Traders flee as widespread violence pushes Central African Republic into major food crisis

Africa, Foreign aid, Media Releases, News article written on the 12 Feb 2014

Violence in Central African Republic has raised grave new fears of a market collapse which would exacerbate the current food crisis, international aid organisations warned today.

 Most of Bangui’s food trade relies on around 40 large-scale wholesalers who import food from neighboring countries and resell onto small traders. A survey conducted by Oxfam and Action Contre La Faim in Bangui’s main wholesale markets shows that fewer than ten now remain, with many large traders and herders having to flee the country after being targeted by violence.

 The UN has revealed that 90 per cent of Central Africans are eating only once a day, and with 96 per cent of farmers having lost access to seeds less than a month away from plating season, a failed harvest is likely. International aid organisations Oxfam, Contre La Faim, International Medical Corps, Mercy Corps and Tearfund fear the existing food crisis could become much worse.  

Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Support Manager Meg Quatermaine said the prolonged absence of wholesale traders would be catastrophic as the supply of staple foods could dry up causing prices to increase dramatically.

 “The Central African Republic risks facing a situation akin to a siege. As well as forcing people out of the country, violence and insecurity are stopping food from coming in, and people are unable to get enough food for their families,” Ms Quatermaine said.

 “Many of those who have fled the attacks in Bangui were the backbone of the local economy. The consequences of failing to protect those who remain could be disastrous for everyone.”

 Hundreds of food trucks now remain at the border with Cameroon as drivers fear they will be attacked by armed groups.

 Action Contre La Faim’s price monitoring shows that the cost of staple foods such as manioc and groundnut has already increased. Meat is also scarce and has doubled in price in the capital as cattle herders have fled into the bush. 

 Christopher Rae, Emergency Team Lead of International Medical Corps, said we need to do everything we can to save the coming harvest, but the reality is that it will inevitably be poor.

 “This can only deepen and prolong the current crisis. We have to scale up emergency support for hungry families now, as well as start preparing to provide sustained support for the year to come,” said Mr Rae.

 According to the United Nations, 1.3 million people are already in need of immediate food assistance, based on an assessment in Bangui and the northwest regions. The International Organisation for Migration recently estimated that 838,000 are displaced within the country – 414,000 in Bangui – since the beginning of December 2013.

 A further 245,000 Central Africans and 31,000 citizens of other countries have fled the country.

 For interviews or more information, please contact Emma Whalan on 0418 873 782 or