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GIEWS Country Brief: Rwanda 27-October-2020

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FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  • Erratic rains at start of “2021A” main season affecting vegetation condition in some southern, northern and eastern areas

  • Record cereal production obtained in 2020, mainly due to bumper “2020A” main season harvest

  • Prices of pulses and vegetables at high levels due to tight supplies

  • Economy and food security affected by measures to contain spread of COVID‑19 pandemic

Erratic rains at start of “2021A” season affecting vegetation condition in some southern, northern and eastern areas

Planting of the main “2021A” crops, contributing to about 60 percent of the aggregate cereal output, is normally concluded in October. However, the September‑November “long rainy season” has been characterized so far by a delayed onset and by an erratic spatial and temporal distribution of precipitation, which delayed planting operations and negatively impacted germination of early planted crops. Currently, according to satellite imagery (see ASI map), between 25 and 85 percent of the cropland is affected by drought in some southern, northern and eastern areas.

According to the latest Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF) weather forecast, rains are expected to be below average between October and December, with a likely negative impact on yields.

Record aggregate cereal production obtained in 2020

According to official estimates, the 2020 aggregate cereal production is put at a record of 755 000 tonnes, about 11 percent above the average of the previous five years. The record cereal was mainly driven by a bumper “2020A” main season maize and sorghum harvest, due to exceptionally abundant precipitation, which benefited yields. Similarly, the output of cassava was 23 percent above the average of the previous five years.

By contrast, production of potatoes (sweet and Irish potatoes) and beans was affected by excess moisture during the “2020A” season. The output of potatoes was 4 percent down from 2019 but still 7 percent above average, while production of beans was 10 percent lower than the previous year and 5 percent down from the average of the previous five years.

Prices of pulses and vegetables at high levels

In the capital, Kigali, wholesale prices of maize and beans increased by about 30 percent between June and September, with seasonal patterns compounded by trade disruptions following the temporary closure of the two main markets in Kigali City to curb the spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic. However, September prices of maize remained around their year‑earlier levels due to ample domestic availabilities. By contrast, prices of beans, an important staple in the countries’ diet, in September, were about 25 percent higher than their year‑earlier levels. The high price levels are due to tight supplies following a reduced 2020 production and to the restrictions implemented to contain the COVID‑19 pandemic, which increased the post‑harvest losses of perishable products including beans and vegetables. According to the National Institute of Rwanda (NISR), the year‑on‑year inflation rate was estimated in September at 10.8 percent, while food inflation was estimated at 15.1 percent. While the year‑on‑year inflation rate of bread and cereals was 4.7 percent, prices of vegetables, accounting for the largest share of the food basket, increased by more than 20 percent over the last 12 months.

Food security situation affected by measures to contain spread of COVID‑19 pandemic

The introduction, in March 2020, of several precautionary measures in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, resulted in a marked slowdown of economic activities. According to NISR, in the second quarter of 2020 the Gross Domestic Product declined by 12.4 percent, with the outputs of agriculture, industry and services sectors decreasing by 2, 19 and 16 percent, respectively. Despite a gradual easing of lockdown measures introduced in May, the economic recovery has been modest and several businesses, including private hospitals, schools, hotels and restaurants, are reported to be unable to hire back staff that had been laid off.

Due to the reduction of employment opportunities, below‑average incomes and high food prices, IPC Phase 2: “Stressed” levels of food insecurity are prevailing in several areas, particularly in urban centres. Here, the lockdown measures and the economic downturn significantly affected the food security situation of the poor households, which mainly rely on daily wages obtained through casual labour, petty trading, food vending, construction activities and domestic work.

The food security situation in most rural areas is comparatively better. However, in Western and Southern provinces, some poor households engaged in cross‑border trade have lost access to this income source due to the COVID‑19‑related border closures. These households are facing IPC Phase 2: “Stressed” and Phase 3: “Crisis” levels of food insecurity. In these areas, Government social assistance programmes and humanitarian assistance are expected to avert a widespread deterioration of the food security situation.

According to UNHCR, the country hosts about 148 000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. About 90 percent of the refugees live in camps where they are provided with basic services, cash transfers and food and nutrition assistance. By contrast, the food security situation of about 12 000 Burundian refugees living in urban areas has deteriorated to IPC Phase 2: “Stressed” and Phase 3: “Crisis” levels of food insecurity, as the restrictive measures have affected both incomes and remittances.