Uganda Monthly Report 06/2003 - Staple prices in Karamoja rise steeply

Situation Report
Originally published


Grain prices in agro-pastoral Karamoja have risen a further 25 percent since April, while livestock prices have stayed the same, eroding terms of trade for pastoralists.

Preliminary results from a WFP/UNICEF/Ministry of Health nutritional survey confirm global malnutrition rates of 22.4 and 14 percent in Kotido and Moroto Districts, respectively. Consequently, WFP plans to increase its relief distribution to cover 60 percent of the total households in the region.

An initial estimate of 130,000 MT of beans is projected for this season; 30 percent will be available for commercial sale. National maize production is estimated at not more than 200,000 MT with fifty percent being available for commercial sale.

Dry bean prices have continued rising by an average 20 percent per month since March 2003. Delayed planting this year means that market supplies will only improve significantly after July. Wholesale maize prices in 2003 remained at least 60 percent higher than 2002 prices for the first five months of the year.

1.0 Current Food Security Conditions and Outlook

The semi-arid agro-pastoral northeastern Karamoja region (comprising Kotido, Moroto and Nakapiripirit Districts) continues to suffer from the effects of the poor 2002 crop. Almost all households in the region have neither cereal nor other food stocks left and are therefore reliant on marketed grain from the neighboring districts of Lira, Mbale, Sironko, Katakwi and Soroti. On average, maize prices in this area have increased 25 percent over April's already high price to UShs 500/kg. Karamoja's prices are 25 percent higher than those in neighboring districts, where a kilogram sells for UShs 400. Even these lower prices are about 50 percent higher than for the same period in 2002, indicating reduced cereal availability countrywide.

Cattle prices have remained stable at about UShs 130,000 per mature animal. However, as a result of the increase in grain prices, terms of trade between livestock and cereals continued to depreciate. For example, a mature animal was only able to fetch the equivalent of 2.5 months of cereals in May, down from 2.8 in April, for an average family of six. This implies that such families need to sell between one and two mature animals to afford sufficient food to meet their requirements until July/August when the 2003 harvest is expected.

Although the number of households selling shoats has increased, the market price has increased slightly to UShs 16,000 per head, sufficient to procure 1.2 weeks equivalent of grain to meet requirements for a family of six. Therefore, a family of six would have to sell 10 shoats in order to meet their food requirements until the next harvest.

It is estimated that between 25 to 45 percent of the households in Karamoja are resource poor and rely entirely on agriculture and labor for their food needs. A further 5 to 10 percent own but a small herd of animals. These two categories are the most food insecure households, the former being worst off. Their daily wage is only able to procure enough grain to feed less than 4 persons per day, or the equivalent to 57 percent of requirements for a family of six. Although grain still forms the core component of most households' meals, in-season wild vegetables and fruits are increasingly being used to supplement grain consumption. Grain borrowing from kin and/or other sources is minimal given the overall low grain availability in the area.

Low grain availability, inadequate consumption and other causal factors have resulted in an increase in the rates of malnutrition among the children. Preliminary results from a WFP/UNICEF/Ministry of Health (GoU) detailed nutritional survey conducted in May 2003 confirm global malnutrition rates of 22.4 and 14 percent in Kotido and Moroto districts, respectively, from an earlier assessment in April. As a result, it was recommended that the general relief distribution be widened to cover 96,440 households (60 percent of the total households) in the region and the amount of food increased to 3,000 MT per month (to meet about 30 percent of requirements). Distribution at these new levels began in late May and will continue until August 2003.

Many households in Gulu, Kitgum, Pader and Lira Districts in northern Uganda continue to suffer widespread food insecurity due to Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) activities. Approximately 812,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are located in the three districts and depend on the World Food Programme's food aid for most of their food needs. A lapse in the peace negotiations in March 2003 and a higher incidence of insecurity have limited cultivation this season. A high risk of attack on roads hampers travel and humanitarian activities, including food aid distributions, which strictly take place under government military escort, although some settlements are inaccessible due to a lack of military escorts. In addition, traders are not able to deliver commodities from neighboring districts, which could help alleviate local food and non-food shortages.

With the observed reduction in household food stocks, limits on food access through market transfers, and diminishing prospects for any reasonable crop harvests in the region this season, WFP plans to increase its food assistance to the IDPs to meet 100 percent of their food needs. A review by WFP recommended that all 812,000 IDPs continue to receive the full food aid ration until August 2003, implying the agency will be aiming to distribute 12,000 MT of food aid per month under a revised Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) 10121.0. However, with increasing food aid demands and limited resources, the agency predicts severe pipeline breaks in cereal and pulse availability between September and December 2003. Table 1 shows projected monthly food pipeline shortfalls (June to Dec. 2003).

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