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Expected rainfall anomalies could damage crops in the Dry Corridor

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • April 2017
Expected rainfall anomalies could damage crops in the Dry Corridor

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • While current climatic conditions suggest that the rainy season will probably get off to a normal start, projections for the period beginning in the second half of June show a high likelihood of below-normal rainfall and an elevated risk of an unusually severe “canícula” (break in the rains) between July and August. These rainfall anomalies will likely have a negative effect on yields from maize crops in the Dry Corridor during the Primera growing season in low-elevation areas and during the single annual growing season in higher-elevation areas, particularly in the west.

    • For small farmers growing staple grain crops in most parts of the Dry Corridor and households dependent on local employment in related activities, 2016 was the fourth consecutive year of poor yields from staple grain farming activities due to rainfall anomalies. In addition, the upsurge in coffee rust disease since 2012 has affected the job market, particularly in the hardest hit areas. Based on these factors, the worst-off households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through August/September 2017.

    • Assistance is planned to help the most severely affected households through the months leading up to the harvest of Primera crops, but there has been no commitment of funding to this response effort. Implementation of this plan would mitigate the severity of food insecurity for assisted households, putting them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity in the presence of assistance.

    • The only areas with ongoing harvests of staple grain crops are surplus-producing areas in the Northern Transversal Strip, Petén, the Polochic and Izabal regions, and a few irrigated areas in the east and on the southern coast. Farmers in other parts of the country are in the process of preparing their land for the planting of Primera crops beginning at the end of April and continuing into May.
    • Harvests in the northern part of the country should be over by the beginning of May, with average to above-average levels of crop production. The flow of crops from this area and informal maize imports from Mexico are already stabilizing domestic market prices. Wholesale and farm-gate prices for white maize were stable between February and March at levels 15.9 percent below March 2016 prices and the five-year average. Market supplies of fresh crops from the harvests in southern Petén drove March prices for black beans down from the previous month by 13.2 percent. After several months of high prices, price levels in March were similar to figures for last year, though still 13.8 percent above the five-year average.
    • Because 2016 was the fourth consecutive year of low maize and bean yields in more arid areas, the poorest households in these areas have already depleted their food reserves and are currently dependent on income earned mainly from employment in farming activities to purchase food supplies on the market. Demand for labor during this time of the season is low as the harvesting period for coffee, sugar cane, melon, tobacco, cardamom, and other such crops is near. On the other hand, ongoing African palm oil harvests will continue through September/October and this will serve as a source of employment for certain households, particularly those in located near the oil palm plantations.
    • With the high-demand period for farm labor ending in or around February, many very poor households in the Dry Corridor are already in the midst of the annual lean season, when they normally limit their spending on other basic necessities to cover the cost of food supplies. Most of these households earn their income from sporadic employment opportunities in staple grain farming activities, fence maintenance and repair work, and jobs in the informal business and trade sector or construction work.
    • The Guatemalan government is planning a cash transfer program for households at-risk for food insecurity in municipalities within the Dry Corridor, as part of its seasonal hunger response plan. However, its implementation is contingent on the mobilization of necessary funding, which is still pending. So far there are no established target populations or locations for this assistance plan in affected areas.
    • While the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare (MSPAS) has finally been able to build larger inventories of certain commodities after its problems obtaining regular supplies due to the strikes and blockades organized by the unions, the health care system still needs to improve basic health service coverage and beef up its supplies of drugs and other inputs. These gaps have adversely affected the reporting of epidemiological data and health service coverage for the population-at-large, making it more vulnerable to a deterioration in its health and nutritional status, particularly in the case of children under five years of age.



    The assumptions used by FEWS NET as basis for establishing the most likely food security scenario for February through September 2017 have been modified as follows:

    • There are currently ENSO neutral conditions. The most likely scenario is for a steady rise in sea surface temperatures (SST) in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, producing El Niño conditions by sometime in the third quarter of 2017. However, due to the uncertainty with respect to trends in SSTs during this period, the possibility of continued neutral conditions cannot be ruled out.
    • The rainy season is expected to get underway between April 20th and 30th in the Bocacosta area and the southwest, and between May 15th and May 30th in all other parts of the country with the exception of the northern region, where the rains will begin somewhere between May 25th and June 5th.
    • Based on climate models for Guatemala, there are likely to be normal levels of cumulative rainfall throughout the month of May and into the beginning of June. However, there is a high probability of below-normal levels of cumulative rainfall for the period beginning in the third dekad of June and extending through at least the end of the outlook period in September.
    • The rainfall anomalies beginning in late June are expected to adversely affect staple grain crops in large parts of the Dry Corridor, but should have no negative effects on crops in surplus-producing areas.



    There will be more sporadic employment opportunities for poor households between now and the end of September, depending on the specific period in question. This will translate into a seasonal decline in monthly incomes. This year, household food reserves were depleted earlier than usual due to the limited volume of production for 2016. Poor households in most parts of the Dry Corridor have been completely dependent on market purchases for their food supplies since at least February.

    Maize prices are approximately 16.7 percent below-average, which is helping to facilitate access to these crops. On the other hand, the above-average price of beans, which are an important source of protein, will curtail household consumption by very poor households with a very limited supply of cash. In spite of the atypically low prices of maize, food access has declined with the recent end of the high-demand period for farm labor, which failed to improve conditions compared with the situation in the past few years due to problems in certain crop-producing sectors such as coffee and cardamom and the unfavorable exchange rates for households migrating to neighboring countries.

    The Primera growing season for staple grain crops will begin somewhere between April and May, when households are expected to spend part of their income on necessary inputs for the planting and maintenance of their crops until somewhere around August, or November in the case of altiplano areas. The climate outlook for areas outside the Dry Corridor is predicting average to below-average levels of cumulative rainfall, but this should not significantly affect crop yields. In contrast, once again, the expected erratic pattern of rainfall and cumulative rainfall deficits in areas in the country’s arid zone could potentially cause large losses of subsistence crops in these areas for the fifth consecutive year.

    Though it is the most difficult time of year from a food security standpoint, households in large parts of the country are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least the end of the outlook period in September 2017. The poorest households in eastern and western areas of the Dry Corridor will gradually face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity. With the poor outcomes from staple grain farming activities and the high-demand period for labor, the poorest households in these areas are dependent on purchasing their food supplies and have very limited means with which to do so. The seasonal decline in income will continue to curtail food access through the month of August. These households already have a very limited coping capacity and do not have that many options in dealing with yet another year of poor food access and limited food availability. The prospect of a long canícula, which would only serve to further increase the already existing soil-water deficits in this area, suggests another below-average harvest for the Primera growing season for the fifth consecutive year. Households with limited access to markets and sources of employment will be especially affected during this period, particularly with their weakened coping capacity and resilience.

    Should the government succeed in mobilizing needed funding for the implementation of its assistance plans for these households, the resulting improvement in food security conditions could result in recipient households being Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). The effects of a hurricane strike could change the outlook during this period, depending on its trajectory and intensity.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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