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The irregular distribution of rains throughout June and July affected grain harvests, mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua
  • August 2019
The irregular distribution of rains throughout June and July affected grain harvests, mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Since the end of June, prolonged periods without rainfall and above-average temperatures have been observed in various production areas in the region, mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua. These conditions affected the vegetative and reproductive stages of the basic grains’ growth cycle.

    • Regions producing basic grains in the Dry Corridor of Honduras (El Paraíso, Choluteca, Valle, Francisco Morazán) and Nicaragua (Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Estelí, Matagalpa) have again reported significant damage to Primera crops. The damage is estimated to exceed 50 percent of the harvest, affecting mainly subsistence farming regions.

    • The most vulnerable subsistence agriculture families, who are currently mainly dependent on employment in the production of basic grains, will be affected by the drought, as it will reduce employment opportunities on maize plantations. They will need to implement coping strategies to access basic food and non-food needs.

    • Most vulnerable households in the region will be facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, due to deteriorating livelihoods that will limit their access to basic non-food staple items. However, poorer households in isolated communities may be limiting portion sizes and employing negative coping strategies, finding themselves in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), particularly in Honduras and Nicaragua.



    Projected climate outlook: Below-average rainfall was observed in July, with some areas of the Central American Dry Corridor recording the lowest precipitation levels when compared to the historical average (no more than 50 percent). The rainfall deficit has affected normal crop development throughout the region, mainly in the areas of the Dry Corridor of Honduras and Nicaragua.

    In the Gulf of Fonseca, precipitation levels were between 25.1 and 50 percent of the rainfall normally observed in the month, affecting areas in central and Caribbean Honduras, while in Nicaragua, rainfall did not exceed 25 percent in the departments of León and Managua. High temperatures have reduced soil moisture for crops and reduced river flows and water availability in wells.

    In Honduras, according to an analysis by the National Center for Atmospheric, Oceanographic and Seismic Studies (CENAOS), a considerable reduction in rainfall was expected in July and August, mainly in the Dry Corridor, where according to weather forecasts, the canícula would begin in mid-July and end in early September. It was expected to be more intense than in previous years, with the damage caused by it starting to become evident.

    In El Salvador, according to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, four consecutive dry days have been recorded in much of the country since August 9, indicating that if this deficit continues – particularly in the eastern zone – it will become a moderate meteorological drought. In mid-August, soil moisture conditions were considered to be “adequate” throughout the country, and according to projections for the next 10 days, slight excess moisture will be recorded.

    Regional production and sale of basic grains: Primera harvest: Preliminary field reports indicate that the basic grain production areas in the Dry Corridor of Honduras (El Paraíso, Choluteca, Valle, Francisco Morazán) and Nicaragua (Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Estelí, Matagalpa, Managua) have again reported significant damage to the Primera basic grain crop harvests. Damage to the harvest is estimated to be above 50 percent, mainly affecting subsistence agricultural production areas, although some commercial production areas could also be affected. This situation is jeopardizing the livestock production of the countries in the region, particularly cattle, due to poor provision of grassy pastures and fodder on farms, as well as restricted access to water.

    A field visit to basic grain production areas in El Salvador carried out by FEWS NET, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the first two weeks of August confirmed that Primera crops show no signs of being significantly damaged by rainfall irregularities, estimating that production will be average. However, in some communities in the department of La Unión, where considerable drought damage was observed, 30–50 percent of the harvest could be affected by the drought.

    Postrera planting: Reports indicate that Postrera planting has already begun in some production areas of the region. Some areas observe traditional farming methods, while others using planting techniques recommended by government organizations based on rainfall expected in the coming months. Most of the planting is of bean crops. In Nicaragua, some farmers’ associations report that even with rainfall levels conducive to Postrera and Apante cultivation, farmers will not be able to cultivate due to the lack of inputs and lines of credit.

    Regional basic grain price situation: In the region, the price of basic grains continues to follow the seasonal upward trend, reflecting the exhaustion of regional supplies, which is natural at this time of the year, awaiting the supply of new crops from the Primera harvest that start arriving between August and September. However, these crops are present a conservative forecast, given the impact that rainfall irregularities could have on the production areas of each country and that are not yet reflected in the market.

    White maize prices have been less volatile, although speculation linked to drought losses cannot be ruled out, which could cause market prices to be equal to or exceed those of last year. On the other hand, prices of red beans remain below last year's peak.

    Sources of employment: The May 2019 Situation Report of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) estimated that the number of unemployed people in the country will increase to between 66,000 and 98,000 people in 2019. The total number of Nicaraguans in open unemployment will therefore be between 244,000 and 276,000, which is equivalent to an open unemployment rate of 7.5 to 8.5 percent.

    Vulnerable populations that will be unable to harvest will survive on the income obtained from seasonal employment opportunities in agriculture, trade and construction available in rural areas as well as in urban centers or areas on the outskirts of the capital city and the municipal and departmental capitals.

    Coffee sector: The price of coffee on the international market is beginning to show signs of recovery, placing the average indicative price of July 2019 at 103.01 US dollar cents/pound – the highest price recorded since November 2018. If this upward trend continues, it could be a positive indication for the region’s coffee farmers when the harvest of the current season begins in October.

    Morbidity: Since April 2019, an alarming outbreak of dengue has occurred in the region. In epidemiological week 30 (21–27 July), the subregion (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama) accumulated 169,795 cases and 151 deaths, with more likely to be recorded later. Children and adolescents have been the most affected groups and given the rainy season and the rainfall pattern, there is likely to be an increase in the proliferation of mosquitoes, which will cause government authorities to declare a state of emergency.



    Food availability: Vulnerable populations in the Dry Corridor – mainly those in the south and west of Honduras; in the east and west of El Salvador; and in central and northern Nicaragua – will mainly rely on wild foods, ripening maize and corncobs during the Primera season. In the absence of harvests, these households will rely on the market for their food during the last two months of the lean season (August and September). This difficult situation may be prolonged by the loss of their harvests due to the drought.

    Food access: Income obtained by the most vulnerable populations from agricultural, trade and construction activities in or outside their communities will allow them limited access to the market for their food, which will be subjected to price increases during the lean season, affecting the purchasing power of these households. The lack of employment opportunities will prevent the most vulnerable households from earning sufficient income. These households will be able to cover their basic food needs but will not be able to meet their non-food needs. They will survive by working in return for food within their communities or being forced to migrate to nearby urban centers or to the capital city in search of employment.

    Food consumption and changes in livelihoods: In August and September, vulnerable populations in the region will end the lean season with depleted food reserves, a lack of employment opportunities and reduced income, awaiting income from seasonal labor (coffee, sugar cane). These populations are currently in the throes of the period of increased morbidity resulting from dengue outbreaks that are affecting the most vulnerable families in these countries. The outbreaks are reaching epidemic levels and are leading to humanitarian crises. The most vulnerable populations are located in poor communities in the municipalities located in the Dry Corridor (in the south and west of Honduras; in the northern central regions of Nicaragua; and in the east and west regions of El Salvador) that rely on the market to purchase their food and are unable to access basic non-food items. These communities will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, without crops or employment and with only limited access to survival strategies, the poorest households in the least developed communities in these regions will face food consumption constraints and will therefore be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Figures Calendario estacional para un año típico 
en América Central a partir de julio, que muestra el inicio y final de cada tempor

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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