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Primera production losses in the eastern dry corridor raise concern for household food security

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • August 2013
Primera production losses in the eastern dry corridor raise concern for household food security

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Poor smallholder farmers in the eastern dry corridor will be affected by maize production losses potentially reaching up to 100 percent from the Primera season. These households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the next harvest in November.

    • Households in western areas of the country affected by: 1) last year’s extended dry spell and 2) irregular rainfall in 2012 and 2013 will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the labor season in October and the next harvest in November/December are underway. 

    • The rest of the country will experience Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through November, when the Postrera harvest begins.


    Current Situation
    • According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Primera crop production is well under way and national production levels are expected to be within normal range. Staple grain prices are stable and are expected to seasonally decrease when the Primera harvest begins in August.
    • The current lean season will end in late August in most of the country with the Primera harvest.
    • According to the national meteorological service, INSIVUMEH, the entire dry corridor of Guatemala experienced up to 22 days without rain in July. Soils have been unusually dry and unable to meet the water requirements for maize. Therefore, small producers are expected to lose as much as 80 to 100 percent of their maize harvest according to the Guatemalan Food Security Secretariat (SESAN), Oxfam, and FEWSNET. An estimated 20 to 35 percent reduction in the bean harvest is also expected. This will diminish food stocks and reduce income for both poor and very poor households in the region.  
    • However, dry conditions in the western part of the dry corridor, in the temperate Highlands, are of particular concern because this region only harvests once a year in November/December. Small producers, mainly in southern Quiché and Totonicapán, will also lose up to 80 to 100 percent of their maize harvest. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used by FEWSNET in establishing the most likely food security scenario for the period from July through December 2013 have changed as follows:

    • Because of unusually dry conditions, some communities in the eastern part of the country are at risk of losing most of their Primera maize harvest, beginning in late August, and communities in the western part of the dry corridor are also at risk of losing most of their annual harvest in November/December. The Guatemalan Food Security Secretariat is currently undertaking a census in the dry corridor to more precisely estimate expected losses and numbers of families.
    • Concerns raised regarding maize losses in Honduras suggest that the current drought could cause an increase in the price of maize in the Guatemalan markets. The situation will be closely monitored.
    • The resumption of the second part of the rainy season has started late, and has delayed Postrera sowing, normally taking place in late August. Farmers who chose to sow in “dry soil” may be at risk of wasting their seed. 

    Projected Outlook through December 2013
    • As the Primera harvest begins in August, the lean season will end for poor smallholder farmers in most of the country. Food availability and stocks for poor households without own production will improve while prices become more accessible. Given that October is the start of the annual period of high demand for unskilled labor, households will most likely be able to meet their short-term food needs. Therefore, Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected in most of the country.
    • Poor smallholder farmers living in Zacapa, Chiquimula, and El Progreso are the most affected by the dry spell in the eastern region. Households are expected to lose close to 100 percent of their Primera maize harvest and their annual lean season will not end in late August, as usual. This situation is expected to increase food insecurity, compounding the impact of the 2012 dry spell and the reduction in demand for day labor for the coffee harvest. Ministry of Health data shows a 36.5 percent increase in the number of children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2013 until August 3, 2013 in Chiquimula (1,047 cases by August 3, 2013 and 767 at the same time last year). SAM rates could continue increasing, rather than typically ceasing in August when poor smallholder farmers harvest their maize and prices start decreasing, resulting in improved access. Therefore, as from August, these areas will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until their Postrera harvest in November.
    • Similarly, poor smallholder farmers in the western part of the dry corridor, in the temperate Highlands, are also affected by the irregularity of current rainfall and will experience, in the worst cases, up to 100 percent losses of their maize harvest. The lean period will not seasonally end with the next harvest in November/December for these households, and they will therefore be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) starting in November. There is a large degree of overlap between these households and those affected by the 2012 extended dry spell.
    • Households affected by the 2012 dry spell are still awaiting this year’s harvest in November/December, as well as the annual season for high labor demand, to improve their food security outcomes, and will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until that time.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source:

    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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