KAMPALA, UGANDA — In Uganda some bi-modal rainfall areas, land preparation and planting of 2015 second season crops, to be harvested by December, are still underway due to early season dryness, according to an Oct. 28 GIEWS Country Brief from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Cumulative precipitation in August and September was 30%-40% below-average in several cropping areas, with the most severe moisture deficits recorded in central and western parts (Amolatar, Apac, Arua, Gulu, Lira, Nebbi districts). Under the forecast of a strong El Niño episode, which is likely to continue into the first months of next year, the September-December rains are expected at above-average levels, reducing current rainfall deficits and thus benefiting crops. However, exceptionally heavy rains could increase the risk of flash floods in low-lying areas, negatively affecting standing crops, livestock and destroying rural infrastructures.

Earlier in the year, harvesting of the 2015 first season crops, normally completed by the end ofJuly, was concluded two to three weeks late in August. After a late onset of seasonal rains at the end of March, rainfall was erratic, with well above-average amounts in most northern areas and a dry spell in the second and third week of May in central and southern areas, which negatively impacted on crop development and yields.

In the mostly uni-modal Karamoja region, harvesting of long cycle crops, which normally starts in November, will be delayed by more than one month and cereal crop production is forecast at below-average levels. Dry spells throughout the growing period required some replanting and had a severe impact on crop development, particularly in Kaabong, Moroto and Kotido districts.

After having peaked in April-May, prices of maize seasonally declined in all monitored markets by 25%-39% between May and August as the first season harvest increased supplies. Subsequently, prices surged, increasing by 34%-62% between August and October. Normal seasonal patterns were compounded by concerns over the performance of the second season harvest and by increased export demand from neighboring Kenya, Tanzania, and South Sudan. As a result from the recent spikes, current maize prices are 43%-67% higher than 12 months earlier. In September, prices of important staples like beans and cassava flour were generally stable while, those of cooking bananas (matooke) increased in Kampala wholesale market by 10% compared to August.

The country is generally food secure with chronic food insecurity at minimal levels in most bi-modal rainfall areas. Conversely, in Karamoja region, the food security situation is serious, due to the early depletion of food stocks from a reduced 2014 harvest and a high prevalence of livestock diseases. According to the multi-agency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment carried out in June, 67% of households had no food stocks and the stocks of the remaining 33% were not expected to last more than four to five weeks from the time of the assessment. In addition, as of May, prices of sorghum and maize were at the same high levels of 12 months earlier but higher than 24 months earlier, while prices of beans were at their highest levels since January 2013. As a result of reduced availabilities and access constrains due to high market prices, the food security situation is precarious. According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), valid for the period from June to September, about 295,000 people (30% of the population) are in acute food insecurity and livelihood crisis and in need of urgent assistance. The whole Karamoja region was classified in overall Phase 3, with the most affected areas being Kaabong, Kotido, Napak and Moroto districts. The precarious current food security situation, coupled with the delayed harvest and the unfavorable prospects for the 2015 crops, raises serious concerns and calls for sustained humanitarian assistance.

The number of South Sudanese refugees that entered Uganda following the conflict which erupted from Dec. 15, 2014 in South Sudan, was estimated by UNHCR at about 170,000 in early October; about 80% of them are hosted in camps in northwestern towns of Adjutant and Kiryandongo. In addition, as of early October, Uganda hosts about 14,000 Burundians which left the country since early 2015 due to the election-related violence; about 75% of them are hosted in the Nakivale camp, located in the southwestern Isingiro district.