Rice is up by 27% in Burkina Faso

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Flag of Burkina Faso
Flag of Burkina Faso

The World Food Programme fears up to 75 percent of Burkina Faso’s city dwellers may be unable to access adequate food stocks as they struggle to cope with the combined impacts of a bad 2007 harvest and high global food prices, according to a July food security survey.

Prices of most staple products have been rising steadily in Burkina Faso since October 2007. Oil is 50 percent more expensive than in the same period last year, another staple sorghum is up by a quarter, and local rice by 27 percent, according to WFP.

In the capital Ouagadougou, rice prices are US$0.95 per kg making them some of the highest in the region and on a par with those in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.

High food prices led to food riots in several cities across the country in February and March this year.

The World Food Programme and non-governmental organisations will launch emergency food security operations in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina’s second largest city, while the government says it is focusing on long-term solutions aimed at increasing domestic food production by 13 percent over the next few years.

“With food prices so high in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso it is clear that we have no choice but to launch an emergency intervention,” said Olga Keita, programme director at the World Food Programme.

Poor hardest hit

Three quarters of Ouagadougou’s population is classified as ‘poor’ or’ very poor’ by WFP and a government-WFP rapid assessment released on 16 July showed that these people are already reducing the number of meals they eat to one or two a day, eating fewer foods and smaller quantities at each meal.

Rice, oil, meat, milk and vegetables are already off the menu, and people are turning to wild roots and leaves to supplement their diets, leading aid agencies to fear malnutrition, particularly among children and pregnant women.

The poor in Ouagadougou spend up to 80 percent of their household income procuring food, leaving little to nothing left over for other basic necessities like healthcare, transport, water or education fees.

The survey also notes a rise in banditry, crime and prostitution linked to high food price rises.

Emergency measures

Large-scale urban response is a new approach for WFP and its partners.

“It is more complicated to launch a programme in a city because targeting the right people is more difficult and lots of agencies lack experience in it,” Keita said.

But she hopes the problems will be balanced out by advantages such as higher population concentrations and shorter transport routes, which should cut costs.

WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the government and NGOs plan to distribute ration tickets and food vouchers to at least 100,000 city residents as well as subsidising their medical prescriptions and in some cases school fees.

Meanwhile the government has imposed emergency measures in 2008 including removing import duties on basic goods such as rice, millet and salt, removing sales tax on wheat and cooking oil, banning cereal exports and attempting to fix the price of some grains.

Over the long term the government is looking to avoid such crises from arising in the future by boosting agricultural production as many of its neighbours have done.

“This crisis did not come by surprise, we could have anticipated it… if we want to solve the problem definitively we must invest in agriculture,” said Mbaye Yade who coordinates the West African analysis network, a Burkinabe research institute.

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