Presence Country
Food Security Outlook Update

Staple food prices atypically increasing alongside prospects of below-average harvest

December 2016

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance

Key Messages

  • Following below-average 2016 production, some poor households in Karamoja have depleted household food stocks in December, three months earlier than normal. Many are atypically dependent on markets and above-average prices are lowering food access. In Napak, Kaabong, and Moroto, poor households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in April and May, the peak of the lean season. 

  • October to December second season rainfall was below average and erratic in many bimodal areas and December harvests are expected to be below average. This will be the second consecutive season of poorer than normal harvests in many bimodal areas. Due primarily to poor production prospects, staple food prices atypically increased between October and November. Food availability and access are lower than normal and some poor households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

  • According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 350,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since July 2016. Newly arrived refugees are heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance and are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). UNHCR’s funding appeal for South Sudanese refugees is only 65 percent funded. If funding gaps limit humanitarian assistance to refugees, it is expected many will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2017.

Current Situation

In many bimodal areas, October to December second season rainfall was below average and erratically distributed. The most significant rainfall deficits were around the Lake Victoria basin, where rainfall was 20-30 percent below average (Figure 1). Rainfall was also below average in the northwest and crop damage from moisture stress was observed in this region during a FEWS NET rapid food security assessment in November. Second season production is expected to be below average in Kumi, Serere, Ngora, Katakwi, and Amuria of Teso, Lamwo, Kitgum, Pader, and Agago of Acholi, Iganga and Bugiri of Busoga, Kalungu, Gomba, and Masaka of Greater Masaka, Rakai, Isingiro, Rwengo, and Nakasongola in the cattle corridor, and Arua, Koboko, Yumbe, and Adjumani in the northwest.

Poorer than normal pasture conditions were also observed in the cattle corridor in late November, as a result of below-average rainfall. Rainfall in December is improving water and browse resources slightly, but higher than normal land surface temperatures are also contributing to the deterioration of pasture and water. Livestock body conditions are slightly below normal due to increased migration in search of adequate pasture.

Staple food prices atypically increased in most markets between October and November. The retail price of maize increased 11 percent in Kabale, Masindi, and Mbale and 9 percent in Masaka, Iganga, and Tororo. Usually during this time food prices decrease as green harvests replenish household and market stocks. The increase in prices is likely due to poorer than normal production prospects and below-average first season production. Although livestock body conditions are only slightly below average, prices have atypically declined in recent months, given the oversupply of livestock for sale. Many households are selling more livestock than usual, anticipating that pasture will be insufficient during the dry season to adequately support current herd sizes. In November, the price of an average goat in key markets was 20 percent below both the same time last year and the five-year average. The combination of above-average staple food prices and lower than normal livestock prices is decreasing household purchasing capacity. On average, the sale of a goat bought 78 kilograms of sorghum in November, whereas it purchased 85 kilograms at the same time last year.

In Teso, Busoga, greater Masaka, northeastern Acholi, most of the northwest, the cattle corridor, and the Lake Victoria basin, many poor households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). These regions had below-average first season production in June and depleted household stocks earlier than normal. Many are now atypically dependent on markets to access food, yet household purchasing capacity is below average. Poor households are coping by seeking labor opportunities in nearby towns, receiving remittances from relatives, increasing charcoal production, and selling poultry. Some poor households in these areas have also received food assistance from the Government of Uganda, local humanitarian organizations, and churches, who have collectively provided food assistance in Bukomansimbi, Lwengo, Kalungu, Kaliro, Serere, Katakwi, and Amuria. 

The dry season is ongoing in Karamoja, but due to higher than normal land surface temperatures, of 3-7 degrees Celsius above average, pasture and water resources are depleting faster than usual. Conflict has been reported between Karamojong pastoralists in Kaabong, Kotido, and Moroto, and pastoralists from Turkana who have migrated their livestock to Karamoja. Livestock body conditions, though, remain near average, as dry pasture is still largely adequate. 

It is likely some poor households in Moroto, Napak, and parts of Kaabong and Abim have depleted household food stocks this month, three months early than in a normal year, and are now relying primarily on markets to access food. However, the price of sorghum is 10-30 percent above the five-year average and is driving lower than normal food access. Household purchasing capacity, as measured by labor-to-sorghum and charcoal-to-sorghum terms of trade, is 20-40 percent below average in most districts.  

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 350,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since July 2016. Refugees now make up 20 percent or more of the population in Adjumani, Kiryandongo, Isingiro, and Yumbe Districts (Figure 2). Newly arrived refugees are highly dependent on humanitarian assistance and are currently receiving full rations from the World Food Programme (WFP). They are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!).

Updated Assumptions

Although most of the assumptions made in FEWS NET’s Uganda Food Security Outlook for October 2016 to May 2017 remain valid, the following assumptions have been updated:

  • December second season production in bimodal areas of Uganda will be below average. The worst affected areas of Teso, greater Masaka, and Acholi are expected to have significantly below-average production. However, overall production is still expected to result in a national surplus.
  • Pasture and water resources will remain below average in both Karamoja and the cattle corridor through April 2017.

Projected Outlook through May 2017

A second season of below-average production is expected in many bimodal areas. Poor households will have lower than normal household food stocks through May 2017 and, subsequently, income from crop sales will also be much lower than normal. It is likely staple food prices will remain above the five-year average throughout the projection period. With lower than normal income and high prices, household purchasing capacity will be below normal. Many will continue to cope through seeking labor opportunities in nearby cities and increasing petty trade, although food access will remain below normal. Poor households in Teso, Busoga, Greater Masaka, northeastern Acholi, most of the northwest, the cattle corridor, and the Lake Victoria basin are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from December 2016 through May 2017. 

In Karamoja, expected food security outcomes remain as reported in the Uganda Food Security Outlook for October 2016 to May 2017. Most districts will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through May, due to earlier than usual depletion of household stocks and seasonally low income-earning opportunities. In Napak, Kaabong, and Moroto, where harvests were significantly below average, poor households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in April and May, the peak of the lean season. 

The number of South Sudanese seeking refuge in Uganda is expected to increase through at least May 2017. Due to funding gaps and high needs, the World Food Programme (WFP) has reduced assistance to half rations for all refugees who arrived in Uganda before July 2015. The nearly 200,000 refugees impacted by this are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2): in addition to the reduction in food assistance, most have limited capacity to cultivate given the small plot sizes allocated to refugees. Furthermore, October-December rainfall was poor in all refugee settlements and refugees will also harvest lower than normal amounts in December. Most newly arrived refugees were unable to cultivate and are heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance. Given that humanitarian assistance is not planned, funded, and likely through May 2017, newly arrived refugees in Adjumani, Kiryandongo, Isingiro, and Yumbe Districts are expected to be Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of humanitarian assistance. 

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 35 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.