Seasonality in local food markets and consumption: evidence from Tanzania
Luc Christiaensen and
Christopher L. Gilbert
Oxford Economic Papers, 2016, vol. 68, issue 3, 736-757
This paper revisits the extent of seasonality in African livelihoods. It uses 19 years of monthly food prices from 20 markets and 3 waves of nationally representative household panel surveys from Tanzania. Trigonometric specifications are introduced to measure the seasonal gap. When samples are short and seasonality is poorly defined, they produce less upward bias than the common dummy variable approach. On average, the seasonal gap for maize prices is estimated to be 27%; it is 15% for rice. In both cases, it is two and a half to three times higher than in the international reference market. Food price seasonality is not a major contributor to food price volatility, but it does translate into seasonal variation in caloric intake of about 10% among poor urban households and rural net food sellers. Rural net food-buying households appear able to smooth their consumption. It is premature to ignore seasonality in the African development debate.
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