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Reference Date: 27-August-2019


  1. Below-average 2019 first season harvest expected in bi-modal rainfall areas due to severe early season dryness

  2. Reduced crop output expected in uni-modal Karamoja Region due to below-average planted area

  3. Prices of maize firm at very high levels in June and July

  4. Severe food insecurity in Karamoja and Teso regions due to consecutive below-average harvests

Below-average 2019 first season harvest expected in bi-modal rainfall areas

In bi-modal rainfall areas covering most of the country (except the agropastoral uni-modal rainfall Karamoja Region in the northeast), harvesting of 2019 second season crops is about to be completed with almost a one-month delay. The March-June rainy season was characterized by drought conditions in March (see Precipitation anomaly map) and in the first two dekads of April, as tropical Cyclone Idai, which formed in early March in the Mozambique Channel, redirected precipitations away from East Africa. The exceptional dryness was among the worst on record since 1982, with the largest rainfall deficits recorded in northern and eastern areas of the country, where cumulative rains between early March and the second dekad of April were between 60 and 80 percent below average, impeding planting operations. In central and southern areas, where some rains were received, planting was carried out. However, insufficient precipitation, about half of the long-term average, coupled with high land surface temperatures, between 3 and 8 degrees Celsius above the average, resulted in widespread germination failures and crop wilting. In addition, according to an assessment conducted in mid-April in central areas and in some eastern districts, about 60 percent of the surveyed fields were affected by Fall Armyworm outbreaks, with infestation levels fostered by the prevailing dry conditions.

Improved rains in late April allowed planting in drought-affected northern and eastern areas and replanting of failed crops in central and southern areas, but planted area was below average as several farmers did not have enough seeds for replanting or opted to not plant as the rainy season was already too advanced. Near average to average rains in May followed by abundant precipitations in June mostly offset the early rainfall deficits, benefitting the establishment and development of late-planted and re-planted crops. However, according to remote sensing information and analysis (see ASI map), by mid-June, severe drought conditions were still affecting between 40 and 85 percent of the cropland in several areas. In July, atypically heavy rainfall in parts of Eastern Region resulted in localized crop damage and elevated the risk of post-harvest losses. As a result of the impact of the severe early season dryness and Fall Armyworm infestations, the output of the first season harvest is expected at below-average levels.

Total cereal production for 2019, assuming an average output of the second season harvest, to be gathered from December, is tentatively set at about 3.4 million tonnes, nearly 10 percent down from 2018 and 5 percent below the average of the previous five years.

Reduced and delayed harvest expected in Karamoja Region

In the uni‑modal rainfall agropastoral Karamoja Region, the April-September rainy season did not fully establish until mid-May, substantially delaying planting. Torrential rains in June offset the moisture deficits, but hindered ploughing and sowing activities in some areas. Therefore, the planted area is estimated at below average levels, also due to the limited amounts of cereal seeds that most households were able to retain from the poor 2018 harvest. Despite the rains continued at above-average levels in July and August and improved vegetation conditions, a reduced and delayed harvest for the second consecutive year is expected.

The abundant rains received since June prompted a substantial regeneration of rangeland resources. However, the influx of significant numbers of livestock from neighbouring Turkana County in Kenya, affected by drought, intensified the pressure on water and pasture. As a result, livestock body conditions and milk productivity, despite some recent improvements, are still below average.

Maize prices firm at very high levels

Prices of maize followed an increasing trend since early 2019, with seasonal patterns compounded by an earlier-than-usual depletion of stocks as the output of the 2018 second season crops was affected by inadequate precipitations. Subsequently, prices had a sharp acceleration due to concerns over the impact of early season dryness on the performance of the 2019 first season harvest, with prices of maize surging by almost 50 percent between March and May. Prices levelled off in June and July as the improved late season rains lifted crop prospects, but due to the recent increases, prices in July were more than twice their year-earlier levels.

Severe food insecurity in Karamoja and Teso regions

According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, conducted in Karamoja and in Teso regions, about 475 000 people (18 percent of the population of the two regions) were estimated to be severely food insecure between January and March 2019. The areas of major concern were Abim, Kaabong, Kotido and Moroto districts in the Karamoja Region and Bukedea, Kumi and Ngora districts in the Teso Region, where IPC Phase 3: “Crisis” levels of food insecurity prevailed. The food insecure caseload increased by more than 70 percent from late 2018, when it was estimated at 277 000 people due to substantial crop production shortfalls in 2018. Subsequently, the food security situation continued to deteriorate, driven by a harsh and prolonged lean season, due to the early depletion of stocks of the poor 2018 crop production and the delayed 2019 harvests. In addition, below-average agricultural labour demand due to the poor seasonal rains and high food prices have resulted in significant constraints to households’ purchasing power and food access. Food security has started to improve in the Teso Region in July with the first season green harvest and in the Karamoja Region in August with the 2019 season green harvest. However, the below-average 2019 crop production (the second and the third consecutive poor seasons in Karamoja and Teso regions, respectively) will again result in an early start of the next lean season.

As of July 2019, the country hosts about 1.3 million refugees, including about 838 000 people from South Sudan and about 366 000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A recent wave of violence led to an increase in new refugee arrivals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the daily arrival rate doubling from about 150 to 300 between May and June, and subsequently declining to about 200 in July. By contrast, the daily rate of new refugee arrivals from South Sudan declined from about 200 in May to about 70 in June and 30 in July. In the same month, 9 500 South Sudanese refugees returned to South Sudan and total voluntary returns are reported at about 89 000.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.