Uganda: "Food is always an issue in Africa."

(By Ben De La Cruz --
Sunday, June 8, 2008

aEsther Kasirye, 44, works in the finance department of a bank in Kampala, the Ugandan capital.

She first noticed that the price of food was increasing at the beginning of the year, the same time a political crisis in neighboring Kenya -- East Africa's largest economy -- was affecting the regional economy.

Kasirye, who is married and has two children, said her weekly shopping bill has jumped about 20 percent.

There are no shortages at the large grocery store in Kampala where Kasirye buys food for her family. But the price of rice, sugar, milk and other staples has increased drastically, she said.

Some goods imported from South Africa -- including cheese, yogurt and juices -- are actually cheaper now because of the declining value of South Africa's currency, the rand.

Kasirye said the global food crisis was a hot topic of conversation among her colleagues from across Africa attending a conference in South Africa. She's also read in newspapers that the use of food to produce biofuels is one of the leading causes of the crisis.

"Food is always an issue in Africa," Kasirye said. "For now, I'm spending more for food. But at some point, I'll start buying less."

-- Ben de la Cruz

© 2008 The Washington Post Company