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The end of seasonality ? new insights from Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Christiaensen,Luc
  • Gilbert,Christopher L.
  • Kaminski,Jonathan
  • Christiaensen,Luc
  • Gilbert,Christopher L.
  • Kaminski,Jonathan


This paper revisits the extent of seasonality in African livelihoods, which has disappeared from Africa's development debate. Through econometric analysis of monthly food price series across 100 locations in three countries during 2000-12, it is shown that seasonal movements in maize wholesale prices explain 20 (Tanzania, Uganda) to 40 (Malawi) percent of their monthly volatility. Monthly maize peak prices are on average 30 (Tanzania, Uganda) to 50 (Malawi) percent higher than their monthly troughs and two to three times higher than the seasonal gaps observed for white maize at the South African Futures Exchange. Furthermore, household food consumption is found to inversely track food prices in each country, decreasing when staple prices increase and increasing when they decline. Clearly, (excess) seasonality in African food markets and consumption persists, necessitating policy attention.

Suggested Citation

  • Christiaensen,Luc & Gilbert,Christopher L. & Kaminski,Jonathan & Christiaensen,Luc & Gilbert,Christopher L. & Kaminski,Jonathan, 2014. "The end of seasonality ? new insights from Sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6907, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6907

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    Cited by:

    1. John Baffes & Varun Kshirsagar & Donald Mitchell, 2019. "What Drives Local Food Prices? Evidence from the Tanzanian Maize Market," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 33(1), pages 160-184.
    2. Christian Paul & Dillon Brian, 2016. "Working Paper 241 - Long term consequences of consumption seasonality," Working Paper Series 2349, African Development Bank.
    3. De Magalhães, Leandro & Santaeulàlia-Llopis, Raül, 2018. "The consumption, income, and wealth of the poorest: An empirical analysis of economic inequality in rural and urban Sub-Saharan Africa for macroeconomists," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 350-371.
    4. Matthias Kalkuhl & Lukas Kornher & Matthias Kalkuhl & Irfan Mujahid, 2015. "Food price volatility in developing countries – the role of trade and storage," EcoMod2015 8415, EcoMod.
    5. Fiedler, John L. & Mwangi, Dena M., 2016. "Improving household consumption and expenditure surveys’ food consumption metrics: Developing a strategic approach to the unfinished agenda:," IFPRI discussion papers 1570, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Tadesse Kuma & Mekdim Dereje & Kalle Hirvonen & Bart Minten, 2019. "Cash Crops and Food Security: Evidence from Ethiopian Smallholder Coffee Producers," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(6), pages 1267-1284, June.
    7. Lovo, Stefania & Veronesi, Marcella, 2019. "Crop Diversification and Child Health: Empirical Evidence From Tanzania," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 168-179.
    8. Cardell, Lila & Michelson, Hope, 2020. "“Sell Low, Buy High?” - A New Explanation for a Persistent Puzzle," 2020 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, Kansas City, Missouri 304448, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    9. Dillon Brian, 2016. "Working Paper 243 - Selling crops early to pay for school: A large-scale natural experiment in Malawi," Working Paper Series 2351, African Development Bank.
    10. Paul Christian & Brian Dillon, 2018. "Growing and Learning When Consumption Is Seasonal: Long-Term Evidence From Tanzania," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(3), pages 1091-1118, June.
    11. Günther Fink & B. Kelsey Jack & Felix Masiye, 2020. "Seasonal Liquidity, Rural Labor Markets, and Agricultural Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(11), pages 3351-3392, November.
    12. Wouter Zant, 2018. "Trains, Trade, and Transaction Costs: How Does Domestic Trade by Rail Affect Market Prices of Malawi Agricultural Commodities?," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 32(2), pages 334-356.
    13. World Bank Group, 2017. "Republic of Malawi Poverty Assessment," World Bank Publications - Reports 26488, The World Bank Group.
    14. Leandro De Magalhães & Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis, 2015. "The Consumption, Income, and Wealth of the Poorest: Cross-Sectional Facts of Rural and Urban Sub-Saharan Africa for Macroeconomists," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 15/655, School of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    15. Brugh, Kristen & Angeles, Gustavo & Mvula, Peter & Tsoka, Maxton & Handa, Sudhanshu, 2018. "Impacts of the Malawi social cash transfer program on household food and nutrition security," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 19-32.
    16. Kibrewossen Abay & Kalle Hirvonen, 2017. "Does Market Access Mitigate the Impact of Seasonality on Child Growth? Panel Data Evidence from Northern Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(9), pages 1414-1429, September.
    17. Wassie, Solomon Bizuayehu & Kusakari, Hitoshi & Sumimoto, Masahiro, 2019. "Seasonality of Staple Food Prices in Ethiopia: Does Warehouse Service Matter?," Japanese Journal of Agricultural Economics (formerly Japanese Journal of Rural Economics), Agricultural Economics Society of Japan (AESJ), vol. 21.
    18. Sarah Zeller, 2020. "Economic Advantages of Community Currencies," JRFM, MDPI, vol. 13(11), pages 1-11, November.
    19. Marshall Burke & Lauren Falcao Bergquist & Edward Miguel, 2018. "Sell Low and Buy High: Arbitrage and Local Price Effects in Kenyan Markets," NBER Working Papers 24476, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Bevis, Leah E.M. & Naschold, Felix & Rao, Tanvi, 2019. "An unequal burden: Intra-household dimensions of seasonal health in Tanzania," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 89(C).
    21. Hirvonen, Kalle & Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum & Worku, Ibrahim, 2015. "Seasonality and household diets in Ethiopia:," ESSP working papers 74, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    22. Donald,Aletheia Amalia & Goldstein,Markus P. & Rouanet,Lea Marie, 2022. "Two Heads Are Better Than One : Agricultural Production and Investment in Côte d’Ivoire," Policy Research Working Paper Series 10047, The World Bank.
    23. Lungu, Ioana, 2017. "Neocolonialism or Balanced Partnership? Reframing Agricultural Relations Between the EU and Africa," MPRA Paper 83112, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    24. Amolegbe, Khadijat B. & Upton, Joanna & Bageant, Elizabeth & Blom, Sylvia, 2021. "Food price volatility and household food security: Evidence from Nigeria," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C).


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