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Upcoming harvests are unlikely to notably improve acute food insecurity outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • July 2020 - January 2021
Upcoming harvests are unlikely to notably improve acute food insecurity outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In Central America and Haiti, movement restrictions and health and social distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 continue to constrain economic activity, cause high levels of informal and formal unemployment – especially in urban areas – and reduce food access for poor urban and rural households. The enforcement and easing of movement restrictions is dynamic, but it is assumed that economic recovery will occur gradually through late 2020/2021 and will depend on the level of restrictions on public transportation and business activity and the spread of the virus. In Nicaragua, the government is not implementing restrictions, though the public is voluntarily restricting their movements.

    • In Central America, poor households in urban and rural areas are experiencing a reduction or loss of key income sources and face high food prices, leading them to resort to coping strategies to cover their minimum food requirements. Demand for labor, goods, and services remains low and the cost of public transportation remains above-normal due to the impact of the COVID-19 movement restrictions. In rural areas, where the lean season is ongoing until August and agricultural labor demand is seasonally low, white maize and bean prices are above average due to hoarding and price speculation.

    • In Central America, the Primera and Postrera harvests are expected to be average. However, food prices will most likely remain high and poor households will likely have difficulty accessing work on cash crop and coffee farms due to public transportation restrictions that are expected to persist during the usual peak labor period that begins in October. Although some economic recovery is expected as the economy gradually re-opens, the informal economy and tourism sectors are unlikely to fully recover during the scenario period. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected from June to January, despite some seasonal improvement in food availability and access.

    • In Haiti, below-average and irregular rains since late March have reduced crop production prospects, especially for beans and maize, except in areas where irrigation is available. Agricultural labor demand is below normal not only due to poor production, but also because better-off households have earned lower income since the start of the pandemic, which has reduced their capacity to hire labor. At the same time, the closure of the Haiti-Dominican Republic border resulted in a flow of Haitian returnees and an increase in the labor supply along the border. Overall, most poor households face both a reduction in income and purchasing power.

    • In Haiti, the harvests from July to October are most likely to be below-average despite a forecast of cumulatively above-average rainfall. The HTG is also projected to depreciate against the USD faster than in 2019. Below-average crop production and continued depreciation of the HTG will sustain above-average staple food prices. High staple food prices paired with below-average income are most likely to maintain low food access, which will sustain Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through January.



    • Irregular and below-average rainfall since late March has slowed agricultural activities and delayed the development of crops throughout most of the country, with the exception of some irrigated areas in the Sud, Nord, Nord-Est, Ouest, Centre and Artibonite departments. This situation has disrupted the growing cycle of seasonal crops, especially beans and maize.
    • Poor spring harvests foreshadow below-average summer/fall and winter growing seasons, given the reliance on inputs from the first season. Although cumulative rainfall is forecast to be above average for this period, these growing seasons will produce below-average harvests.
    • Measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 are continuing to have an adverse effect on market functioning and remittances, impacting income and job opportunities throughout the country. In addition, the poorest households are finding it hard to access food because of the high prices of staple foods at a time when the national currency is continuing to weaken against the dollar and income has fallen below average.
    • The June/July harvests will marginally improve food security and access for very poor households because of expected declines in production, continuing inflation and the effects of COVID-19. Most of these households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the outlook period.

    For more information, see the Haiti Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021.


    • The extension of government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 continues to impact on the operational capacity of businesses and stores, which have been forced to cut employee numbers. The effect of international trade on domestic industry is also apparent in a fall in purchases of some export products, and the tourism sector is practically paralyzed since it depends on open borders and demand from international visitors.
    • At the national level, the most affected households have a partial income while others have completely lost their source of income. As a result, they have been using negative coping strategies to meet their minimum food requirements. From June through September, these households will receive government support. This will improve access to food and place them in a situation of Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity.  However, the prolongation of the crisis will lead to a situation of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity from October through January of next year.
    • At the height of the lean season, rural households, particularly in the dry corridor, are experiencing greater difficulty in food access as a result of restrictions on movement and reduced demand for local labor. Assistance from government and other institutions, from June through September, will avoid the need for households to use crisis strategies to meet their food requirements. They will thus be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2!).
    • October to January is the main period of seasonal employment. However, a lack of resources among small and medium-sized coffee growers, the fall in international demand for various products and possible cross-border restrictions will lead to reduced employment in the coffee sector in particular, but also in sectors such as vegetable production and tourism. These households will have to use coping strategies and face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity marked by high basic grain prices and a maize and bean harvest that will not meet household needs.

    For more information, see the Guatemala Food Security Outlook for June 2020 to January 2021.

    Remote Monitoring Countries[1]

    El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua

    • Over the next three months, Honduras and El Salvador are expected to begin a gradual economic reactivation and an easing of lockdown. This will lead to a progressive increase in income earning opportunities, although the informal sector will continue to be affected for longer than the formal sector. Nicaragua will continue without restrictive measures.
    • In rural areas, poor and very poor households will find themselves in the lean season until August, with few income opportunities. The beginning of the season of high labor demand in October will permit an improvement in the incomes of the poorest households, but this will be limited by the restrictions on movement that are likely to persist in some areas.
    • Due to a forecast of above-average rainfall until January 2021, average Primera and Postrera crops are expected, with localized areas slightly below average as a result of weather events and pest infestation caused by excess humidity. However, white maize and red beans are expected to remain above average and above 2019 prices, reducing access to food for poor and very poor households.
    • From June 2020 to January 2021, along with the gradual economic reopening, there will be a seasonal improvement in access to and availability of food in rural and urban households in the region, placing them in Stress (IPC Phase 2). The poorest rural households in the Salvadoran coffee zone and the Honduran dry corridor will be the exception as they will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the accumulation of previous events, lockdown and the outlook for the period.

    [1] With remote monitoring, an analyst typically works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of partners for data. Compared to previous series of countries in which FEWS NET has a local office, reports on remote monitoring countries may offer less detail.


    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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