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Average harvests improve food security outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • August 2017
Average harvests improve food security outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • According to the information coming in from crop-producing areas in parts of the Dry Corridor, harvests for the Primera season will be close to or above the historical average for the first time since 2013. Based on current soil conditions and the seasonal outlook, crop production for the Postrera season is expected to be within normal range. Both harvests will enable farming households to build up their maize and bean reserves, while driving down bean prices and maintaining low maize market prices.

    • With the exception of the coffee sector, there will continue to be near-average farm labor demand across sectors. Labor in the coffee section has been down since 2012 due to the coffee rust infestation and low coffee selling prices, but it is expected to be similar to last year’s levels based on current demand. All of these sources of employment will help improve income generation for very poor households that are highly dependent on day labor.

    • Conditions for households currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will improve due to the combined effects of better income generation from staple grain production as well as average bean and below-average maize grain prices. As a result, these households will transition to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in  September until the end of the outlook period in January 2018. However, these households still need several more good growing seasons and high-income periods to build their resilience back up to what it was five years ago. There is also a normal seasonal risk of a tropical storm or hurricane through November/December, which could change the outlook.

    • Primera harvests are underway in practically all parts of the country with the exception of western altiplano areas, where they will not start up until November/December. Production levels in surplus-producing areas on the southern coast, in the Northern Transversal Strip, and in Petén are expected to be at or above average based on the more regular rainfall activity during the past season compared with the last few years. Additionally, the shorter canícula (break in the rains), and the good levels of relative humidity for area crops also contributed to favorable growing conditions. There are reports of some localized damage to crops in subsistence farming areas from pests, diseases, hailstorms, and floods, but in general the situation is considerably better than it has been in the last four years and harvests expected to be close to average. This will enable households to build up food reserves for the next few months.

    • Wholesale prices for white maize on the La Terminal market in Guatemala City were reportedly stable between June and July and down sharply by as much as 28.6 percent from last year. Such price stability is unusual at this time of year. Typically, prices in the month of July are the yearly highs because of the tightening of market supplies. However, based on forecasts for a near-average harvest for the Primera growing season, traders decided to release warehouse inventories of this grain from the last harvest onto the market, augmenting market supplies. In addition, there are reportedly no exports of these crops to other countries in the region this year, which are also expecting good harvests.

    • In comparison to last month, trends in bean prices are very similar to price trends for maize, through bean prices are up slightly from July 2016.  The price of beans has been above the five-year average since February 2016 and is not expected to drop below this level, though its rate of growth has been slowing. Bean prices first began to rise with the contraction in market supplies, triggered by the large crop losses during the 2016 Postrera season. However, though smaller in volume and importance, this year’s harvest of Primera crops is expected to be average to above-average, and prices are expected to drop as traders clear out old inventories. These price reductions should help provide better food access for very poor households that are entirely dependent on market purchases as their sole source of food, helping to boost consumption of non-animal protein as well.  

    • The coffee harvest begins in August in low-elevation areas, with the demand for labor peaking in or around December/January. The beginning of the harvest means a gradual improvement in the sources of employment and income for very poor households. This is especially important for non-farming households completely dependent on market purchases. It is still too early for the sugar cane harvest, while other sectors including fruits and vegetables generally have a more stable year-round crop production calendar.


    The assumptions used by FEWS NET as basis for establishing the most likely food security scenario for June 2017 through January 2018 have been modified as follows:

    • Based on prevailing climatic conditions, there will be average levels of crop production for the Primera growing season in both surplus-producing areas and subsistence farming areas of the Dry Corridor, improving available food reserves at the household-level and on markets around the country.
    • Cumulative rainfall totals for the Postrera growing season between August and October are expected to be within normal range in the eastern part of the country and above-average farther west and north. With bean production for the Postrera season concentrated in surplus-producing areas in the eastern part of the country, there should be an average harvest, with minimal crop damage from diseases and pests. The harvest will begin on schedule in November/December. The bean harvest in the north is expected to take place in February/March, with near-average crop yields.
    • According to the Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology Center (INSIVUMEH), rainfall is expected through October and the rainy season will end sometime between the 15th and 25th of that month on the central plateau (meseta central) and in the eastern part of the country, followed by the cold front season.


    The beginning of the harvest of Primera crops in August/September will significantly improve food availability for crop-producing households, with crop yields expected to outperform levels for the last four years. There will also be larger grain supplies on markets across the country with the average to above-average levels of grain production in northern and southern surplus-producing areas. These supplies will affect market prices by driving them down and improving household food access. This is especially advantageous for households that are heavily dependent on market purchases for their food supplies. Demand for labor for the coffee harvest starts to pick up in August in certain low-elevation areas, but most workers are not hired until September and October. The level of demand in this sector is expected to be similar to last year, with a projected near-average demand for day labor in other major job-creating sectors. This should strengthen the purchasing power of very poor households across the country, particularly households of landless day laborers.

    The harvest for the Primera growing season will enable crop-producing households to build up three or more months’ worth of maize reserves, which will significantly reduce their dependence on market purchases for food. The sole exceptions are households in western altiplano areas where the harvest will not begin until November/December. Households in these areas will continue purchasing their food supplies, though at lower prices. Meanwhile, the Postrera growing season will get underway sometime in August. According to the rainfall outlook, rainfall is expected to be good for bean production and harvests will take place in November/December. These harvests will increase household food reserves of beans, a grain whose consumption is reportedly on the decline due to the exceedingly high market price. Based on the expected average harvest for the Postrera season, part of these crops are likely to be earmarked for sale as a way to generate household income. Earnings from day labor and the sale of bean crops will help improve the purchasing power of households in the eastern part of the country and, in some cases, help foster their economic recovery or repayment of debts accrued over the past few years.

    An improvement in food availability and access will allow households in large parts of the country to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between now and the end of the outlook period in January 2018. As of September, the severity of the food insecurity of very poor households in eastern and western areas of the Dry Corridor will be downgraded from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Improvements in the performance of staple grain crops, and near-average labor opportunities during a high-demand period will improve food and income-generating opportunities for very poor households in these areas. Nonetheless, with the rather severe erosion of their coping capacity and livelihoods over the last four years, many of these households will need more than two average growing seasons in order to make a full recovery. Since the hurricane season does not end until November, there is still the latent possibility of a direct or indirect hurricane event, which could change the outlook, depending on its path 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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