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East Africa

Prices of maize increased sharply due to unfavourable crop prospects


In several countries of the subregion, prices of maize increased sharply in April after severe dry and hot weather conditions reduced production prospects for the 2019 harvests (GIEWS Special Alert). In Kenya, prices of maize surged in all monitored markets with seasonal upward pressure compounded by the prolonged dry and hot weather conditions affecting planting and crop germination of the main 2019 “long-rains” crop. Similarly, in Uganda, prices of maize increased by more than 30 percent in April and reached levels well above those a year earlier as the first season harvest, which will be gathered from July with about one month of delay, is expected at well below-average levels due to poor precipitation. In the United Republic of Tanzania, where dry conditions affected mostly the northeast of the country, prices of maize also increased significantly in some markets. In the Sudan, prices of sorghum and millet continued to increase in April and reached record highs in several markets. Despite an above-average 2018 harvest, the strong depreciation of the currency on the parallel market, coupled with fuel shortages affecting production and transport costs, more than offset the downward supply pressure on prices. Political uncertainty and heightened social unrest since March contributed to further underpin the price increases. In South Sudan, prices of coarse grains continued to increase seasonally in April in the capital, Juba, and, although down from a year earlier, prices were about 20 percent above the already exceptionally high levels of the corresponding month in 2017. The high prices mainly reflect the sustained depreciation of the country’s currency on the parallel market, tight supplies and the impact of insecurity. In Somalia, prices of locally-produced maize and sorghum generally strengthened in April on weather-driven concerns over the next main “gu” crop. However, stable supply from neighbouring Ethiopia limited the upward pressure. By contrast, in Burundi, prices of maize continued to decline in April following the above-average 2019 “A” season harvest and favourable prospects for the “B” crops, and were more than 30 percent lower than a year earlier. In Rwanda, prices increased slightly in April, but remained close to their year-earlier levels on account of adequate domestic supplies. In Ethiopia, prices of maize changed little in March and were only slightly above their year-earlier levels, reflecting good availabilities from the 2018 main “meher” harvest, completed earlier in the year.