For many poor rural farmers, getting their products to market is one of the most daunting obstacles they face. Markets in developing countries often have weak integration, characterized by a lack of communication and information-sharing; thus, while markets in one region may offer higher prices for a commodity, farmers in other regions have no way of learning about, and taking advantage of, these price differences.

According to a Hazards Outlook released by FEWS NET on Wednesday, a slow start to the rainy season has resulted in seasonal rainfall deficits across the Greater Horn of Africa. The delay in seasonal rainfall has already impacted some crops in the region. Heavy rainfall forecast for Ethiopia next week could mitigate the moisture deficit; however, other areas of the region will continue to see only light rainfall.

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FEWS NET has released an updated forecast analysis for the Horn of Africa, citing the likelihood of poor rainfall in the coming months. In the most likely scenario, rainfall in March-May will be ten percent below average. While a ten percent reduction in rainfall would not have substantial negative impacts on crop production, humanitarian agencies are urged to prepare contingency plans to address possible disruptions to food access.

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The African Growth and Development Policy (AGRODEP) Modeling Consortium released its first edition of the AGRODEP Bulletin, a publication providing insights into major economic development issues in Africa. The Bulletin introduces research and capacity building activities undertaken by AGRODEP and announces publication of new economic data and statistics on Africa. Read more.

AGRODEP (African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium) has now launched its third round of membership application. Qualified economists from Africa are eligible; membership provides free access to cutting-edge economic research tools, resources, and training that may otherwise be unavailable to researchers in the region.

FEWS NET has released its monthly price watch for February 2012. The report cites stable and declining grain prices in much of West and East Africa, although prices remain high in the Sahel region and Kenya. In particular, grain prices in South Sudan remain very high due to poor production and trade; similarly, maize prices in Malawi continue to increase rapidly. Afghanistan and Tajikistan continue to see high wheat and wheat flour prices.

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A Policy Dialogue on Food Security Information Needs in Kenya, co-organized by IFPRI and KIPPRA, was held in Nairobi, Kenya in March of 2011. To revisit some of the more pressing issues to have emerged from this Policy Dialogue, IFPRI and KIPPRA call for the development of two papers. (For access to the Policy Dialogue proceedings report, please contact Jenna Ferguson at J.Ferguson@cgiar.org.)

PAPER TOPICS

The two paper topics highlight main discussion points from the Policy Dialogue:

FEWS NET has released a new outlook report for West Africa/Sahel. The report states that crisis-level food insecurity is expected to continue in a number of areas in the region, based on current market prices, trade patterns, labor conditions, and social conditions. Chronic malnutrition is expected to rise above 15 percent.

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FEWS NET has released its Food Price Watch for January 2012. The report details the food security situation throughout Africa, where prices in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Somalia have declined. Kenyan maize prices remain extremely high, as do prices in West Africa.

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Malawi's Ministry of Industry and Trade announced Wednesday the suspension of all exportation of maize and maize products, effective immediately. The government of Malawi has also nullified all licenses enabling grain traders to export the commodity. The move follows an estimate by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee that 10 out of 28 districts in the country are at risk of maize shortage between December 2011 and February 2012.

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