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Rwanda: Positive food security outlook in 2024, FAO

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Following two years of food inflation, Rwanda now looks at a favorable food security situation in 2024, thanks to the September- November 2023 timely and onset rainfall that set the stage for fertile farms. 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in the first quarter of 2024, cereal agriculture yields are expected to be “above average” and will make up to 60 percent of all production in the first quarter of 2024.

The 2023 aggregate cereal production is officially estimated at 847,000 tonnes, about 10 percent above the last five‑year average. However, the report predicts that with some staple foods such as beans, production is estimated to be below the average due to irregular precipitation distribution in the Eastern Province. 

Rwanda’s efforts to curb the rising prices by removing the Value Added Tax (VAT) from some staple foods have maintained the price of maize, and its products, below the average.

FAO attributed the favorable food security situation to adequate food availability, owing to above‑average local production and improved cross‑border trade with Uganda and Tanzania. In May last year, Rwanda reopened the Gatuna border with Uganda allowing cross-border trade to resume. The border had been closed for three years, since 2019, following a political impasse. 

Relief, following record-high food inflation

The positive production outlook comes as a relief following two years of Rwanda grappling with rising food prices. 

In February, the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis report by the National Institute of Statistics painted a grim picture of food security, indicating that 987,000 households are facing food insecurity, 489,000 are moderately food insecure, and 46,000 are severely food insecure.

The numbers translate to millions of people given a Rwandan household consists of four people on average. The report indicated that the western and southern provinces of the country were the hardest-hit region. 

Adding to the woes, Rwanda ranked 2nd hardest hit by food inflation globally in 2023, according to the World Bank, and was ranked 22nd hungriest country by the Global Hunger Index 2022, coming in fourth in the region after Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

For the past two years, there were fears that the progress made in reducing poverty and ensuring food security in the past decade hung in the balance, with market prices remaining high and instability in local agricultural production persisting.

The FAO report has also sounded an alarm that if the current weather forecast remains, there will be an occurrence of floods and landslides in the first rainy season of 2024 which may result in localized crop losses.

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