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Losses of Primera crops and rising prices threaten food security

  • Informe de monitoreo remoto
  • América Latina y el Caribe
  • Septiembre 2014
Losses of Primera crops and rising prices threaten food security

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  • Mensajes Clave
  • Seasonal progress
  • Crop and livestock production
  • Coffee sector
  • Grain market behavior
  • Food assistance programs
  • Projected regional outlook through December 2014
  • Mensajes Clave
    • Subsistence farmers growing staple grain crops, migrant laborers, and small-scale coffee growers in southern and western Honduras, eastern and western El Salvador, and north-central Nicaragua will face Stressed food security (IPC Phase 2) between October and December due to limited food reserves, the failure of Primera crops, high staple grain prices, the potential for damage to Postrera crops, and limited employment opportunities.

    • The droughts in Honduras and Nicaragua were especially severe, causing 80 to 100 percent of the Primera crops of subsistence farmers in certain areas to fail.

    • Cumulative rainfall to date has been beneficial for the initial growth stages of Postrera bean and maize crops in the Pacific Coast area of Central America. However, the pattern of rainfall over the next 30 to 40 days will play a crucial role in the growth and development of Postrera crops. Forecasts from the Central American Climate Outlook Forum for October through December predict below-normal rainfall for the Pacific Coast area.





    The droughts in subsistence farming areas of municipalities within the dry corridor of all three regional countries caused 80 to 100 percent of Primera maize and bean crops to fail.

    Red bean prices remain high in spite of corresponding imports. An examination of price trends shows August prices for this year up from the same time last year by 250 percent in San Salvador, 210 percent in Managua, and 154 percent in Tegucigalpa.

    The depletion of household food reserves, the failure of Primera crops, losses of local jobs in the agricultural and livestock sector, and rising grain prices will undermine the food security of very poor households in the last four months of the year.

    The late planting of Postrera crops and a shortened rainy season or excessive rainfall during the harvest could affect the performance of Postrera crops in general and beans in particular.


    Failure of Primera staple grain crops in the eastern and western reaches of the country. Total depletion of food reserves and high year-end prices.

    Depletion of food reserves, high grain prices, and possible damage to Postrera crops from a shorter than usual rainy season.


    Total and partial losses of Primera crops across the country.

    Lack of seeds for the planting of Postrera crops.

    Limited food access, damage to Postrera crops from planting delays and a shortened rainy season.


    Total loss of Primera crops in food-insecure communities within the dry corridor.

    Total depletion of food reserves, poor water access for human consumption, and high year-end prices.

    Limited water access for human consumption, high grain prices, and job losses as a result of the damage to crop and animal production.

    High risk of losses of Postrera crops due to planting delays and a shortened rainy season.


    Seasonal progress

    Cumulative rainfall to date has been beneficial for the initial growth stages of Postrera bean and, to a lesser extent, maize crops in the Pacific Coast area of Central America. However, satellite imagery of start-of-season anomalies for the Postrera growing season during September 11 – 15 (Figure 1) shows lags in the beginning of the Postrera rains in parts of Central American, mainly in crop-producing areas of the dry corridor and Atlantic Coast area of Nicaragua and Honduras, delaying the start-of-season by five to 15 days.

    The pattern of rainfall over the next 30 to 40 days will play a crucial role in the growth and development of Postrera crops. The erratic or sporadic rainfall in mid and late August in Central America’s dry corridor forced farmers, particularly subsistence farmers, to delay planting Postrera crops for lack of sufficient soil water. This shortened the planting period, which was expected to end on September 20 at the latest, with the risk that the rains would be over before the end of October, during the flowering or physiological development stage of these crops.  This could potentially cause reduced or failed yields.

    Crop and livestock production

    EL SALVADOR: The appraisal of the drought-induced damage to Primera crops by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock-Raising (MAG) released on September 12th calculated the damaged area at 68,611 hectares of cropland, affecting 103,589 farmers, mostly in the eastern part of the country, 97 percent of whom were growing maize. Total losses of staple grain crops are assessed at approximately four million quintals.

    To compensate for these losses of Primera crops, the Salvadoran government distributed 166,000 (out of a total of 202,000) packets of improved bean seeds in mid-August, with another approximately 30,000 packets of seeds (out of a total of 73,000 earmarked for distribution across the country) distributed to farmers growing maize in central and eastern areas of the country.

    HONDURAS: During a field visit during the third week of August to nine departments, FEWS NET estimated losses in areas with the most severe damage at between 70 and 100 percent. Damages occurred at two different points: at the beginning of the season (in April/May), when rainfall deficits caused crop losses, delayed planting activities, and left prepared fields lying idle; and at the end of June and the beginning of August, when drought caused irreversible damage to crops in the pre-flowering, flowering, and pod-filling stages. While the most severe damage was found in Lempira (Cololaca, Guarita, Tambla, Valladolid, and Gualcince), Olancho (Salamá, El Rosario, Yocon, La Unión, Mangulile, and Manto), and Francisco Morazán (Guaimaca, Talanga, Cedros, and Vallecillos), there were similar conditions in parts of Choluteca, El Paraíso, Valle, and La Paz departments, encompassing 45 percent of affected areas according to the government’s Action Plan for Drought-Induced Food Insecurity.

    Farmers in the southern and western reaches of the country were reportedly having difficulty obtaining seeds for the planting of Postrera crops on account of the failure of Primera crops, which will likely reduce total cropped area.

    NICARAGUA: The FEWS NET survey in late August in 12 departments located mostly in the northwestern part of the country confirmed that the rainfall deficit at the beginning of the season (in April and May) had the most impact on crop production, causing total crop failures in subsistence farming areas of the dry corridor and reducing crop yields in better-off areas. Nationwide losses of Primera maize crops are estimated at approximately 70 percent. The crop-producing areas visited by the survey team showing the most severe damage to maize and bean crops (and also those areas with the largest populations at risk for food insecurity) include municipalities within the country’s dry corridor in Chinandega, Estelí, Madriz, and Nueva Segovia, including communities in rain-short farming areas of Jinotega, Matagalpa, and Managua.

    The rainfall deficits in most parts of the country led to the depletion of water sources used for human consumption (rivers, springs, and wells), affecting communities in the Pacific Coast area and north-central reaches of the country.

    Coffee sector

    According to ground reports from different coffee-growing areas across the region, rainfall deficits caused seedlings planted in May and June with the first rains of the year to fail. They also affected the flowering and seed development stages of coffee crops, which will be reflected in the weight and quality of the coffee beans in the industrial processing stage.

    In spite of the effects of the rainfall deficit in this region, coffee growers expect yields for this growing season to be better than last year with the additional output from rehabilitated or cut-back areas and the progress in coffee rust control. This could mean more job opportunities compared to last year, though the potential impact of the drought in certain coffee-producing areas of the region is still uncertain, as is coffee rust behavior in the last quarter of the year.  

    The closing figure for the 2013/2014 export season in El Salvador is expected to be slightly under the original estimate of 700,000 quintals of green coffee beans. However, the coming harvest should be better with the progress in coffee rust control and the larger cropped area, which could lead to more job opportunities for vulnerable households in coffee-growing mountain areas.

    Grain market behavior

    The damage to 2013 Postrera crops, the increase in intraregional trade, smaller area planted for crops, and the losses of this year’s Primera crops are all contributing factors in the atypical behavior of red bean prices, which have been increasing since the beginning of the year in all three countries.

    Figure 2.

    Red bean prices (average wholesale prices)

    Increase in prices between August 2013 and August 2014

    Increase in prices between January and August 2014

    Increase in prices between July and August 2014

    El Salvador




    Honduras (Tegucigalpa)




    Nicaragua (Managua)




    Trends in red bean prices in El Salvador have prompted consumers to begin substituting lower-cost black beans. Nominal red bean prices for September surpassed price levels during the food price shocks of 2007 and 2011, setting a ten-year record. The government authorized imports of 400 metric tons of red beans from Ethiopia in late August to meet market demand and contain the steady rises in prices since January of this year.

    The decline in prices in Honduras between July and August of this year could be attributable to regional imports and the first harvests of Primera crops. The first shipment of red beans from Ethiopia (10,000 quintals) entered the country via Puerto Cortez in the first week of September. The entire amount ordered by the government (40,000 quintals according to unofficial sources) should be in the country by the end of the month. The beans will be distributed by BANASUPRO, the National Staple Food Supply Company (Suplidora Nacional de Productos Básicos) and the IHNMA, the National Crop Marketing Agency (Instituto Hondureño de Mercadeo Agrícola) beginning this month, after passing a phytosanitary inspection at the port of entry. The initial shipment met sanitary and quality requirements and will be distributed to consumers at a unit price of 13 lempiras/lb.

    Given the drought-induced damage to rice crops, the Honduran government, acting through the Tripartite Rice Quota Committee (Comisión Tripartita del Contingente de Arroz), authorized the 25,126 metric tons of rice imports requested by the trade association to meet domestic market demand.

    To deal with the rising price of red beans, the government encouraged bean production in high-potential farming areas (with irrigation systems or moist soils), setting a support price (of 1,000 lempiras/quintal) for purchases of these crops. Having boosted their output and fearing a possible decrease in market prices with the imports of Ethiopian beans, farmers are now asking the government to officially approve and effectively make crop purchases at that price.

    Maize prices have been stabilizing since August, particularly on markets in Honduras and Nicaragua. This could be due to the unloading of trader inventories with the approaching harvests and new flow of fresh crops beginning in September, even with the reported losses in all parts of the region. With the demand in all three countries and current price behavior, crops are coming in from different crop-producing areas, including southern Mexico.

    Food assistance programs

    The Japanese government supplied Nicaragua with 491 metric tons of rice for the Comprehensive School Nutrition Program (PINE) mounted by its Education Ministry (Mined) for the feeding of 153,800 students in 2,030 education facilities in Matagalpa, Caribe Norte, and Jinotega under the 2008 cooperation agreement between Japan’s International Cooperation Agency in Nicaragua (JICA) and the World Food Program (WFP) for US$5.2 million, of which 345 metric tons will be used to top up the basket of foods for school lunch programs and 146 metric tons for WFP food assistance programs in support of the National Disaster Prevention, Mitigation, and Assistance Network (SINAPRED) serving drought-affected households in the country’s dry corridor.

    In September, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) approved a US$10 million appropriation for the delivery of emergency food assistance to approximately 220,000 residents of target communities in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador through WFP. The goal of this operation is to prevent an erosion in the livelihoods and food security of target households.

    USAID and the WFP will support the “PROGRESANDO El Salvador” program, which provides food vouchers to 8,200 households affected by the job losses caused by the coffee rust outbreak and the effects of the drought.

    According to the damage assessment conducted in Honduras in June as part of the government’s Action Plan for Drought-Induced Food Insecurity, the drought affected 63,467 households in 64 municipalities of the country. However, the progress report on the Plan’s major milestones presented by the Technical Interagency Drought Risk Management Committee (Comité Técnico Interinstitucional para la Gestión de Riesgo por Sequía) in September shows more extensive damage to 165 municipalities, with 186,311 households targeted for food assistance. Thus, the Plan will require approximately 20,960 metric tons of food to provide each household with 247 pounds of food rations designed to meet their food needs for a 45-day period.

    Projected regional outlook through December 2014

    For subsistence farming households that lost crops during the Primera season, the primary options for supporting access to food are migration to coffee-growing areas (between October and March) for work during the coffee harvest, or migration to national or departmental capitals or other large urban areas for work.

    Poor households in the dry corridor of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity between October and December of this year, and potentially into the first quarter of next year, depending on crop performance during the upcoming Postrera and Apante seasons. These households will be further impacted by the high prices of staple grains, possible damages to Postrera crops, and limited job opportunities afforded by coffee-growing, livestock-raising, and other agricultural activities affected by the drought.

    Figures Figure 1. Start-of-season anomalies for the Postrera growing season, September 11 – 15, 2014

    Figura 1

    Figure 1. Start-of-season anomalies for the Postrera growing season, September 11 – 15, 2014

    Fuente: USGS / FEWS NET

    Figura 2


    Para el monitoreo remoto, típicamente un(a) coordinador(a) trabaja a través de la oficina regional más cercana. Con apoyo de datos de los socios, el(a) coordinador(a) utiliza el desarrollo de escenarios para llevar a cabo el análisis y producir los reportes mensuales. Es posible que los países de monitoreo remoto cuenten con menor información disponible y como consecuencia, los reportes tengan menos detalle que los países con presencia de FEWS NET. Para conocer más sobre nuestro trabajo, haga clic aqui.

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