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Delayed rainfall onset will extend annual lean season

  • Key Message Update
  • El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua
  • May 2024
Delayed rainfall onset will extend annual lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • During the peak of the lean season in May, the food security situation of the poorest households in the region is expected to deteriorate according to seasonality, particularly for subsistence farmers in the region's Dry Corridor and in northern Honduras who suffered crop losses in 2023 due to dry and hot conditions caused by El Niño. In recent months, these households have resorted to relying on food purchases earlier and more heavily than typical, eroding their coping capacity, especially as they have had to resort to coping strategies such as reducing essential non-food expenditures, such as health and education expenses, and reducing the overall amount of food consumed. These households are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes until the primera harvest in late September, while the rest of the rural poor households in the region will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. 
    • As the lean season progresses, prices increase, and income-generating options decrease, the proportion of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will increase. The lean season is expected to last a month longer due to the delay in the start of the primera cycle. However, the food security situation of the poorest households is expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until September, as the primera harvest reaches the markets, increasing food availability. Although targeted losses are expected due to weather conditions, commercial cash crop and subsistence harvests will increase household food reserves.
    • Despite the transition out of El Niño towards neutral, the start of the rainy season in the region has been delayed by approximately 30 days. Rainfall deficits and the persistence of abnormally high temperatures have reduced the availability of water for agricultural activities, so farmers are waiting for better conditions to start primera cycle planting. Rainfall consistency is expected to normalize in June and then increase significantly until the end of the season in November. Above-average accumulations are expected over the season due to the transition to La Niña starting in July. High temperatures will continue, increasing the risk of agricultural diseases and pests, in addition to the risk of damage from floods and landslides. Nevertheless, yields from the 2024/2025 cycle are expected to be above the levels reported in 2023 for subsistence staple grain crops. In the case of commercial production, the harvest is expected to be average.
    • Overall, incomes and inflation rates remained stable in April 2024, with Nicaragua reporting the highest inflation rate in the region. Rural households that depend on day labor will see a decline in their purchasing power as April marks the beginning of the seasonal drop in incomes as harvest activities end for several cash crops. The delay in the planting of primera staple grains has also impacted household purchasing power. In terms of prices, food items continue to be the greatest challenge for the poorest households, as prices continue to increase for red beans, a staple food that reports month-on-month increases of between 6 and 14 percent. In the specific case of Nicaragua, dairy products and rice have also increased. Continued agroclimatic events, fluctuations in production costs, and disruptions in foreign trade in recent years have not allowed for more significant inflationary decreases for most food items. However, maize prices have significantly dropped, approaching the five-year average due to increased commercial production during the 2023/2024 cycle and higher imports, especially in Honduras, where the price in April was 25 percent below the value reported for the same month in 2023. In the following months, maize is expected to remain close to the average, while red beans will remain above average due to lower production, especially during the Apante cycle in Nicaragua, which is key for regional supply.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua Key Message Update May 2024: Delayed rainfall onset will extend annual lean season, 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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