to the reduction in the quantity, quality and number of meals. Poor households will then be forced to increase their agricultural labor and livestock and timber sales, as well as their dependence on credit, all of which will negatively affect their livelihoods that are already under stress due to this insecurity. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) level acute food insecurity could then affect poor households (displaced and host), as the planned assistance is not yet fully funded and remains insufficient.

    From late September, the new crops harvested will help to improve the consumption of poor households, which are predominantly agricultural. However, livelihoods will still be strained.

    Figures Prices for Rainfed sorghum, Dry season sorghum, and	Maize are 5-67% above average

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Changes in cereal prices compared with the five-year average

    Source: FEWS NET

    Main harvest is from mid-August until January. Off-season harvest is from January until April. Main season cultivation is fro

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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