Rising food prices in eastern and southern Africa revisited: Lifting trade barriers is still the answer

CAN August 2009In the August issue of the Collective Action News, we revisit food price trends across eastern and southern Africa, a topic we focused on in our first issue, in July 2008, just after the global food price crisis had peaked. We also draw attention to policy responses to the food price crisis, and provide an outlook for food prices in ESA for the rest of 2009.

Although the Global Food Price Index (FPI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) fell between June 2008 and February 2009, global food prices have been rising slightly since then. Changes in the Global FPI were matched by a persistent increase in FPIs in countries belonging to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), except for Malawi and Comoros, which have experienced very volatile FPIs. On average, the prices of white maize, beans, milk, and non-tradable food items such as bananas, potatoes and yams all increased between January 2007 and January 2009.

White maize is the staple grain in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and some parts of Ethiopia. In Uganda, it is grown mainly as a commercial crop for export to the region. Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, and Tanzania have all seen substantial increases in maize prices from early 2007 – and there were no signs of decrease as of March 2009, apart for Zambia. The prices in these countries seem to be linked, perhaps due to cross-border trade and shortfalls of maize production within East Africa. For the season ending March 2009, maize supply in Kenya was constrained by reduced imports from Tanzania and Uganda during 2008/09 due to tightened markets in those countries as well as a trade ban in Tanzania – which led to prices almost 120% above normal. Similarly, from January 2007 to January 2009, bean prices have risen in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania…Read more

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