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Food insecurity exacerbated by persistent food inflation, especially during the lean season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Central African Republic
  • April 2022
Food insecurity exacerbated by persistent food inflation, especially during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2022
  • Key Messages
    • Security continues to be strained and unpredictable in parts of the country, severely disrupting income-generating activities and livelihoods of populations in these areas. In March 2022, the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Central African Republic was estimated at 649,794.

    • Since the last quarter of 2021, there has been a continuous rise in staple food prices compared to the same period in 2020. In hard-to-reach areas under occupation, such as in the north and southeast, market supply remains below average, while in areas less affected by armed conflict, such as in Bangui and the southwest and central-west areas, supply is average.

    • IDPs and poor host households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity will continue to face these outcomes until the harvests in September 2022. Those most affected will be the poor and very poor households in conflict zones in southeast prefectures and IDPs in the northwest, northeast, and central prefectures. A large proportion of households in areas that are less affected by conflict are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and will remain so until September 2022.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    The security situation in the country continues to deteriorate and is highly volatile, characterized by persistent conflict. The presence of explosive devices and bush fires is increasing security risks, especially in Ouham-Pendé prefecture. The Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) has recorded 17 alerts since January 2022, 71 percent of which were triggered by armed violence. The number of accidents recorded in the first quarter of 2022 equals almost half of all accidents recorded in 2021 (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – OCHA). Moreover, insecurity coupled with impassable roads in some areas (especially during the winter) is restricting humanitarian access and impacting the delivery of assistance to affected populations. Insecurity in the country has severely limited food availability and access, as well as access to land for agricultural production, income-generating activities, and humanitarian assistance. As a result, food consumption levels have decreased (with a change in daily food intake). There has also been a negative impact on the sustainability of the short- and medium-term livelihoods of poor and very poor households in hard-to-reach conflict zones.

    Population movements: The number of IDPs has generally been decreasing since March 2021 (Figure 1). This trend was observed from January to February 2022, with a relative period of calm in conflict areas, allowing for continuous and significant returns of IDPs to their place of origin (26,892 in Bangui, 4,990 in Batangafo, 3,865 in Kaga-Bandoro, and 3,092 in Alindao). However, according to the CMP's most recent report in March 2022, the total number of IDPs remains relatively high, at 649,794 (164,049 in sites and 485,745 with host families).

    Despite the general decrease in the number of IDPs in recent months, March 2022 saw new waves of population displacement (26,410 according to the CMP) that exceeded the number returning (8,856), due to armed clashes, incursions and exploitation in villages, as well as floods and intentionally set fires. IDP movement recorded in March 2022 consisted mostly of spontaneous returns, principally in the prefectures of Ouham and Basse-Kotto, due to poor living conditions in host sites and displacement locales, in conjunction with improved security conditions in their villages and neighborhoods of origin.

    New displacements are mainly in the Ombella-M’Poko and Ouham-Pendé transhumance corridors, in areas where armed clashes occurred in Mboumou, Ouham-Pendé, and Bamingui-Bangoran, as well as in areas affected by storms in Nana-Gribizi (CMP, March 2022). The sub-prefectures with the highest number of new displacements are: Ouham-Pendé (9,948), Bocaranga (3,135), Ouaka (9,938), Ippy (9,736), and Bamingui-Bangoran (1,905). These new displacements are also due to fear of new conflicts or retaliation, and fires and floods, and thus the poor and very poor in these localities face difficulties accessing food, agricultural land, and livelihood activities.

    Food access and availability: Sowing and harvesting are carried out year-round due to the annual rainfall pattern. These agriculturally favorable rainfall conditions are the main source of livelihoods for poor and very poor households. Rainfall and vegetation levels in the first quarter of 2022 were generally average or slightly above average (Figure 2). Normally, food availability improves with the first major harvests of the year in March/April among poor and very poor households and is supplemented by wild harvested products, fishing, and hunting in prefectures that are less exposed to conflict in the central and western regions.

    However, the agricultural sector continues to suffer from volatile security conditions, recurrent population displacements, and difficulties in accessing agricultural supplies and tools, as well as poor financial support to the sector. Lowland maize, cassava, sweet potato, and lowland rice harvests, alongside soil preparation and sowing of groundnuts, sweet potato, cassava and maize in the Sudanian and forest areas are currently underway. It should be noted that these activities are greatly affected by insecurity. In the northern prefectures and in some localities in the northwest and southeast prefectures, food availability and access are severely restricted due to bush fires and frequent other fires, as well as the presence of armed groups, which limit access to fields for cultivation and harvesting. During this current lean season, poor and very poor households have access to stable daily income from agricultural labor, enabling them to improve their living conditions.

    Markets and price trends: Market supply is average in areas that are less affected by armed conflict (central western and southwestern areas). However, it remains lower in areas under rebel occupation and that are difficult to access due to insecurity and the closure of the country’s border with Chad. In addition, restocking on the main supply routes from Cameroon has been made more costly by the customs and high road taxes imposed on shippers and the persistence of other hindrances on the roads.

    According to the REACH Initiative's Joint Market Monitoring Initiative report published in March 2022, the median cost of a Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) is 64,473 XAF. The upward trend in food prices, especially for imported products (oil and rice) and non-food items seen since December 2021, is continuing and has increased compared to the same period in 2021 (Figure 3). Notable changes between February 2022 and March 2022 are: gasoline (+23 percent), vegetable oil (+14 percent), and groundnuts (-17 percent).

    The unavailability and high prices of vegetable oil and gasoline in some localities in the country are directly linked to disruption in the international markets and the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. The Central African Republic's dependence on imports of basic necessities (rice, wheat, oil, and fuel) makes it particularly vulnerable to rising oil and agricultural product prices. The deteriorating security situation and road infrastructure, numerous disruptions on supply routes, and the growing threat of explosive devices on the country’s roads are significantly contributing to this upward trend, which is expected to continue until the first harvest of rainfed crops in October.

    Demand, though still higher than normal in the country, remains constrained by the widespread decline in household purchasing power since the beginning of the year and persistent insecurity. In general, prices generally remain higher than in the same period last year, including for manufactured and imported products such as rice and palm oil, according to REACH (Figure 3). In addition, Cameroon's suspension of exports of certain agricultural products (cereal products and palm oil) on December 27, 2021, contributed significantly to rising vegetable oil and sugar prices. This situation is likely to continue with the current surge in global oil prices following the conflict in Ukraine, which could put pressure on transportation costs and increase staple food prices.

    Food security: The results of the latest IPC analysis of the food security situation, carried out in April 2022, show that food insecurity remains one of the country’s highest concerns, because of the resurgence of its determining factors (civil insecurity and price inflation). Food insecurity is compounded by a continuing decline in the purchasing power of poor households and a significant deterioration in their livelihoods. A large proportion of the population, including poor host households and IDPs in the north, northwest and southeast prefectures, which are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), will remain so until September 2022, mainly due to the early depletion of stocks, low income levels, rising prices of staple commodities, deteriorating security, and an upsurge in armed violence in the country.

    ZONECURRENT ANOMALIESPROJECTED ANOMALIES

    National

    Price increases will persist, mainly due to abnormally low supply, the increase in customs duties on products from Cameroon, the closure of the border with Chad and additional illegal costs, disturbances, port and road restrictions, and the prevailing insecurity in the country.

    Imported food prices will remain high due to the severe deterioration in the state of the roads during the rainy season, increased transportation costs, and general insecurity. The restrictions imposed by Cameroon and the impact of the conflict in Ukraine are likely to reduce supply and keep prices high.

     

    A slow start to the rainy season occurred throughout the country, with below average precipitation. However, a normal growing season is expected based on cumulative rainfall conditions.

    Agricultural production in the 2022/2023 growing season will be broadly equivalent to last year’s (below the five-year average). However, there may be less area planted than last year due to the inaccessibility of some fields from civil insecurity and poor road conditions.

     The instability and unpredictability of the country's security situation is significantly affecting income-generating activities, local market supply, and state and humanitarian assistance delivery activities, which continue to expose the poorest households and IDPs to food insecurity. Increasing population movement and IDPs are expected due to deteriorating security conditions in rebel-occupied areas, as well as from bush fires and other fires. 

     


    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2022

    Overall, food availability is set to improve from September/October due to new harvests and available agricultural labor, and available manual laborers in areas less affected by conflict. However, some localities may struggle to provide staple foods in the coming months, not just because of civil insecurity, but especially because of the inaccessibility of roads during periods of heavy rainfall. Armed conflict, higher prices, population displacement, low purchasing power, deteriorating road infrastructure, and low agricultural production are the main causes of the current food insecurity in the country.

    In some localities in the northern, northwestern and southeastern prefectures, households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes could fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season due to the early depletion of stocks and low income. This situation is expected to improve at the end of the lean season in September and during the rainy season with the first harvests from the 2022/2023 agricultural season.

    IDPs and host households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season until September 2022 in the areas most affected by insecurity, and where food access and availability is of significant concern for poor and very poor households. Low market supply, higher prices coupled with low income, travel restrictions (due to the fear of explosives and violence by armed groups), as well as continued population movement, will cause nutrition levels and food insecurity to deteriorate from April/May for the rest of the lean season given the high level of dependence on the markets for food.

    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Number of IDPs in the Central African Republic between March 2021 and March 2022 (in thousands)

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: Commissions on Population Movements (CMP), March 2022

    Figure 2. Rainfall and vegetation (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index – NDVI) in the first quarter of 2022 compared to th

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: WFP Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping, CHIRPS / MODIS 2022

    Figure 3. Prices of the staple foods in March 2022 compared to March 2021, Paoua market (XAF)

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    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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