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Crisis in the Dry Corridor in the absence of assistance

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • August 2015
Crisis in the Dry Corridor in the absence of assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through December 2015
  • Key Messages
    • The unusually long “canícula” (the break in the rains during the rainy season) caused losses ranging from 75 to 100 percent among small-scale producers in the Dry Corridor during the Primera season. Thus, affected households will not experience the usual improvement in food availability from this harvest. The current El Niño conditions are jeopardizing the Postrera growing season, with a high likelihood of reduced bean production for affected households.

    • The deliveries of food assistance in the eastern part of the country through September will help keep the food insecurity of recipient households at Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels, while households not reached by these assistance programs will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The peak season for agricultural labor beginning in October will help improve incomes and food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).  

    • Outcomes in affected municipalities in temperate altiplano areas receiving assistance through September will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), and those without assistance will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). By the last quarter of the year, with the termination of all assistance programs, households affected by the coffee rust outbreak and crop losses will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with the exception of certain municipalities in Quiché which will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as wage income from day labor will help improve food security outcomes.

    Current situation
    • The Guatemalan government has confirmed receipt of food assistance from the government of Brazil consisting of 4,000 metric tons of rice and beans. These food rations will be distributed on a monthly basis, and complimented with maize and cooking oil purchased with government funding. This assistance will reach a total of 110,230 households in Quetzaltenango, Quiché, Baja Verapaz, Alta Verapaz, Chiquimula, El Progreso, and Zacapa Departments, where it will be distributed through the World Food Program (WFP) in August and September. There are currently no plans for the provision of any additional food assistance.
    • Prices for black beans and rice across the country were stable between June and July 2015 owing to a steady supply from reserves of crops from the last bean harvest in the north and of imported rice, except for bean prices in Guatemala City, where retail and wholesale prices rose by 5.1 and 11.7 percent, respectively. On the other hand, maize prices moved upwards with the drawdown in warehouse inventories from the last harvest and the slowdown in imports from Mexico. However, there was already an influx of maize towards the end of July, mainly from the southern coast. In comparison to last year, prices were stable for maize and beans on reference markets, with a few exceptions in Guatemala City and Chiquimula, where prices have increased.
    • According to forecasts by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the El Niño phenomenon is fully established, with a 100 percent likelihood of lasting through at least the end of the Postrera growing season in November. This signals a high probability of below-normal levels of cumulative rainfall, and a likelihood that the rainy season will end early, around the second half of October. El Niño is expected to extend into next year, with a 91 percent likelihood of continuing through May 2016, which could affect the start of the rains for next year’s Primera growing season.
    • With this year’s unusually long “canícula,” which was even worse than in 2014 in terms of the number of days without rain and the size of the resulting rainfall deficit, subsistence farmers in the country’s Dry Corridor in both the east and the west and in certain parts of Suchitepéquez and Retalhuleu departments on the southern coast reportedly lost over 75 percent and, in some cases, as much as 100 percent of their Primera crops. The rainfall deficit for August was as high as 95 percent in certain departments in the eastern part of the country’s Dry Corridor (El Progreso, Zacapa, Baja Verapaz, and certain parts of Chiquimula and Jalapa), which went as long as 27 days without rain during that month. While the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) is still in the process of establishing more accurate figures, over 70,000 households are reportedly affected, with the actual number expected to be even higher once the field assessment has been completed. Harvests in the rest of the country, including surplus crop-producing areas, are expected to begin sometime in the next few weeks (in August/September), where normal patterns of rainfall should mean near-average crop yields.
    • Action Against Hunger (ACF) conducted a baseline nutritional assessment of 576 children under the age of five in various municipalities in Huehuetenango, Quiché, Chiquimula, Quetzaltenango, Alta Verapaz, and Baja Verapaz. According to the findings, the global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence for the children surveyed was 5.7 percent (with a 90 percent confidence interval). Plan International also conducted a rapid nutritional assessment of 1,388 children in Tucurú and Santa Catarina La Tinta in Alta Verapaz from July 20 - 22, 2015, in which the global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence was found to be 3.3 percent (with a 90 percent confidence interval). In both cases, mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) was used to measure the risk of mortality from poor nutrition and, though not defined as acute malnutrition data, there are indications of a possible deterioration in the nutritional situation of children under five years of age in areas affected by the rainfall deficit.

    Updated assumptions

    The assumptions used by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely food security scenario for the period from July through December 2015 have been updated as follows:

    • Based on the mid-August report by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), there is a 100 percent likelihood of the continuation of El Niño conditions over the three-month period from October through December, and a high likelihood of their extension through May 2016. 

    Projected outlook through December 2015

    There is a seasonal deterioration in food security outcomes of the poorest households in most parts of the country towards the end of the annual lean season, just before the beginning of the harvest of Primera crops and the high-demand period for unskilled labor. Since the last harvest was several months ago, most poor households have no reserves of own-produced staples which, with the losses from last year’s rainfall deficits in certain areas, were depleted much sooner than usual. Thus, the main source of food for these households is market purchase, though their purchasing power is currently limited by the few income-earning options available at this time of year. However, the August/September harvest of Primera crops is about to get underway, which will help replenish household reserves. In addition, their incomes will improve with the beginning of the high-demand period for labor in agricultural activities such as coffee, sugar cane, tobacco, and others. This will help facilitate food availability and food access. Households in large parts of the country unaffected by the rainfall deficit in 2014 will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during this period.

    On the other hand, very poor households in the “Dry Corridor” in the east and in temperate western altiplano areas of the country have been impacted by an unusually long canícula, even longer than the protracted 2014 canícula. Though there is still no official data on crop losses, according to ground reports from several organizations corroborated by field visits by FEWS NET, subsistence farmers in these areas have lost over 75 percent of staple crops during the Primera growing season. This makes this the fourth consecutive year with below-average crop production for the Primera growing season due to rainfall anomalies. These losses are impacting food availability for affected households, which are forced to resort to purchasing the maize they were unable to grow themselves. Since high-production areas have not been as affected, there are adequate supplies on markets across the country, with no disproportionate or atypical rises in prices. However, the impact of the crisis in the coffee sector due to the outbreak of coffee rust disease on the incomes of some of these households is curtailing their food access for lack of purchasing power. With their limited coping capacity and the repeated shocks over the last four years, impacted households are already employing negative strategies with repercussions affecting household food consumption (such as cutting their number of meals and the size of their portions and eating seeds) and which will still not suffice to meet their basic food and non-food needs. The only funded assistance scheduled for the next few months are the two deliveries of food-for-work to be made by the government through the WFP with the grant from the government of Brazil and a few supplemental government-funded procurements. However, these resources can cover only 110,230 affected households for August and September. There is no other scheduled assistance beyond these deliveries. Since Postrera crops will not be harvested until December, they will have little effect on the food security situation during the current outlook period.

    With the heavy losses of Primera crops in the east, they will not help improve the availability of maize for affected households beyond the end of September, as they normally would. A number of municipalities will receive food assistance in August and September. Thus, households in these areas are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes through August/September with the help of scheduled deliveries of assistance, while households not covered by this assistance will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September. The beginning of the annual high-demand period for unskilled labor in October will help improve household income. Thus, food security outcomes in most of the area will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the last quarter of the year. The harvest of Postrera crops will, at least, help meet bean requirements in December.

    On the other hand, with the single annual harvest in November/December in the “Dry Corridor” in the western part of the country, poor households in that area will continue to face large food consumption gaps upon the termination of food assistance. Thus, food security outcomes in areas targeted for food assistance will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through September, while areas without any such assistance will be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. The period of high demand for agricultural labor beginning in October will help improve household purchasing power, bringing area classifications in certain municipalities of Quiché to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, a number of municipalities will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through December, either due to the termination of food assistance as of October or because their situation is so critical that they will not be able to cover food consumption gaps with income earned during the high-demand period for unskilled labor. 


    Figure 1


    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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