Wednesday January 8 2014

Favourable harvests despite poor rains

By FEWS NET report

Despite below average rainfall, the second season performance in bimodal production areas (with two rainy seasons) has been generally favourable.
Country-wide, unusual food price increases were observed for the third consecutive month. Declining supplies of staple foods on key markets following average/below average harvests, coupled with steady demand, drove prices up.

Bananas: Retail prices for bananas increased by 41 and 74 per cent for Mbarara and Kampala, largely attributable to seasonal supply decline due to the perennial nature of this crop. Banana retail prices remain slightly below 2012 prices but 13-19 per cent higher than the two-year average at the same time.
Sorghum: Prices remained stable and below last year and two-year average prices by a 20-26 per cent range as a result of relative supplies from first season cereal harvests in Acholi, West Nile, Lango, and Teso districts.

Millet: Retail prices in Lira and Soroti remained stable for the third consecutive month and were similar to prices at the same time last year.
Cassava: Steady supply is linked to price stability was observed in Arua and Soroti but at levels that are 16-17 per cent higher than 2012 prices.
Beans: Prices have increased steadily for the last three months country-wide. Increases have averaged seven per cent in Kampala, Lira and Gulu but doubled in Mbarara by 17 per cent compared to August.

Bean crops were hardest hit country-wide by inconsistent and, in some cases, insufficient and poorly distributed rainfall during the last growing season. Beans also represent a primary protein source for poor households who cannot afford meat.
Maize: Prices were stable in Masindi but increased by 10 per cent in Kampala, and are 25 and 39 per cent higher than 2012 prices. Shortfalls of this staple following inconsistent first season harvests, coupled with steady demand, are increasing price levels.

These relative high prices may limit poor households from accessing food from the markets but the availability of cheaper substitutes is a mitigating factor.
The onset of the rainy season was generally on-time, though slightly inconsistent from one region to another, with most areas experiencing beginning of the rains by mid-September, according to the Meteorological Department.
Fearing a repeat of dry spells and rainfall deficits observed during the first season, some farmers began planting maize and beans as early as August.

Average progress
Cumulative rainfall, mostly in the north and northwestern parts of the country, has been sufficient to project above average crop performance for most crops like millet, cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, beans, and maize.
However the areas around the Lake Victoria basin, central, and south/southwestern experienced light rains, resulting in rainfall deficits.

Some minor and sporadic disruptions to crop growth have been observed in these areas. Forecasts indicated continuing normal rainfall in these areas through December.
Overall, seasonal progress is average, with some areas affected by rainfall deficits. Seasonal agricultural activities such as labour have progressed normally and in accordance with the typical agricultural calendar.

Near sufficient soil moisture levels have enhanced normal crop growth, especially in northern Uganda where rains have been average to above average.
Weeding is ongoing for cereals, pulses and tubers, while pruning of vegetative undergrowth is underway for perennial crops.

Flowering and grain filling are occurring normally. In some wetland areas, notably in the central region, households are already consuming or selling their early green harvests for beans, vegetables and horticultural crops that were planted early, in August.

All other crops were on track for full maturation by late November into December.
Normal on-farm seasonal livelihood activities are providing average incomes. October was a peak period for on-farm labour demand for the first post-harvest activities such as drying, threshing, cleaning, and storage.
Though these activities have ended, both farmers and casual labourers who depend on second season rains for agricultural-based income earning have continued to benefit from the second season performance to-date.

Poor households who typically depend on these on-farm incomes are able to meet their food needs through market purchase while awaiting additional availability from anticipated green consumption.