Steep rise in prices as food scarcity hits Somali breadbasket town of Baidoa

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Qaali Maxamed oo badar ku iibineysa suuqa Baydhabo/Muxyadiin Xusni/Ergo Photo | Qaali Mohamed has few customers due to high grain prices in Baidoa market/Muhyadin Husni/Ergo

Radio Ergo 20 February, 2017 BAYDHABO

 

(ERGO) - Food prices in the markets in Baidoa, in southern Somalia’s Bay region, have risen by about three to four times over the past two months, as staple commodities become increasingly scarce due to the ravaging drought across the country.

Radio Ergo’s local correspondent found that a 1.5 kg container of beans is being sold for 25,000 Somali shillings ($1), as compared to 8,000 shillings in January.  A container of maize is up from 5,000 to 18,000 shillings, and sorghum that was sold at 3,000 shillings is now 15,000.

The price of milk has also increased drastically, as many livestock have died or migrated to other areas and those remaining are undernourished and unproductive.

Inevitably the poorest families are being hit immediately. Yusuf Aadan Ma’alin, 29, who earns a living as a porter with a donkey cart, told Radio Ergo his family of four has been cooking just once a day since the food prices went up.

Imported rice that used to be unaffordable for him is now cheaper than the locally grown cereals. They are buying a kilo of rice to eke out over two days.

Yusuf’s average daily earnings of 50,000 Somali shillings ($2) used to enable him to buy various types of food and milk for the family. But milk has gone up from 9,000 to 25,000 shillings a litre, putting it beyond his means.

Bay region has not had good rainfall in two years.  It is one of the primary food producing regions in Somalia. The prolonged drought has meant the local farmers have depleted their food stores and harvests have been poor or non-existent.

The United Nations has warned that Somalia may be on the brink of famine, with almost three million people already unable to get enough to eat.

Small traders are affected too.  Qaali Mohamed Abdi, who trades in grain, told Radio Ergo that she had invested money in stocking products that her customers no longer had the cash to buy.  She has had 200 kg of various foods in stock for two weeks that have hardly shifted - it is three days since she last made a sale.

Qaali, a widower, single handedly supports her seven children.  She used to get by on 15,000 shillings ($6.25) on a good day of business in the market and was able to pay for the family's food, rent and education. Due to the drop in income, however, she withdrew four of her children from school last month, as she could not pay their school fees totalling $26.    

 

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