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Acute food inflation is affecting poor households at the start of the rainy season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Central African Republic
  • June 2022
Acute food inflation is affecting poor households at the start of the rainy season

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  • Key Messages
  • Summary
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023
  • Key Messages
    • The security situation remains volatile due to persistent attacks and acts of violence, severely disrupting market operation and access, as well as livelihoods in the country's western, northwestern, northeastern, and central areas.

    • Supplies of basic foods to markets remain low in insecure areas and those under the armed occupation of rebel groups due to the growing threat of explosive devices on roads that are also in poor condition. This insecurity is impacting availability and prices. Local food prices (maize and cassava) in May were generally stable compared to the same period last year because of their availability in local markets. Still, prices for imported products (rice, white beans, vegetable oil, and beef) continue to increase and remain above their levels compared to last year in all markets.

    • In northern, northwestern, southeastern, and central prefectures, poor and very poor households and internally displaced persons (IDPs) facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes could tip into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season (April/May) due to the early depletion of stocks and low-income levels. This situation is expected to end in September when the first harvests from the 2022-2023 agricultural growing season become available. From September 2022 to January 2023, these households should see improved access to food and income and are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the availability of crops and opportunities for daily work (agricultural and manual labor).

    • IDPs and host households will remain exposed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season until January 2023 in areas most affected by insecurity and those with limited access, where the food situation remains concerning for poor and very poor households. The current food and nutrition situation is expected to continue, given below-average incomes and household reliance on markets for food. Contributing factors include inadequate market supplies, rising prices, limited travel (due to fear of explosive devices and abuses by armed groups), and ongoing population movements.


    Summary
    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected anomalies
    National
    • The security situation is restricting trade flows and access to fields and markets, thus preventing households' access to food and forcing poor, very poor, and IDP households to use coping strategies, including gathering forest products such as smoked caterpillars, yam, and wild potatoes
    • Areas sown could be slightly lower than last year owing to inaccessibility to certain fields due to insecurity and badly deteriorated roads (especially during the period of heavy rains from July to October). Thus, agricultural production for the 2022-2023 growing season will likely remain below the five-year average, although broadly equivalent to last year's.
     
    • Income-generating activities, the functioning of local markets, and the actions of state and humanitarian agencies are limited in conflict zones and areas that are difficult to access, forcing the poorest households and displaced people to cope with acute food insecurity. 
    • Food prices will likely continue to rise due to various factors: Early depletion of food stocks, deterioration of road conditions with the onset of the rainy season, fuel shortages, export restrictions introduced by Cameroon, and the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, which is likely to reduce supply and keep prices high.
     
    • Internal and external trade flows are being severely disrupted. They are below normal due to the security situation, which is restricting access to supply areas, fuel shortages, poor road conditions, and harassment on the roads, combined with various restrictions on the import of raw materials needed in the country (mainly by the Cameroonian authorities). 
    • Civil insecurity will likely continue to be a key factor in food insecurity in the country, especially in conflict zones, where market and livelihood disruption will likely limit local populations' access to food and income.
     
    • Internal and external trade flows are being severely disrupted. They are below normal due to the security situation, which is restricting access to supply areas, fuel shortages, poor road conditions, and harassment on the roads, combined with various restrictions on the import of raw materials needed in the country (mainly by the Cameroonian authorities).
    • Food prices will likely continue to rise due to various factors: Early depletion of food stocks, deterioration of road conditions with the onset of the rainy season, fuel shortages, export restrictions introduced by Cameroon, and the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, which is likely to reduce supply and keep prices high.
    • Civil insecurity will likely continue to be a key factor in food insecurity in the country, especially in conflict zones, where market and livelihood disruption will likely limit local populations’ access to food and income.

     


    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023

    The Security situation and population movements: The security situation in the Central African Republic is very precarious and remains unpredictable throughout the country. Due to the presence of active armed groups, the situation throughout the country (excluding Bangui and Bimbo) is difficult to monitor, and the level of insecurity remains high. The acts of violence, road risks, looting, and abuse by armed groups are very high, especially on the roads around Batangafo and Ouham (France Diplomaties.gouv.fr). As of May 31, 2022, the total number of IDPs in the Central African Republic is estimated at 602,134 people, comprising 155,887 people in sites (26 percent) and 446,247 people in host families (74 percent). There is an overall decrease of 56,131 IDPs (8.5 percent) compared to April 2022. In May 2022, there were more spontaneous returns (130,984) than new displacements (74,853) due to the improved security situation in IDPs' villages and neighborhoods. The most significant returns were in Ouham, Ouaka, Basse-Kotto, and Nana-Gribizi. In addition, 150 IDP households from the PK3 site in Bria received support for returns coordinated by the Sustainable Solutions Working Group, a pilot phase of facilitated returns to Bria. 

    Insecurity is restricting food availability and access, as well as access to land for production, income-generating activities, and humanitarian assistance--thus impacting food consumption levels and the short- and medium-term implementation of livelihoods strategies by poor and very poor households. In the first five months of 2022, 69 incidents affecting humanitarian workers were recorded, 17 of which occurred in May. The prefectures of Ouham (27.5 percent), Ouaka (13 percent), and Bangui (11.6 percent) remain the most affected. Theft, robbery, looting, threats, and aggression account for 75 percent of the 52 incidents. The remaining 17 incidents (25 percent) represent interference and restrictions (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, June 2022). According to the CMP, in May 2022, new displacements occurred mainly in areas affected by violence and abuses by armed men in the prefectures of Ouaka and Haute-Kotto, as well as in the transhumance corridors in the prefectures of Ouham and Ouham-Pendé (see Figure 1). 

    Access to and availability of food: The rainy season is in full swing in the country's northern areas. Seasonal and vegetation cumulation are at an overall average or slightly-above-normal level (see Figure 2). Food availability is improving as usual among poor and very poor households. It is supplemented by wild products, fishing, and hunting in prefectures that are less prone to conflict in the central and western regions.

    The months of June and July correspond to the harvest period (for maize and lowland rice, cassava, and sweet potato crops), soil preparation, and sowing for rainfed crops, groundnuts, sweet potato, cassava, and maize in the Sudanese and forest areas, as well as the peak in opportunities for agricultural labor in growing areas and workers in the mining sectors, especially in the central-eastern and the southeastern regions. There is also an improvement in the availability of wild products, hunting, and fishing.

    During this period, poor and very poor people have access to stable daily incomes from agricultural labor and manual work, which enables them to improve their living conditions during the lean season. In addition, dietary needs are greatly improved by the availability of wild products and hunting and fishing, which play a key role in the daily food of poor and very poor households, especially in the forest and Sudanese areas. However, in occupied areas and those with limited access, conflicts affect the ability of households to access markets (for the sale and purchase of food and other essential items), remunerated work opportunities, and land for agricultural production, hunting, and gathering. These are all central to the livelihoods of poor and very poor households.

    Markets and price trends: According to the REACH Initiative's Joint Marketing Monitoring Initiative (JMMI), in May 2022, the median cost of a Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) was 69,919 XAF, an increase of 5 percent over April 2022. This increase is mainly due to higher prices of non-food and food products in the markets. Notable changes between March 2022 and May 2022 are meat (+33 percent), maize (+13 percent), groundnut (+20 percent), sugar (+11 percent), petrol (+7 percent), and rice (+10 percent). Food prices have increased compared to the same period in the last two years, especially for imported food. Continuous food price increases are observed in the country's markets, especially for imported food. These increases are mainly due to problems and disruption in market supply chains, restrictions on the sale of cereal products and oil from Cameroon, the impacts of the crisis in Ukraine, and high global prices for agricultural raw materials and hydrocarbons(see Figure 3).

    This inflationary trend is due to several factors (in addition to the persistently lower local supply and higher-than-average levels of demand, which are well contained by the low purchasing power of households): the high prices of cereal products and hydrocarbons (oil) in international markets linked to the conflict in Ukraine, the risk of fuel shortages in the country, and the new export restrictions imposed by Cameroon. Accordingly, on April 22, 2022, the Minister instructed the Governor of the eastern region to suspend the export of refined oils, wheat flour, rice, locally produced cereals, and cement to the Central African Republic until further notice. In addition, the deteriorating security situation and road infrastructure, the numerous abuses on supply routes, and the growing threat of explosive devices on the country's roads contribute significantly to this upward trend, which is expected to continue until the first harvests in September 2022. Furthermore, difficulties in transporting supplies by the river (due to the low level of the Ubangi River) complicate collection by river from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a result, they greatly disrupt the country's costs and flow of food and non-food supplies. Furthermore, market supplies remain lower in areas occupied by rebels and those with limited access, and on average, in areas less affected by armed conflict (central-western and southwestern regions).

    During the rainy season, livelihood conditions and food availability for poor and very poor households should improve from September/October to January 2023 due to new harvests and the availability of agricultural labor and manual labor in areas less affected by conflict. However, in addition to civil insecurity, fuel shortages, and inaccessibility of roads that remain impassable during periods of heavy rain, some localities may experience difficulties in providing basic food products (such as in markets in Obo, which is one of the most remote areas of the Central African Republic in terms of accessibility).

    In northern, northwestern, southeastern, and central prefectures, poor and very poor households and IDPs facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes could tip into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season (April/May to September) due to the early depletion of stocks and low-income levels. However, this situation is expected to end in September, with the end of the lean and rainy seasons, when the first harvests from the 2022–2023 agricultural growing season become available. Therefore, from September to January 2023, because of the availability of crops and opportunities for daily agricultural work, these households should be able to improve their livelihoods and are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    IDPs and host households will remain exposed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season (April/May to September) until January 2023 in areas most affected by insecurity and where the food situation remains concerning for the poor and very poor households. The current food and nutrition situation is expected to continue, given below-average incomes and household reliance on markets for food. Contributing factors include inadequate market supplies, rising prices, limited travel (due to fear of explosive devices and abuses by armed groups), and ongoing population movements.

    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Change in the number of IDPs in the Central African Republic from May 2021 to May 2022 (in hundreds of thousands)

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: Commission on Population Movements (CMP), June 2022

    Figure 2. Breakdown of rainfall and vegetation (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, NDVI) from the start of the 2022 rain

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: WFP-VAM

    Figure 3. Comparative price (XAF) of the main foodstuffs from May 2020 to May 2022 in the markets of Yaloké and Bangui

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    Source: WFP, May 2022

    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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