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Climate irregularities affect basic grain production in the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • August 2019
Climate irregularities affect basic grain production in the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Households in areas concentrated in the Dry Corridor, whose crops were affected by irregular rainfall and high temperatures, will not be able to rely on Primera harvests to build up their maize and bean reserves. They will therefore continue to source supplies from the market.

    • For households that have relied on purchases throughout the year and have resorted to adopting negative coping strategies, the start of the season of high demand for labor will offer some relief for a few months, as they will be able to meet their minimum caloric requirements.

    • The price of maize remains high. Although the price is expected to decrease with the arrival of the latest national grain reserves, its value will continue to be above average. This will impact access by reducing household purchasing power.

    • Some areas in the eastern Dry Corridor and localized areas in the west will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Other areas in the west will continue to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) at least until January, while the rest of the country will be in Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).


    In September, the harvest of basic grains, particularly maize, began in the east, south and north of the country. As irregular rainfall and high temperatures have adversely affected the development of Primera basic grain crops, reduced yields are expected. However, the impact is more severe in the Dry Corridor, mainly in the departments of El Progreso, Jutiapa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Baja Verapaz and Quiché, where the first rainy season began late, was insufficient, and exhibited above-average temperatures, resulting in losses of over 50 percent.

    The western highlands have a longer production cycle, so the basic grain harvests are expected to start between December and January.  However, the erratic rainfall in the season coupled with the high temperatures recorded in the lower parts of the region has affected the amount of water in the soil available for maize crops to develop. In localized areas of Huehuetenango and Totonicapán, this will result in crop losses, again affecting farming households with reduced crop growing areas and minimal resources.

    In October and November, the season of high demand for labor will begin, mainly for the coffee and sugar cane harvests. Meanwhile, income-generation opportunities remain scarce, with the largest sources of employment being local agricultural activities. Families will continue to adopt negative coping strategies to earn money, such as atypical migration to distant locations in seasons that they would usually devote to harvesting or planting their own crops and new family members taking on work such as housework, construction work or driving buses.

    The price of maize continues to follow July’s upward trend with an average wholesale price of Q.157.50/Quintal. This price rise is also reflected in consumer prices, at between Q.1.50 and Q.2.00/pound. The price usually increases seasonally between June and August, when the market is supplied with national grain reserves and imports, mainly from Mexico, and sales volumes remain stable in departmental markets.

    The Ministry of Health reports that the acute malnutrition rate for week 32 is 21 percent higher than that recorded in the same period in 2018, similar to the same period in 2015 and slightly lower than in 2014, when the Ministry was still actively seeking cases through the service provider system. Departments such as Zacapa, Chiquimula, Baja Verapaz, Huehuetenango, El Progreso and Alta Verapaz have above-average rates. Cases of malnutrition tend to increase during the lean season, without reaching critical levels.


    The assumptions used by FEWS NET for the most likely food security scenario for June 2019 to January 2020 have changed as follows:

    Climate and the El Niño phenomenon: According to the early August report of the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), El Niño conditions became neutral and are likely to continue as such throughout the rest of 2019 and into early 2020.

    Second rainy season: The rains returned in the second half of August. According to the National Institute for Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH), rainfall levels will peak in September and will remain stable throughout October. However, there is the possibility that the rainy season will end between 15 and 25 October in the center and east of the country.

    Production of Primera basic grains: The climate negatively affected the development of crops throughout much of the country, resulting in reduced yields. The damage is most severe in the Dry Corridor, where crop yields will be 50 percent less than usual.


    The poorest households will have improved food availability for a few months with the emergence of the Primera maize and bean crops. The presence of fresh grains on national markets will allow for a slight decrease in the price of maize, which will slightly improve food access, although the price will remain above average, influenced by the increase in the international price of maize, speculation and stockpiling due to weather irregularities. In addition, an increase in income is expected at the start of the season of high demand for labor from October onward, which will facilitate access to food. Postrera harvests are expected to be within normal ranges, which will allow households to restock to build up their reserves or sell part of their harvest to enable them to purchase other basic food items. Therefore, households throughout much of the country will be in Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) until January 2020.

    However, the food security situation will be more complicated for the poorest households in the Dry Corridor, who will not be able to use the Primera basic grain harvests to be self-sufficient over the coming months and will instead have to continue to use the market to provide their food. The beginning of the high demand for seasonal agricultural labor activities such as harvesting coffee, sugar cane and other crops will increase household incomes and slightly improve access to food for some Dry Corridor households in the east that will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, those households who have relied on food purchases throughout the year, have resorted to the use of negative coping strategies and have reduced their ability to recover will not see an improvement in the quality of their diet, leaving them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until January 2020. While the western highlands that managed to harvest some basic grains will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), there will be various pockets of the population in the drier areas that were unable to harvest that will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the projected outlook period.  

    Figures El corredor seco indica un estado de marchitez y de estrés. El resto del país indica una humedad suficiente.

    Figure 1

    Figura 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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