Food security threatened by heavy rains

The ongoing heavy rain may jeopardise food security in the coming months. / Photo: Emmanuel Kwizera.

The ongoing heavy downpour may jeopardise food security in the coming months and keep inflation on the rise. Currently, farmers are in a post-harvest season which, according to analysts, will be a tough moment.

The threat rose during the last quarter of last year when destructive rains in November and December flooded nearly 4,000 hectares of crops.

As a result, according to the Central Bank, food inflation skyrocketed to 23.8 per cent in December against the medium-term benchmark of 5 per cent.

John Rwangombwa, the Governor of the Central Bank last week said that inflation slightly above the benchmark is expected in the first three months of this year. He described the new weather patterns as “a bit worrisome.”

Food prices

The rains led to hike in food prices with a kilo of beans rising to more than double to Rwf1,200. Crops severely damaged included rice, maze and Irish potatoes.

“We cannot predict a favourable harvest of beans because there has been so much rain which led to poor harvest in some parts [of the country],” said Charles Bucagu, Deputy Director of Agriculture Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB). “We don’t expect significant increment.”

The damage has led to the lack of harvest estimates for beans, which darkens the uncertainty of prices going down.

Ivan Murenzi, the Deputy Director General (DDG) at the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), said a study was being conducted to determine the magnitude the ongoing unusual rains might have on food security.

And the rains are predicted to keep on pouring, according to Rwanda Meteorology Agency.

Nonetheless, Bucagu says the expected produce, in general, is good enough to keep consumers assured.

“Maze harvest, for example, is estimated to reach 530,000 metric tonnes. That is a big increment because the produce in the past seasons lingered between 300,000 and 400,000. This will lower the prices.”

He noted that corn price is already shrinking, saying a kilo is now about Rwf300 from Rwf500 a few weeks ago.

Food reserves

To mitigate the risks of food shortages and higher prices, RAB urges farmers to conserve the harvest.

“It is not necessary to sell off or consume all the produce. We practice strategic conservation at the national level, but the drill should be a culture at local and personal level,” said Bucagu, adding “It will be a positive impact on the produce and the economy in general if the rains are good and enough through the next season [which usually has a very short period of rainfall.”

The weather agency issued warning forecasts last year in September and last month predicting the likelihood of property loss due to heavy rains, and advised policymakers and actors in sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, and water and energy to take precautionary measures.

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