Schools in Kampala are downplaying fears of a possible food shortage arising out of a long dry spell that has driven food prices up in the recent past. A survey by Uganda Radio Network indicates that schools stocked enough food to feed pupils throughout the first term which started barely two weeks ago.
The assurance comes in the wake of a heavy burden to consumers resulting from the late and erratic rains and an early cessation of rainfall experienced last year. As several parts of the country battle abnormal dryness, gardens are all drying up with little prospects of rainfall, raising fears of a looming food shortage.
According to the latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin (FPMA) by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals have more than doubled in Uganda. Prices of beans, cassava and maize flour is about 25 per cent higher than a year ago.
A 50-kg bag of rice costs between 150,000 and 190,000 Shillings on the open market up from 120,000 Shillings around the same time last year. Maize flour costs 88,000 for each 50-kg bag while beans cost an average of 165,000 Shillings per bag. Sugar prices now average 178,000 for each 50-kg bag up from 160,000 Shillings.
Mario Zappacosta, a senior economist for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that sharply increasing prices are severely constraining food access for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity.
But despite the alarming trend, Peak Adventure, one of the companies that supply food to schools around Kampala says that school supplies many not be suddenly affected by change in market prices. Andrew Gidudu, a director at Peak Adventure says they have enough stocks to feed schools over the next three months.
Gidudu however anticipates that stocks could be depleted by May, 2017 which could trigger a change in prices then.
David Ssengendo, the head teacher of Buganda Road Primary School told URN that the school has not experienced the worst in the increase of food prices. He however says that there are indicators that prices will shoot up in the near future adding that in the event that prices increase, the school will be forced to ration food.
Pupils at Buganda Road Primary school contribute 21,900 Shillings each for school meals every term. However, according to the head teacher, the school runs a cash budget and can only stock food for a month. Their menu comprises of posho, beans, rice, milk tea and porridge.
Edward Kanoonya, the head teacher of Kololo Secondary School believes that adjustments will be made to enable them provide enough food for students in the event that prices are hiked in the near future.
He says the adjustments could include omitting costly items from the menu. He highlighted rice; peas and meat which he says are served once in a while at the school. Kololo SS consumes 350 Kgs of Posho and 150 Kgs of beans on a daily basis, according to Kanoonya.
But Lohana schools comprising of Lohana Academy, Lohana Primary and Lohana High School says that price changes will not in any way affect their menu and rations.
Catherine Nakayima, the in charge of procuring food for the three Lohana campuses told URN that the schools will be able to maintain their schools menus and portion due to supply agreements between the school and their suppliers.
On a weekly basis, the schools consume around 1000 Kgs of rice, 225 Kgs of beans, 100 pieces of fruit and 140 cabbages. According to Nakayima, their suppliers are mandated to supply them with food at the same price and quantity regardless of changes in price over a given period of time.