Burundi / Central Africa / East Africa / Ethiopia / Food Security / Kenya / Rwanda / Somalia / Uganda

As pump prices rise, so do the costs of basic foodstuffs across eastern and central Africa

Hunger at the Kenya Coast

Skyrocketing fuel and food prices are making Kenyans suffer; an undernourished child at the Kenya Coast drinks store-bought ‘maziwa lala’ (sour milk) (photo credit: ILRI/Elsworth).

A policy brief published earlier this year by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reports the following.

‘Three years after the 2007–08 food crisis, the prices of basic food items are again rising rapidly, fueling new concerns about the food security of poor people. The international prices of maize and wheat have almost doubled between June 2010 and mid-March 2011, and the global prices of dairy products have also risen [see figure below]. High food inflation is affecting many developing countries, including those home to large numbers of poor people. For example, food inflation rose to 10 percent in China and 18 percent in India between December 2009 and December 2010, mostly driven by higher prices of meat, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, and fruits. . . .’

FAO graphics on global food prices, March 2005-11

Graphics on global food prices from March 2005 to 2011 produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in IFPRI’s Policy Brief 16 (March 2011): ‘Urgent actions needed to prevent recurring food crises’ (graphics credit: FAO).

One of seven initiatives that IFPRI recommends that governments and institutions implement is to push for policies and investments that promote agricultural growth, particularly among smallholder farmers, in the face of climate change. ‘The occurrence of the global food crisis has renewed attention to agriculture and spurred increased investment in the sector. Public policy should ensure that small farmers have opportunities to increase their productivity and income. Investments by national governments, as well as global and regional institutions, should focus on improved smallholder access to inputs such as seeds and fertilizer—through lower transport and marketing costs, improved market infrastructure, and greater competition, as well as financial and extension services and weather-based crop insurance.

‘Governments and institutions should strongly promote new agricultural technologies suitable for smallholders through increased investment in crop breeding and livestock research. Rural infrastructure should also be strengthened to increase access to markets. Past successes show that such investments can achieve rapid increases in smallholder productivity. During the Green Revolution in Asia, small farms benefited from the provision of farm-size-neutral technologies, equitable land distribution and secure property rights, modern and affordable inputs and credit for small farms, and policies that guaranteed stable and fair prices for small farmers. More recent successes in Sub-Saharan Africa also demonstrate the potential to increase the productivity of small farmers. . . .’

And from the humanitarian new service IRIN comes more specific regional reports that ‘Low- and middle-income earners across eastern and central Africa are reeling from the mounting cost of living brought on by a sharp increase in commodity prices in the past few months.

‘Protests and demonstrations against the rising cost of food and fuel have swept across several towns in Kenya and Uganda; violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces have been reported on several occasions in Uganda. At least four Ugandans have been killed in countrywide demonstrations, while hundreds have been arrested and several hospitalized with gunshot wounds and the effects of teargas.

‘On 21 April, IRIN interviewed a cross-section of citizens in six countries in the Horn of Africa, East Africa and Great Lakes regions about the impact of the price increases on their lives. . . .

‘In Kenya, despite an announcement by Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta on 18 April that the government had reduced taxes on diesel and kerosene, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of several major towns on 19 April.

‘Earnest Mogire, a trader at Wakulima wholesale market in Nakuru, a large town in the Rift Valley province, told IRIN his customers were reluctant to buy the cabbages he had just offloaded because of the new high prices.

‘”Transporting the produce from farms has become too expensive, forcing me to adjust my selling prices,” Mogire said. “In January, it used to cost me between KSh12,000 [$150] and KSh13,000 [$163] to transport the produce from Nyeri [in central Kenya], my main source. But the price has since risen to between KSh17,000 [$213) and KSh18,000 [$225], forcing me to pass on the burden to my customers.” . . .

‘In the coastal town of Mombasa, retailers have raised the prices of many commodities, especially foodstuffs such as maize flour, cooking oil and vegetables.

‘Goods in many shops and markets have gone up by at least KSh10 [$0.10] in the past week. A 2kg packet of maize flour, for instance, sold for KSh80 [$0.96] last week but is now KSh90 [$1.08].

‘Transport firms in most parts of Coast Province have also doubled their prices, with owners blaming the government for the high costs of fuel.

‘”Fuel is a big expenditure in the transport sector and as such, any increase in the price, even if it goes up by a shilling, really affects us,” Ahmed Bwanamaka, who operates a three-wheeler taxi, known as a tuk-tuk, said. “The current situation has slashed our revenue by half; we now spend more on fuel than before.”

‘The executive director of the Federation of Kenya Employers, Jacqueline Mugo, said: “Skyrocketing fuel and food prices have made Kenyans suffer; urgent measures need to be taken to avoid social unrest.

‘“We plead with the government to take action to be able to stop the escalating prices. The uprising in the Middle East should not be used as a tool to increase the pump prices.” . . .

‘In Ethiopia, memories of 2008, when the country’s cost of living was second only to then hyper-inflated Zimbabwe, are returning to many residents of the capital, Addis Ababa.

‘Headlines of local newspapers at the weekend all had a common theme: rising inflation.

‘”The things we pay for daily, like sugar, [cooking] oil and transportation costs have increased dramatically in the last two, three months; I don’t know how we will be able to survive if it keeps this way,” Etifwork Nigatu, a city resident, who makes 570 Ethiopian birr a month [$34], said.

‘Etifwork, a mother of one, told IRIN she and her husband, who makes 2,000 birr [$120] a month, spend half their income on food while 600 birr [$36] goes to house rent. The money they spend on food has increased, leaving them short of money for other expenses, such as water and energy for cooking.

‘”The prices of other commodities have skyrocketed; for example, edible oil used to be 28 birr [$1.67] a litre two months ago, now you only find it for double that price,” Etifwork said.

‘According to the 6 April consumer price indices of Ethiopia’s Central Statistical Agency (CSA), the country’s overall inflation rate stood at 25 percent in March, up from 16.5 percent in the same month in 2010.

‘The CSA said while non-food inflation rose to 24.3 percent from 22.0 percent in the same period last year, the food inflation rate showed the largest jump in more than two years, to 25.5 percent in March from 12.8 percent in February.

‘To attract exports, Ethiopia devalued its currency in September 2010 by almost 17 percent, leading to a sharp increase in the price of imported goods, particularly fuel.

‘In an attempt to pre-empt increasing costs, Ethiopia’s trade ministry has, since 6 January, put price controls on various items, including major foodstuffs. However, analysts say the move has proved ineffective; since the beginning of April, state enterprises have started to import food items such as sugar, cooking oil and flour for citizens who can be seen queuing outside shops. . . .’

Read the whole IFPRI Policy Brief 16: Urgent actions needed to prevent recurring food crises, March 2011.

Read the whole news article at IRIN: Consumers, traders feel the burn as prices skyrocket, 21 April 2011.

An earlier special report from the Economist agrees with IFPRI on livestock being key to future global food security; see the ILRI News blog on this: Livestock one of three ways to feed the growing world, 24 February 2011.

Read an earlier report from the ReSAKSS group (Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System) based at ILRI on food prices in eastern and central Africa: How can we solve Africa’s recurrent food supply and demand ‘paradoxes’?, 25 February 2011.

One thought on “As pump prices rise, so do the costs of basic foodstuffs across eastern and central Africa

  1. Fuel Prices.

    It appears Kenya is going down the same road as the UK.Fuel(petrol)in the UK has gone from under £1.00per litre a couple of years ago to as much as £1.40per litre today.I am not suggesting that the UK is suffering in the same way as Kenya but the fuel increases are directly affecting food prices as delivery costs increase and I am certain that poorer people are having to cut back significantly on food with all the healh problems associated by under nourishment.The joy of Kenya is that the wonderful people always appear to be smiling whereas in the UK people get really depressed about simple things like the weather!!!!Keep Smiling!!!

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