This report highlights the importance of African countries holding food reserves for promoting food security and price stability. It analyses the food reserves policies of three countries in East Africa – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – showing how these can, indeed must, be improved to address hunger.

National food reserves, when designed and implemented effectively, can play a vital role in promoting food security and price stability. After the 2008 food price crisis – when 150 million more people were pushed into poverty worldwide – the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) stated that countries with reserve stocks were ‘able to respond more quickly and cheaply than those with limited or no reserves’.1 Since then, food prices have remained high and/or volatile in most parts of Africa, reducing the incomes of poor people who are mainly net buyers of food. However, although most African countries currently hold food reserves, many are poorly managed, and some hold no stocks at all.

This report focuses on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, partly since these countries have very different policies towards food reserves. Both Kenya and Tanzania hold sizeable grain reserves but Uganda holds none and has explicitly rejected doing so, stating that they are expensive and require careful management. Our analysis is that all three countries need to re-examine their policy on food reserves to improve food security for the most vulnerable. Policy towards food reserves should be seen as a complement to other social protection policies.

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