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Primera crops lost and below-average rainfall during Postrera sowing

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua
  • September 2018
Primera crops lost and below-average rainfall during Postrera sowing

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The seasonal dry spell that lasted from June to August 2018 affected the Primera harvests of basic grains, mainly within subsistence farming in the region’s dry corridor. Normal to below normal rainfall with an early end is forecast for August to October, which could affect Postrera sowing, principally in the Pacific area of the region. 

    • Subsistence farmers rely principally on their crops, on locally generated income from daily agricultural labor and on seasonal employment in coffee production, for which there is a demand from October to March. Despite higher output anticipated, the fall in prices on the international market does not stimulate demand for employment. 

    • Food stocks in poorer households principally located in the region’s dry corridor have been exhausted, employment opportunities in coffee production are likely to diminish and the market prices for grains is above average, all of which contribute to an increasing number of households unable to meet their food needs.

    • The dry corridor in southern and western Honduras, eastern and western parts of El Salvador and central and northern Nicaragua will experience Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) from October 2018 to January 2019 due to vulnerable households without food reserves or employment, losses from Primera crops and the risk of losing the Postrera harvest. 


    According to seasonal climate monitoring in Central America for September 2018, despite the improvement in the temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall over the last 20 days, the dry corridor areas continue to show below average rainfall levels, particularly in the areas La Paz and Francisco Morazán, located in southern Honduras on the border with El Salvador. The lowest rainfall levels are reported in the border regions Madriz, Chinandega and León in Nicaragua. In the Gulf of Fonseca area that influences the three countries (Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua) rainfall levels are between 51 and 75 percent.

    Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station (CHIRPS) data shows a percentage rainfall for August 26 to September 15, 2018 which is below the historical average for 1981 to 2010 for the Central American region.

    The official forecast of potential El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in early September 2018, anticipates the development of the El Niño phenomenon from September to November 2018 (SON), extending until March to May 2019 (MAM). These conditions lead to reduced rainfall and erratic distribution, which affects the region’s dry corridor, as well as potentially inducing an early end to the rainy season, principally in the Central American Pacific region.


    Honduras: According to government estimates, in the country’s dry corridor there are losses of 72 percent in first-season Primera corn crops and 75 percent losses in Primera bean crops. The 2018 Drought Management Plan will be promoted to support vulnerable populations by developing staggered response strategies in order to care for the 65,000 families across 74 municipalities identified as severely affected and another 51,800 families across 34 municipalities identified as moderately affected.

    In subsistence farming areas in the dry corridor, mainly those located in the south of El Paraíso and of La Paz, in the north of Choluteca, in Valle, Intibucá, Lempira and Comayagua, damage to corn production was recorded at different intensities, with losses as high as 100 percent. The extent of damage was determined according to the period during which the crops were sown. Those sown between April 20 and May 5 are considered to have losses of between 60 and 80 percent, and losses for crops sown after May 10 are estimated at between 80 and 100 percent. Geographical rainfall was also taken into consideration (losses were lower in elevated production areas), as well as soil quality (degraded soils with steep slopes).

    Postrera season sowing has been delayed in certain production areas and there is a risk of losses due to below-average rainfall and duration of the rainy season. This may worsen conditions for the most vulnerable families and will have significant repercussions on national food supply in early 2019, when the deficit could cause even greater price increases than last year.

    El Salvador: According to the Damage Assessment Survey by the General Directorate of Agricultural Economics (DGCEA), the anomalous weather conditions since June 22 affected 43,773 hectares. This comprises 20,303 hectares with complete losses and 23,469 hectares with partial losses. In terms of production, it is estimated that the losses in this area amounts to 2,138,014 quintals, which represents 13.35 percent of the anticipated production for the first sowing. To address the situation, the government is promoting measures to support producers and consumers. These include (a) seed replenishment for crop areas with total loss; (b) differentiated distribution of farming packages in the eastern part of El Salvador; (c) a white corn quota of 35 thousand metric tonnes.

    Due to precipitation irregularities in the eastern region during the first quarter of rainfall, a large percentage of farmers sowed their basic grains in mid-July when the effects of the heatwave were not as significant.

    Nicaragua: According to field assessments, the seasonal dry spell affected production in several departments, with the most severe conditions recorded in the dry corridor in the departments of Chinandega, León, Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia. In these areas, there were approximately 36 to 48 days without rainfall between the third week of June and the second week of August. This affected crops whilst they were in the vegetative and reproductive phases of development, resulting in estimated losses of approximately 50 percent of the Primera harvest corn crops that took place in June. In the more arid production areas of Madriz and Chinandega, losses are estimated at between 70 and 80 percent.

    The majority of families have corn and bean reserves to last until the next harvest because the 2017/2018 harvest produced good yields. Since mid-July, very poor families in León, Chinandega, Estelí and Madriz have been purchasing grains due to attractive prices which motivated them to sell their reserves on the basis that they could replenish them with the first crops and not knowing that these crops would be lost.

    Basic grain prices in the region: Market prices for August of basic grains in the region show different patterns compared to the previous month. In the markets of Nicaragua and El Salvador, corn prices rose by between ten to 12 percent. In Honduras the price remains stable, most likely due to the supply of imported grain which lessened the increase in prices that has been recorded since late 2017 and that was anticipated to continue at above-average levels. The plateau in this rising trend is associated with crop losses in the Primera harvest in the dry corridor. After more than seven consecutive months of price increases in red beans in Honduras, the price is now stable with a slight downward trend in the three countries. These behaviors are likely to derive from larger areas cultivated during the Primera season in regions with higher altitudes.

    White corn prices for August in the markets of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, were stable compared to the previous month. In comparison with last year’s prices, there are significant positive variations of between 53 and 52 percent respectively, which reflects fewer trade flows possibly due to below-average domestic harvests.



    El Salvador: According to the Salvadoran Coffee Council, coffee production in the 2017/2018 season was 905,110 quintals of coffee cherries, of which 719,796 quintals had been exported by August 31 at an average value of USD149,78/qq.

    Honduras: According to statistics from the Honduran Institute of Coffee (IHCAFE), exports totaled 8.5 million 46 kg bags by July 27, 2018: a 1.4 percent decrease in the volume exported during the previous season (8.6 million bags). However, these exports were valued at USD 1.040 million, which is 15 percent lower than the USD 1.219 million recorded for the previous year (2016/2017). The current average export price is USD 122.38, which is 13 percent lower than the average export price of USD 141.466 from the previous agricultural year. Transnational companies export 51 percent, domestic companies export 47 percent and cooperatives export 2 percent.

    Nicaragua: Data collected in the field on coffee farmers and cooperatives indicates that the next coffee production will be better than the previous one. However, like the rest of the region, the sector will face constraints such as: (a) very low international prices; (b) lack of finance; (c) lack of timely availability of agricultural inputs; (d) no cash flow, some farms pay agricultural wages with food such as corn, beans or rice and (d) risk of labor shortage for the harvest.

    According to the Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua (UPANIC), the widespread and illegal invasion of private land has reached a record 9,800 manzanas of various crops, including coffee and other cash crops, across eight regions of the country. Of this invaded land, 2,483 manzanas have been recovered and 7,317 manzanas remained occupied. Approximately 66 percent of the land invaded is agricultural, 25 percent is for livestock farming and the rest for forest, housing and industrial use.



    El Salvador: According to the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador, family remittances in the first half of 2018 were USD 229.2 million more than in the same period last year. By the end of June, the country received USD2,688.6 million in family remittances from 145 countries which represents an increase of 9.3 percent from 2017.

    The five departments that received the most remittances in June 2018 were: San Salvador (19.4 percent of all remittances across the country), San Miguel (11.8 percent), La Unión (8.3 percent), Santa Ana (7.8 percent) and La Libertad (7.7 percent). Among the departments which receive fewer remittances are Cuscatlán (2.4 percent) and San Vicente (3.4 percent). Chalatenango recorded the highest average remittance of USD 363.90 in a month.

    Honduras: According to the August 2018 Family Remittance Survey by the Central Bank of Honduras, family remittance flows of USD 2,357.7 million were received during the first six months of the year, which equates to USD 177.5 million more than the same period last year (USD 2,180.2 million). The majority of migrants surveyed (91.1 percent) reside in the USA, followed by 3.2 percent in Canada, 1.9 percent in Spain, 0.8 percent in Panama, with the remaining 3.0 percent residing in 11 other countries in distinct regions. The beneficiaries of these remittances principally reside in the departments of Cortés (23.6 percent of the total), Francisco Morazán (18.5 percent), Atlántida (14.5 percent), Yoro (11.2 percent) and Olancho (7.2 percent). The remaining 25 percent is received by residents in 12 other departments.

    Nicaragua: According to the field assessment, most regions experience significant local migration to neighboring countries such as Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador. This migration typically involves farmers who regularly returned in September to October for the coffee harvest season, however, due to insecurity in the country this year, families with young children have migrated and only one family member remains to attend to the farm. 


    According to the seasonal calendar for Central America, the lean season ends in July, which allows food reserves to be replenished, markets to be supplied with newly harvested products and prices to decrease due to trade flows from production areas. The current season conditions will be altered by partial or total losses of Primera crops due to the extended seasonal dry spell which principally affected production areas of the dry corridor, where subsistence farming usually takes place. 

    Families of farmers who have suffered losses in their Primera harvests will be forced to depend on the market until the end of this year, with the possibility of restocking part of their reserves following the Postrera harvest (November to December).

    International coffee prices are at the lowest levels in the last four years. After seven years of investments to recover from rust damage which has depleted coffee growers’ capital, there are reduced possibilities for generating job opportunities and salary improvements for casual laborers.

    The dry corridor in southern and western Honduras, eastern and western parts of El Salvador and central and northern Nicaragua will experience Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) from October 2018 to January 2019 due to vulnerable households without food reserves or employment, losses from Primera crops and the risk of losing the Postrera harvest.




    According to weather forecasts that predict below-average rainfall and an early end to the rainy season, families vulnerable to food insecurity are less likely to be able to restock their food reserves through the Postrera harvest. This aggravates the situation for vulnerable families in the areas of greatest concern in the region.

    Families will not be able to generate food reserves from their own production, so the lean season will be prolonged from January to July 2019. This shortage may be mitigated by seasonal employment in coffee production from November to February and purchasing products on the market. However, purchasing power will be reduced by the rise in corn and bean prices.


    The production areas in the region’s dry corridor are considered the most vulnerable, with subsistence farmers and agricultural workers who depend on their daily wage and whose livelihoods have deteriorated due to irregular rainfall, pests, diseases and few local employment opportunities in the last five years. These areas are located mainly in the south and south-west of Honduras, with some vulnerable populations in the eastern and western parts of El Salvador, as well as in the central, northern, north Pacific and north Atlantic regions of Nicaragua. During the period January 2019 to July 2019, these populations will be in Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2). The poorest households in these regions, located in communities with delayed social development, without food reserves or access to temporary employment will be in Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2), until their first harvests in July and August 2019.

    The situation for these households will improve to Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) from August 2019, provided that the rains favor their agricultural production in the 2019 Primera season, thereby stabilizing and improving their situation. Later in the year, they will be able to obtain their crops from the Postrera harvest and there will be employment opportunities from the coffee harvest if the phytosanitary crop conditions and the international market are favorable in this sector.


    Figure 1

    Source: SIMPAH (HN), MAG (SV), SIMPHA (NI)

    El precio del maíz se encuentra por encima del promedio pero debería recuperar valores promedios a inicios de 2019, salvo en

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET, registro de la Red Regional de Información de Mercados- RRIM-

    The sowing of Primera occurs in April and May, of Postrera in September and of Apante in December. Primera crops occur in Jul

    Figure 3


    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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