East Africa Faces Cereal Production Challenges Due to Erratic Rainfall and Insecurity

Overview: FAO Warns of Below-Average Cereal Production

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has raised concerns about below-average cereal production in the East African region. Erratic rainfall patterns and insecurity are cited as key factors affecting the 2023 main season cereal crops.

Mixed Production Prospects in Northern Subregion

In the northern parts of the subregion, including Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda’s Karamoja Region, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and central and western Kenya, production prospects for the 2023 main season cereals are reported as mixed.

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Impact on Long-Rains Crops in Kenya

Key areas in Central, Rift Valley, and Western provinces of Kenya experienced erratic rainfall, impacting the “long-rains” maize production. The aggregate production is estimated to be 5 to 10 percent below the five-year average, with implications for harvests in these locations.

Food Insecurity in Rural Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) in Kenya

The FAO highlights that in Kenya’s 23 counties classified as rural Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), approximately 1.5 million people are expected to face severe acute food insecurity between October 2023 and January 2024. This represents about 10 percent of the analyzed population, a notable improvement from the previous year’s almost 30 percent.

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Insecurity Affects Cropping Season in Sudan

Ongoing conflict in Sudan, particularly in Greater Darfur and Greater Kordofan regions, has impacted the 2023 cropping season. Insecurity has hindered access to fields, resulting in reduced plantings and expectations of below-average crop production.

Challenges in Uganda’s Karamoja Region

The agropastoral Karamoja Region of Uganda is expected to witness below-average crop production due to erratic rainfall patterns, contributing to the overall regional challenges.

Eritrea: Favourable Cereal Production Prospects

Eritrea experienced average rainfall during the 2023 June−September rainy season. Despite some dry spells, cereal production prospects are considered favorable.

Ethiopia: Favourable Overall Production Prospects with Localized Shortfalls

In Ethiopia, overall production prospects for main crops are positive, with above-average rainfall boosting yields in key-growing areas. However, conflict-related insecurity in some regions and insufficient rains in central and southern areas may lead to localized shortfalls in cereal production.

El Niño Conditions and Future Outlook

El Niño conditions, currently present and forecasted to continue into early next year, are expected to bring above-average October–December rainfall. While this may boost yield expectations, the increased risk of floods poses a threat, leading to potential crop and livestock losses in localized areas.

Rising Cereal Import Requirements

The total cereal import requirement for Low‑Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs) in the 2023/24 marketing year is forecasted at 49.6 million tonnes, reflecting a 6.2 percent increase above the five-year average. East African countries are particularly affected, driven by two years of drought-stricken harvests and anticipated low production in 2023.