Food Security Outlook

Food security to improve with food assistance beginning in May

April 2015
2015-Q2-1-1-GT-es

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Deliveries of food assistance between May and September will partially close the food consumption gaps of households affected by the extended 2014 canícula and the coffee rust outbreak. This will help keep food insecurity in the most affected areas of the west in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) until September, when it will reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3) proportions. Certain municipalities in Huehuetenango will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) for the entire outlook period.   

  • Households in western Guatemala affected by the rust outbreak and the canícula faced Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity in April. Relief programs operating between May and August will bring food insecurity down to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels through the delivery of food assistance, with the termination of this assistance propelling these households back into a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) situation.

  • The magnitude of the rainfall deficit, particularly during the canícula, could even affect surplus-maize-producing areas in the event of a further reduction in water sources used for irrigation. This would impact prices and household food access.

National Overview

Current situation

The outlook period coincides with the annual lean season. Very poor households depleted their basic grain reserves in February, two months earlier than usual, and, thus, are entirely dependent on market purchase for their food supplies.

In addition, the high-demand period for unskilled labor is over, sharply limiting the supply of work in the coffee harvest as a result of the damage caused by the rust outbreak. Yields from the coffee harvest are below the last normal production level for the third consecutive year and down by 16 percent from 2012, prior to the rust infestation. This is directly affecting small coffee growers, leaving them with fewer crops and higher costs, as well as day laborers, reducing the quantity of labor demanded, their work time, and their daily pay. This reduction in their sources and amount of cash earnings will affect the availability of income for the purchasing of food supplies.

Prices for major staple crops (white maize and black beans) are in line with normal seasonal trends, stabilized by the normal flow of grain from current harvests of white maize in Petén and the Northern Transversal Strip and grain imports from Mexico, as well as from the recent black bean harvest in Petén.

Many very poor households which had lost part of their last basic grain harvest received food assistance from the government and international cooperation agencies in the first quarter of the year. However, these households received no assistance in April due to the conclusion of certain programs or the lack of funding for related procurements and deliveries.

FEWS NET and Action Against Hunger conducted a SMART survey from March 11-27, 2015 to measure the prevalence of acute malnutrition in the eastern and western parts of the country. According to the survey data, the global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence for children between six and 59 months of age (weight/height Z-score <-2 and/or edema, with a 95 percent confidence interval) is 3.1 percent (1.7-5.6) in the East and 1.7 percent (0.5-5.5) in the West.

Assumptions
  • Climate and El Niño: According to the mid-April report by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), there is an 80 percent probability of the development of El Niño conditions between May and July. Forecasts by the XLVI Central American Climate Outlook Forum are predicting above-normal levels of cumulative rainfall between May and July 2015 in the northern and Pacific areas of Guatemala, and normal levels of cumulative rainfall in the central and eastern parts of the country, with a second scenario predicting below-normal rainfall. However, the forecast also predicts an extended canícula (break in the rains) between the end of June and the beginning of August, in other words, lasting longer than the usual 15 days, with little if any rainfall and higher temperatures.
  • Start of the rainy season: Generally beginning in the middle of April in Guatemala’s boca costa area, the Primera season rains are getting off to an early start in the Pacific area, but are late in the northern part of the country, as is evident in areas across the northern part of Quiché and Alta Verapaz departments and the southern part of Petén department, which have already registered anomalies in the onset of the rains, which could affect crop planting schedules and subsequent crop growth and development.
  • Staple production for the Primera season: The planting of staple crops for the Primera season generally begins between April and May. While rainfall anomalies have delayed the start of crop planting activities in several areas, crops have reportedly already been planted in other areas such as Alta Verapaz in spite of the lag in the onset of the rains. In any event, should the forecast for an extended canícula between June and August prove true, the resulting rainfall deficit would reduce yields of maize crops, particularly damaging those in the “Dry Corridor” in the critical flowering or seed-setting stage, interrupting the plant growth and grain development process. There is less bean production during the Primera season, and while lower levels of cumulative rainfall are helpful for bean crops, which are susceptible to fungal diseases, a protracted rainfall deficit could also negatively affect their flowering and pod formation stages. The limited availability of water after last year’s rainfall deficit and with this year’s expected deficit could threaten irrigation systems in surplus areas, affecting crop growth and development.
  • Staple supplies and prices: Adequate supplies of basic staples are expected in all parts of the country from recent maize and bean harvests in northern surplus areas and from the steady flow of imports from Mexico. Thus, movements in staple prices will follow normal seasonal trends, with maize prices inching downwards until May and trending upwards between May and the first maize harvests in August, and bean prices steadily rising until the July harvest. The forecast for an extended canícula could trigger hoarding and, thus, drive up the prices of both commodities, distorting seasonal price trends by producing atypical rises in prices for this time of year.
  • Income sources: Demand for unskilled labor is seasonally low during the outlook period, with limited opportunities for casual labor in land preparation work for the planting of Primera crops, on cattle ranches, or in informal jobs, and few alternative income-earning opportunities.
  • Food assistance: Scheduled deliveries of food assistance by various international cooperation agencies between May and August will help close household food consumption gaps, though without altogether eliminating food deficits. The household food security situation could start to deteriorate as of September with the winding up of food assistance programs funded by ECHO and FFP/USAID. Deliveries of assistance in areas served by the government are scheduled to continue through October.
Most likely food security outcomes

There has been a seasonal deterioration in the food security situation of very poor households in most parts of the country with the depletion of their basic grain reserves from household harvests and the start of the annual lean season. Households are entirely dependent on market purchase for their food supplies at this time of year, just when income-earning opportunities are at their seasonal low and prices are trending upwards until the harvest of Primera crops in August/September. Nevertheless, households in most areas of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between April and September 2015. The exceptions are coffee-dependent households affected by last year’s extended canícula, who are coping with an earlier than usual lean season and below-normal earnings from one of their main sources of income for the third consecutive year due to the effects of the coffee rust outbreak on the available supply of work, which has reduced their work time and pay and, thus, reduced their income from day labor. Local employment opportunities in land preparation work for the planting of staple crops are limited and poorly paid, with crop losses from the last harvest leaving farming households without the means with which to pay for this type of work. The hoarding of staple crops by wholesale traders due to the forecast for El Niño conditions and the likelihood of a protracted canícula could trigger a rise in prices, further weakening the purchasing power of households affected by rainfall deficits and coffee rust infestations during the past few years. Pledged deliveries of food assistance by international cooperation agencies between May and August and scheduled government assistance between May and October should enable these households to meet their basic food needs. Thus, these households will be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes with the help of food assistance. The conclusion of this assistance (in some areas in August and in others in October) will force these households to resort to coping strategies to meet their basic food needs, while they will not be able to meet all non-food needs, putting them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

Areas of Concern

Small coffee producers and day laborers dependent on coffee in temperate areas of livelihood zone 5 (subsistence farming) [1]

Current situation

Status of crops: The extended 2014 canícula affected at least 50 percent of households in this area, who are dependent on a single annual staple harvest. These households generally plant their crops in May and harvest them between November and December. Last year’s crop losses, assessed at between 70 and 80 percent, depleted their food reserves by January, two months earlier than usual. The planting season is already underway in certain parts of this area.

Staple prices: According to data from the reference market monitored for this area, in Huehuetenango, March prices for white maize were generally stable, inching downwards (by 2.28 percent) from the previous month with the availability of grain from surplus areas of Petén, the Northern Transversal Strip, and northern Mexico. However, they were 11.1 percent higher than at the same time last year. Black bean prices were up slightly (by 4.40 percent) from the previous month and by 8.7 percent from last year owing to the fairly low levels of 2014 prices after the above-average 2013 Postrera growing season.

Income sources: The high-demand period for unskilled labor, generally employed in the coffee and sugar cane harvest, has concluded. This year’s below-average harvest has affected the incomes of coffee-dependent households, including households of day laborers as well as small coffee growers, impacting the selling price of coffee crops and the pay of day laborers, and limiting the number of workers hired and reducing their work time. Without these options, sources of income generation are limited to casual labor in field clean-up work, on cattle ranches, and in crop planting activities for the upcoming Primera growing season. While there is a large volume of remittances to households in this area, they are not a direct source of income for very poor households, which do not have the resources to migrate to other areas.

Food assistance:Operación Oportunidad” (Operation Opportunity), launched by the government in the wake of the extended 2014 canícula, provided food assistance to seven departments in this area between last November and March of this year. There were no scheduled distributions of food assistance for the month of April, but area households will receive food assistance from international cooperation agencies between May and August/September.

Assumptions

The outlook for this region is based on the following assumptions, in addition to the national assumptions outlined earlier in this report:

  • Coffee-dependent households, including households of day laborers as well as small coffee producers, will see a considerable deterioration in their capacity to purchase food due to their reduced income in the coffee sector associated with the coffee rust outbreak.
  • Households that typically earn part of their income performing land preparation work for the planting of crops will be impacted by reduced labor demand, as many farmers will not be able to hire this year after last year’s losses.
Most likely food security outcomes

The incomes of households in livelihood zone 5 are expected to drop by 65 percent due to their reduced earnings from work in the coffee harvest and the sale of coffee crops. These households will also be impacted by the end of the high-demand period for farm labor, limiting their income-earning options to casual farm labor in field cleanup work and the planting of staple crops. Moreover, their few remaining income-earning opportunities could also be affected by the lower incomes of farming households after last year’s crop losses, and by current forecasts for anomalies during the rainy season. Area households will be dependent on market purchase for their food supplies during the outlook period, while the sharp drop in their income will curtail their food access. This gap will be narrowed by deliveries of food assistance between May and August, after which local households will be forced to resort to coping strategies such as atypical labor migration and the sale of small animals and other assets in order to meet their basic food needs. The recent SMART nutrition survey jointly conducted by FEWS NET and ACH showed a global acute malnutrition prevalence (weight/height Z-score <-2 and/or edema, with a 95 percent confidence interval) for children between six and 59 months of age in this area at 1.7 percent (0.5-5.5). However, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is expected to rise during the outlook period, which coincides with the lean period on the seasonal calendar, when the number of cases of malnutrition normally tends to peak.

International cooperation agencies and the Guatemalan government will initiate food assistance programs beginning in May and running through August and October, respectively. In the absence of food assistance and with the depletion of food reserves two months earlier than usual, as well as lower incomes from work in the coffee harvest and the sale of coffee crops, the most affected households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during April. Between May and August, households in the worst affected areas of this livelihood zone will face Stressed food security outcomes with the help of food assistance (IPC Phase 2!), except in certain municipalities in Huehuetenango not targeted for assistance, where they will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3, see map). As food assistance programs begin to wind up in August, the worst-off  households in this livelihood zone will, once again, be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity.

Coffee-dependent day laborers in livelihood zones 8 (staple crops, Honduras-El Salvador border area of the Dry Corridor) and 7 (agro-industry, timber, mining, and coffee) [2]

Current situation

Status of crops: Household maize and bean reserves were depleted in February, two months earlier than usual. Farmers are currently preparing their land for the planting of Primera crops, consisting mostly of maize.

Staple food prices: Maize and bean prices in Chiquimula, which is the reference market for this area, are stable with the availability of grain from surplus areas of Petén, the Northern Transversal Strip, and northern Mexico. Prices for both commodities are down from last month (by 0.03 percent in the case of beans and 4.61 percent in the case of maize), in line with normal seasonal trends, and are unchanged from last year.

Sources of income: Demand for unskilled labor is presently at a seasonal low, with limited job opportunities for casual labor in land preparation work for the planting of Primera crops, on cattle ranches, or in informal jobs as shop clerks, domestic workers, construction workers, security guards, etc.

Food assistance: Six departments in this area received food assistance between November 2014 and March 2015 as part of “Operación Oportunidad” (Operation Opportunity), launched by the government. There were no deliveries of assistance scheduled for the month of April. However, area households will be receiving food assistance from international cooperation agencies between May and August/September.

Assumptions

The outlook for this region is based on the following assumptions, in addition to the national assumptions outlined earlier in this report:

  • With the erratic start of the rainy season and the forecast for an extended canícula with above-average temperatures due to the El Niño phenomenon, expected shortfalls in maize and bean production for the Primera growing season could be somewhere in the area of 75 percent.
  • The incomes of households employed in the coffee harvest have been reduced by as much as 80 percent, reducing their purchasing power and, indirectly, food access, particularly for staple foods, between April and the upcoming September harvest.
Most likely food security outcomes

Households in livelihood zones 7 and 8 dependent on work in the coffee harvest and other sources of employment are expected to have 15 percent lower than usual incomes for this time of year. With the end of the peak demand period for labor and potential cutbacks in the hiring of outside labor for land preparation work for the planting of crops, these households are facing a purchasing power gap. As of this month, they will be entirely dependent on market purchase to meet their basic food needs. Their purchasing power gap will affect access to sources of food, which will be reduced. In order to cover this gap, they will be forced to implement coping strategies such as nontraditional labor migration and the sale of assets. The recent joint SMART survey of acute malnutrition by FEWS NET and ACF indicated a prevalence of global acute malnutrition (weight/height Z-score <-2 and/or edema, with a 95 percent confidence interval) for children between six and 59 months of age in this area at 3.1 percent (1.7-5.6). However, acute malnutrition rates are expected to rise during the outlook period, which coincides with the lean period on the seasonal calendar, when the number of cases of malnutrition normally tends to peak. Food assistance programs by international cooperation agencies starting up in May and running through August or October will prevent this population from facing severe food security outcomes with the conclusion of the government assistance program as of May. The lack of food assistance in April exposed households with no food reserves and inadequate incomes to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity. Beginning in May, food security outcomes in these areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) for the remainder of the outlook period, with very poor households affected by the drought and the problems caused by the coffee rust outbreak able to meet their basic food needs through August. The September harvest will help keep conditions stable, even without food assistance. However, expected losses of Primera crops are likely to trigger a new deterioration in the food security situation as of October without continued assistance.

A severe rainfall deficit or extremely long canícula (like the 2014 canícula) would cause even larger losses (if not a complete crop failure), prolonging the annual lean season beyond September and preventing households from meeting their food needs without the extension of assistance programs (as currently planned).


[1] See the 2007 Livelihood Profile (available in Spanish only) at: http://www.fews.net/docs/Publications/gt_profile_es.pdf.

[2] See the 2007 Livelihood Profile (available in Spanish only) at: http://www.fews.net/docs/Publications/gt_profile_es.pdf

Events that Could Change the Outlook

Area

Event

Impacts on food security outcomes

Entire country

With the outlook for a more active than usual hurricane season in the Pacific, even with the expected less active hurricane season in the Atlantic, a hurricane event could directly or indirectly affect the entire country.

Effects on crop performance, according to the magnitude of the event, its path, and the time of year in which it occurs, including a possible improvement in the water situation, reducing the rate of crop losses.

East and West

Normal rainy season

Timely harvests and normal crop yields.

Entire country

Atypical rise in staple prices due to hoarding and speculation

Sharper deterioration in food access as rising prices further weaken the already limited purchasing power of households across the country.

East and West

Delivery of food assistance for months not covered by assistance programs – September and October

Better food availability for recipient households, with positive effects on food security outcomes.

North (Northern Transversal Strip and southern Petén) and southern coast

Sharp reduction in water sources, such as rivers and wells

Lower crop yields in surplus maize-producing areas triggering larger than usual price increases by tightening market supplies.

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
Learn more About Us.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics