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Hot, dry conditions delay primera season planting

  • Key Message Update
  • El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua
  • March 2024
Hot, dry conditions delay primera season planting

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Until May, subsistence farmers in the Dry Corridor of Central America and northern Honduras, who experienced significant crop losses in 2023, will see a seasonal progressive deterioration in food access due to reduced employment options and rises in basic grain prices. These seasonal changes impact access to food by prolonging dependence on food purchases as a food source. Households in these areas will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as they resort to negative coping strategies, such as indebtedness and reducing the amount of food consumed, to meet household food needs. The rest of the poor rural households in the region will also see a seasonal decline in food access, typical of the annual lean season, coupled with reduced household purchasing power due to the persistence of above-average prices. To meet food needs, these households will implement negative coping strategies, such as substituting less expensive foods, classifying them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until May. 
    • From June to September, food access conditions for poor rural households will continue to deteriorate through the annual lean season until its peak at the end of August before the primera season crops are harvested in late August/ September. Commercial staple grain production is expected to be close to average this year due to improved weather conditions (more information below), increased access to irrigation, and more resilient seeds. From September onward, these conditions will allow for an improvement over last year in the overall availability of food in the market and in producing households’ reserves. However, current climatic conditions will cause some subsistence farming households to experience crop damage and losses. Regional inflation will remain below 10 percent, favoring food access for consumers. Consequently, poor households in the region will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes from September onwards. 
    • Thus far in 2024, deficits in accumulated rainfall continue throughout the region, particularly from the center out to the Caribbean side of Nicaragua and Honduras. Rainfall deficits, coupled with atypically high temperatures (with highs of up to 38°C/ 100°F), caused moderate crop damage during the current apante/ late postrera season. Continued dry conditions in the coming weeks will increase the risk of wildfires and deteriorate soil moisture availability, impacting the start of the primera planting season in April/ May. Climate forecasts indicate a transition to La Niña conditions between June and August, bringing erratic rainfall during the beginning of the rainy season (April-May), and potentially delaying primera season planting. For the rest of the primera cycle, rainfall accumulations are expected to be above average due to La Niña conditions, allowing improved agricultural outcomes compared to 2023. However, above-average rainfall accumulations increase the risk of damage from focused flooding and when combined with high temperatures increase crop pest and disease infestation.
    • In all three countries, headline inflation in February 2024 trended downward compared with February 2023, as did food inflation which increases food access for poor households. In the region, white maize prices remained stable with respect to the previous month. However, in terms of year-on-year trends, El Salvador and Honduras saw a drop of 22 percent, and Nicaragua saw an 11 percent drop in white maize prices. Red bean prices remained stable with respect to January 2024 but showed year-on-year declines of 12, 15, and nine percent in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, respectively. These decreases are due to the flow of the recent postrera crop to the market, lower regional inflation rates, lower agricultural input prices, and higher-than-expected crop yields. However, the residual effect of the large price increases reported since 2020 and the high costs for agricultural production keeps the prices of both products above their five-year averages (between six and 29 percent for maize and between 33 and 51 percent for red beans). Over the analysis period, food prices are expected to progressively increase until the primera harvest arrives at markets in late August/ September. Then they will decline as supply increases in accordance with seasonal trends. Overall, prices will remain above average but below the values in 2023.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua Key Message Update March 2024: Hot, dry conditions delay primera season planting, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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