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GIEWS Country Brief: Uganda 9-December-2020

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Above-average 2020 second season cereal harvest expected in bi‑modal rainfall areas

Delayed and reduced 2020 harvest gathered in Karamoja Region

Abundant seasonal rains benefiting pastoral livelihoods

Prices of maize at low levels due to adequate availabilities and depressed demand

Food security situation still affected by measures to contain spread of COVID‑19 pandemic, despite phasing out of some restrictions

Above-average 2020 second season cereal harvest expected in bi‑modal rainfall areas

In bi‑modal rainfall areas covering most of the country, harvesting of the 2020 second season crops is about to start and will be completed in January. The September‑November rainy season was characterized by abundant precipitations, especially in northern areas, favouring crop establishment and development. Vegetation conditions are good across the country (see ASI map) and an above-average crop production is expected. However, the torrential rains triggered flooding in September and October near Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga, in northwestern Amuru, Adjumani, Obongi, Packwach, Moyo, Lamwo and Arua districts and in eastern Butaleja and Mbale districts. In addition, landslides occurred in mountain areas of eastern Mbale, southern Kisoro and western Bunyangabo districts. Floods and landslides affected about 16 500 people and caused losses of lives, damage to infrastructure and localized crop losses. Subsequently, in late November, heavy rains caused floods in Mbarara District and landslides in Kasese District, both located in the South-Western Region, affecting more than 2 000 people.

The first season harvest concluded in July and production was estimated at above‑average levels due to abundant seasonal rains, despite localized but significant flood-related production shortfalls.

Total cereal production for 2020 is put at about 3.6 million tonnes, nearly 4 percent up from 2019 and similar to the average of the previous five years.

In February 2020, a desert locust outbreak affected northeastern Teso and Karamoja subregions and northern Acholi and Lango subregions. Damage to pastures and crops was localized as swarms were of relatively small size and the Government, with the support of FAO, carried out effective control operations. Although as of late November no swarms were present in the country, Cyclone Gati hit northern Somalia on 22 November 2020 bringing heavy rains and creating a conducive environment for the formation of several immature swarms in early December. Some of these swarms could reach northern Kenya by mid‑December. As a result, there is a concrete risk of another locust invasion of northeastern and northern areas of the country, characterized by an already fragile food security situation. The desert locust response plan is 90 percent funded through multiple donors and agencies, and contingency plans are in place for surveillance and control measures.

Delayed and reduced harvest gathered in Karamoja Region

In the uni‑modal rainfall agro‑pastoral Karamoja Region, the April‑September rainy season had an early onset in March, with heavy rains triggering flooding and waterlogging which resulted in delayed and reduced plantings, also due to seed shortages. As a result, although the good performance of seasonal rains benefitted yields, cereals and pulses were harvested in October, with about a one‑month delay, and production is estimated at 10‑20 percent below average due to a reduced planted area and to the continuation of seasonal rains into October, which resulted in increased post-harvest losses.

Abundant seasonal rains benefitting pastoral livelihoods

In the agro‑pastoral areas of Cattle Corridor and Karamoja Region, abundant rains between September and November have resulted in above‑average rangeland conditions (see Vegetation Condition Index Map). Ample availability of water and pasture benefitted animal body conditions, with above‑average levels of meat and milk production. However, in Cattle Corridor significant losses of pasture due to floods have been reported in western Ntoroko and Bullisa districts and in central Nakasongola District. In Karamoja Region, the restrictive measures introduced to curb the spread of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and the COVID‑19 pandemic, coupled with persisting insecurity related to cattle raids, have disrupted livestock movements and, animal and milk sales.

Prices of maize at low levels due to adequate availabilities and depressed demand

Prices of maize decreased by about 50 percent between May and August in all monitored markets, including the capital, Kampala, as the commercialization of the first season harvest increased market availabilities. The COVID‑19‑related restrictions exerted further downward pressure on prices, as demand by restaurants, hotels, schools and urban households was constrained by a lower economic activity and declines in incomes. Prices increased by about 15‑20 percent in September, as seasonal patterns were compounded by flood‑related trade disruptions, remaining subsequently mostly stable in October and November. Prices of maize in November were almost 40 percent below their year‑earlier levels.

In the cereal deficit Karamoja Region, the availability of low priced cereals from neighbouring surplus producing areas in Soroti, Lira and Acholi regions has resulted in a generalized decline of cereal prices, despite the below‑average local harvest. In several markets of the region, including Moroto, Kaabong and Napak, prices of sorghum in September were up to 20 percent below their year‑earlier levels.

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

The restrictive measures introduced in March and April 2020 by the Government to curb the spread of the COVID‑19 pandemic had a substantial adverse impact on the food security situation. Despite the easing of restrictions in June/July, the economic and livelihood recovery has been slow.

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, conducted in Karamoja Region, refugee settlements, host communities and urban areas, 2 million people (17 percent of the analyzed population) are estimated to be severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3: “Crisis” and Phase 4: “Emergency”) in the period September 2020-January 2021. Of these 2 million people:

  • About 182 000 are located in Karamoja Region, mainly as a result of consecutive below‑average harvests in 2019 and 2020, and of reduced livestock and milk sales.

  • About 714 000 are members of refugee hosting communities located in northern, western and southern areas, mainly due to a slow recovery of businesses, daily wage incomes and cross border trade and labour movements after the easing of the COVID‑19‑related movement restrictions.

  • About 495 000 are refugees and asylum seekers, out of about 1.4 million individuals, mainly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The main drivers of the food insecurity are the reduction of humanitarian assistance since April due to budget constraints and the economic impact of the several COVID‑19‑related restrictions still in place.

  • About 611 000 are located in traditionally food secure urban areas including the capital, Kampala. The food security situation in urban areas was the most affected by the COVID‑19‑related restrictive measures, as poor households mainly rely on the daily wages obtained through casual labour, petty trading, food vending, construction activities and domestic work. Despite the phasing out of some restrictive measures, the food security situation of the urban poor has not significantly improved, as the restrictions still in place on business operations are resulting in a slow recovery of the economic activities.