Late and below-average harvests to delay improvements in food security through September
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
The establishment and progression of the bimodal first (March-June) rainy season in March and April were among the worst on record since 1981. The start of season was delayed by 10 to more than 40 days across the country, often coupled with a false start of season that subsided into atypical dry spells through mid- to late-April (Figure 1). On April 20th, at the typical peak of the rainy season, satellite-derived data recorded deficits of 50 to 100 mm across Northern, Eastern, and Central Regions, and parts of Northern Region had deficits of 100 to 200 mm as late as May 15th. However, cumulative totals began to recover in late May and early June. Above-average rainfall amounts increased cumulative totals to below average (70-95 percent of normal) to slightly above average (105-115 percent of normal) by the end of May (Figure 2). In June, cumulative amounts have reached at least average levels, but the period of heavy rainfall has resulted in landslides and flooding in Kampala, Butaleia, Bududa, and Kasese districts.
In Karamoja, a dry start of season similarly transitioned to above-average rainfall in late May and early June. The onset of the unimodal rainy season (April-September) was characterized by a delay of 20-30 days, with a false onset in early March in southern Karamoja. The rains did not establish until early to mid-May, and at the end of May, preliminary satellite-derived data indicated persistent deficits of 25-50 mm in southern Karamoja and 50-100 mm in northern Karamoja. However, heavy rainfall in early June brought seasonal totals to average and caused excessive soil moisture in some areas, hindering ploughing and planting activities.
The poor start of season led to failed or stunted early-planted crops, significant delays in land preparation and planting, and widespread replanting. As a result, FEWS NET estimates that area planted in bimodal areas is between 60 and 80 percent of normal, and the normal timeline for crop development has been delayed by one month, pushing the start of the green harvest back to late-June/July. Maize, beans, sorghum, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, millet, cassava, and cow peas have been planted. In general, crops that were replanted or planted late in April/May are in the vegetative stages in eastern and northern Uganda, attaining 15-45 percent growth. In the southwest and parts of Central Region where rainfall performance was relatively better, crops currently vary from the early to late reproductive stages, attaining 45-75 percent growth. Fall Army Worm (FAW) is prevalent, especially among late-planted maize crops in the early vegetative stages and is damaging the shoots and tender leaves. However, some early-planted crops that survived in low-lying, wetter areas are at the advanced flowering to grain-filling stages. Pulses and maize planted in some wetland areas of Western, Central, and Eastern Regions are now being harvested for green consumption. The availability of seasonal wild and cultivated vegetables, which poor households normally consume in this period, has significantly improved.
The positive evolution of vegetation conditions from late April to early June, as measured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), closely reflects the pattern of increased rainfall performance. Previously moderate to severe vegetation anomalies have generally improved to slightly below to above normal levels countrywide; however, vegetation in parts of northeastern Acholi, Lango, Teso, and Karamoja sub-regions is still recovering (Figure 3). According to field reports, pasture and water availability for livestock and water availability for human consumption are improving but remain below-average in bimodal cattle corridor districts. In northeastern Uganda, many livestock remain in dry season grazing areas and atypical levels of livestock have in-migrated from Turkana, Kenya, contributing to high grazing pressure. As a result, livestock body conditions and milk productivity are still below average but exhibit an upward trend. Although the livestock market supply is tighter than normal due to low availability of good quality animals, low demand for livestock has maintained near-average prices. Incidence of livestock disease is low in most bimodal areas, but an ongoing outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Karamoja has led officials in Moroto and Kaabong districts to maintain a livestock quarantine since January.
In April, the price of preferred staple food commodities rose steadily in bimodal reference markets and increased sharply in Karamoja reference markets, reaching near- to above-average levels. This is being driven by declining market supply and high household demand, compounded by high demand for maize seed for replanting, seasonal demand for school feeding, and anticipation of below-average production. Across bimodal reference markets, the price of maize was 5-24 percent higher in April compared to March, except in Mbale and Mbarara. However, prices are still near to slightly above the April 2018 average and near to slightly below the five-year average (Figure 4). Bean price increases were more significant – prices were up to 26 percent higher compared to the March and April 2019 averages, and prices were 17 percent higher than the five-year average (Figure 5). In Karamoja, the price of sorghum was 72 and 26 percent higher than the April 2018 and five-year averages, respectively. The increase in prices has decreased poor households’ purchasing power at a time when household food stocks are low and dependence on market purchases is high.
Although market supply of maize is lower than normal, reduced export demand from Kenya and border restrictions on trade with Rwanda are mitigating higher price increases. However, regional export demand for beans remains high, which has contributed to bean price increases. According to FarmGain Africa, bean exports through Busia regional trade hub to Kenya remained high in April at approximately 100MT per day, while maize exports sharply declined from about 400MT per day to a mere 20MT per day. The decline in maize exports to Kenya is attributed to the release of staple grain reserves by the Kenya Cereal Produce Board coupled with cheap imports from Tanzania, which had a bumper harvest. Although Uganda’s domestic bean supply is lower than normal due to the delayed and below-average harvest, FEWS NET cross-border trade monitoring data from Mpondwe indicate that beans are being imported at atypical levels from the DRC, Tanzania, and Malawi, and most of these imports are likely being re-exported to Kenya and South Sudan.
Further impacting household food access across Uganda are below-average household income levels and declines in the terms of trade for cereals. Demand for agricultural and livestock-related labor was below average in March and April, and demand only partially rebounded in May given reduced area planted. Although many poor households in bimodal Uganda have been able to rely on crop sales income from the 2018 second season, households in Teso sub-region have had below-average crops sales income due to locally below-average 2018 production. Current low demand for livestock and the livestock quarantine in Moroto and Kaabong have also driven sales of livestock and livestock products to below-average levels in cattle corridor areas. In Karamoja, the terms of trade for sorghum against charcoal and firewood rapidly declined by 26-75 percent and 15-60 percent in April compared to April 2018 and the five-year averages, respectively. Poor households are otherwise expanding their reliance on perennial cassava sales (particularly in Teso sub-region), fishing, income from non-agricultural casual labor, petty trade, and sales of natural resources.
Countrywide, the impact of the below-average first rainy season has strained poor households’ food and income sources. Although poor households in most bimodal livelihood zones are currently maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through crop sales and market purchases, areas in northeastern, central, and eastern Uganda that are most affected by below-average agricultural labor income and rising food prices have deteriorated to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). This is most prevalent in Teso sub-region, where poor households have already exhausted food stocks due to local production deficits in the 2018 second season and they are more highly dependent on markets to access food. In a normal year, the first season green harvest would begin in late-May/June; however, given crop growth to date, this has been delayed to late-June/July. Refugees living in settlements are similarly experiencing delayed harvests and below-average income sources, but it is expected that ongoing humanitarian food assistance equivalent to a full ration each month is currently maintaining Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Outcomes have deteriorated most significantly in Karamoja, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is widespread. Poor households have sustained food consumption gaps since March, and declining terms of trade and below-normal household income is increasingly constraining access to food. As a result, food consumption gaps have widened and the prevalence of acute malnutrition has risen to higher-than-normal levels.
Between June 2019 and January 2020, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key national-level assumptions:
- According to the NOAA/CPC forecast, rainfall in the remainder of the March-June rainy season is most likely to be above average in bimodal Uganda. The September-December second rainy season is most likely to be average, but there is uncertainty given the long-term nature of this forecast and the 55-60 percent likelihood of El Niño in late 2019.
- Based current crop growth conditions and reduced area planted/replanted, first season bimodal production of cereals and legumes is most likely to be at least 30-50 percent below average. Deficits are likely to be largest in Teso sub-region and northeastern Uganda. FAW incidence in eastern and northern Uganda, comparable to March-May 2017, is anticipated to contribute to aggregate production deficits. Green harvests will be delayed until June/July.
- Based on the seasonal forecast, second season cereal production is expected to be average. However, since the delayed first season harvest will permit FAW incidence to persist into August, it is expected that FAW will be present in the second season at slightly higher levels than that observed during the 2017 second season, causing some crop loss.
- In Karamoja, 2019 crop production is likely to be below average due to poor rainfall onset and reduced area planted. Given below-average first season production, agricultural labor demand is expected to be below average through August. Based on the rainfall forecast, labor demand during the second season is likely to return to normal levels.
- Although pasture and water availability in cattle corridor districts is expected to improve in June due to increased rainfall, the slow pace of livestock recovery and subsequent July-August dry period is expected to sustain below-average production and livestock-related labor demand until the start of second season rainfall in September.
- Below-average crop production is expected to drive high domestic demand, and this is anticipated to lead to somewhat above-average staple food prices through December in comparison to 2018 and the five-year average. Price increases are likely to be highest in Teso and Karamoja sub-regions. The expected average second season harvest is likely to cause staple food prices to return to average levels by January.
- Total net exports are most likely to be below average. Although an exportable surplus is expected, below-average cereal production and rising food prices are likely to reduce maize volume exports to Kenya. Prolonged border restrictions are also expected to sustain reduced export volumes to Rwanda. Exports to South Sudan, however, are expected to increase but at lower levels than previously projected, due to the anticipated rise in cost of Ugandan food commodities.
- New arrivals of refugees from South Sudan and DRC are expected through January. Based on planning figures under the Refugee Response Plan, WFP faces a funding shortfall of US$49 million to fully cover the food needs of the refugee population through November. A pipeline break is expected in July, but previous communications with WFP indicated that humanitarian food assistance at current levels was planned and likely through September. This scenario assumes initial ration cuts would be moderate, but food assistance would steadily decline through November due to funding shortfalls. An absence of assistance is assumed in December and January 2020.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Although the bimodal first season harvest is expected to be delayed and below average, most households are expected to harvest enough crops and access other food and income sources to meet their minimum food needs and will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Improved rainfall performance in May-June is likely to mature late planted crops, though the arrival of the green and dry harvests to end the current lean season is expected to be delayed to June and late July, respectively. Since rainfall tends to continue through the end of June in northern Uganda, the forecast of above-average rainfall in June is anticipated to be even more beneficial to crop development. Although an aggregate, seasonal production deficit of 30-50 percent is still expected, poor households will likely offset the decline in food stocks by expanding other typical food and income sources until the second season harvest becomes available in November. In addition, national production is still likely to result in an exportable surplus to Kenya and South Sudan, though at below average levels.
However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to be sustained in areas of concern in parts of Teso, Acholi, and Lango sub-regions through September. In bimodal areas of concern, poor households are expected to exhaust their household food stocks one-two months earlier than usual and will continue to utilize consumption and livelihoods coping strategies in August/September. In Teso sub-region, where this will be the third consecutive below-average production season, poor households will be heavily reliant on food purchases. Staple food prices in Teso are likely to be slightly to moderately above those of 2018 and the five-year average, limiting food access. Second season harvests in November/December will likely be average, improving outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).
Refugees with an arable plot will similarly experience a delayed and below-average first season harvest. Planned humanitarian food assistance and first season food stocks are expected to maintain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes through September. Based on funding shortfalls, however, anticipated ration cuts would thereafter lead to a decline in food security, resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
In Karamoja, household food gaps are expected to widen until the peak of the extended lean season in July, driven by low food availability, significantly below-average income sources, and rising staple food prices. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will persist as food access continues to decline. Although some households are intensifying sales of natural resources and their engagement in stone quarrying and sand mining, concurrent low demand and high supply has pushed income from these sources to below-average levels. As a result of poor food access, food consumption gaps and the prevalence of acute malnutrition are likely to increase. In Kotido and Kaabong, it is likely that some individuals or households may be experiencing more severe outcomes. With the arrival of the main harvest in August-September, food security is expected to temporarily improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though some poor households who planted less acreage are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, due to below-average crop production and likely early exhaustion of household food stocks in the post-harvest period, food security is expected to decline back to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by January.
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
About Scenario Development
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.
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