Price Seasonality in Africa: Measurement and Extent

44 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Christopher L. Gilbert

Christopher L. Gilbert

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Luc Christiaensen

World Bank

Jonathan Kaminski


Date Written: January 22, 2016


Everyone knows about seasonality. But what exactly do we know? This study systematically measures seasonal price gaps at 193 markets for 13 food commodities in seven African countries. It shows that the commonly used dummy variable or moving average deviation methods to estimate the seasonal gap can yield substantial upward bias. This can be partially circumvented using trigonometric and sawtooth models, which are more parsimonious. Among staple crops, seasonality is highest for maize (33 percent on average) and lowest for rice (16? percent). This is two and a half to three times larger than in the international reference markets. Seasonality varies substantially across market places, but maize is the only crop in which there are important systematic country effects. Malawi, where maize is the main staple, emerges as exhibiting the most acute seasonal differences. Reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger requires renewed policy attention to seasonality in food prices and consumption.

Keywords: E-Business, Food & Beverage Industry, Access to Markets, Emerging Markets, Markets and Market Access

Suggested Citation

Gilbert, Christopher L. and Christiaensen, Luc and Kaminski, Jonathan, Price Seasonality in Africa: Measurement and Extent (January 22, 2016). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 7539. Available at SSRN:

Christopher L. Gilbert (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, School of Business and Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081HV
+31 20 444 6102/6060 (Phone)
+31 20 444 6020 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

Luc Christiaensen

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Jonathan Kaminski


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