In South Sudan, food prices are now two to four times above their levels of a year earlier, exacerbated by ongoing insecurity
Local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals have risen to unusually high levels, according to Food and Agriculture Organization's latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin (FPMA), as a result of drought. In a press release from FAO, the prices are posing a heavy burden to households in the swathes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.
"Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity," said Mario Zappacosta, FAO senior economist and coordinator of the Global Information and Early Warning System.
The trends in East Africa, where prices of staple cereals have doubled in some town markets, stand in marked contrast to the stable trend of FAO's Food Price Index, which measures the monthly change in international prices of a basket of traded food commodities, the press release further reads.
The difference is due to the drought that is hammering the sub-region, where food stocks were already depleted by the strong El Niño weather event that ended only last year. Poor and erratic rainfalls in recent months, crucial for local growing seasons, are denting farm output.
In Mogadishu, prices of maize increased by 23 percent in January. In Arusha, Tanzania, the prices have almost doubled since early 2016, while they are 25 percent higher than 12 months earlier in the country's largest city, Dar es Salaam.
In South Sudan, food prices are now two to four times above their levels of a year earlier, exacerbated by ongoing insecurity and the significant depreciation of the local currency.
In Kenya, maize prices are up by around 30 percent, with the increase somewhat contained somewhat thanks to sustained imports from Uganda.
Cereal prices aren't the only ones rising. Beans now cost 40 percent more in Kenya than a year earlier, while in Uganda - where maize prices are now up to 75 percent higher than a year earlier - and increasing around the key border trading hub of Busia, the prices of beans and cassava flour are both about 25 percent higher than a year ago in Kampala.
Double jeopardy for pastoralists
Drought-affected pastoral areas in the region face even harsher conditions. In Somalia, goat prices are up to 60 percent lower than a year ago, while in pastoralist areas of Kenya the prices of goats declined by up to 30 percent over the last twelve months.
Shortages of pasture and water caused livestock deaths and reduced body mass, prompting herders to sell animals while they can, as is also occurring in drought-wracked southern Ethiopia. This also pushes up the prices of milk, which is, for instance, up 40 percent on the year in Somalia's Gedo region.