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Minimal acute food insecurity in the first quarter of the year

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • February 2013
Minimal acute food insecurity in the first quarter of the year

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock declared a national emergency due to the rust outbreak on coffee plantations. The first phase of the assistance plan will benefit 60,000 small farmers in 204 municipalities in 20 departments with technical assistance and fungicide.

    • Most parts of the country will experience only Minimal (Phase 1 IPC 2.0) acute food insecurity in the first two quarters of the year. Earthquake-stricken areas will experience similar conditions between April and June due to the provision of food assistance.

    • Crop failure due to last year’s extended dry period, which limited food availability for affected households, is expected to cause the temperate Altiplano (the Western Highlands) to be in Stressed (Phase 2, IPC 2.0) acute food insecurity during the second quarter.

    Current Situation
    • A number of sources are continuing to report damage to coffee plants from rust disease which, among other things, is reducing the size of the coffee cherries and overall harvest. This is negatively affecting household income for workers (particularly for unskilled labor) by reducing the supply of work and making it more difficult to pick the stipulated quota (measured by weight) for a day’s pay. However, there are still no exact figures available assess the extent of the damage with the harvest season still underway.
    • Given the limited capacity of small farmers to procure necessary inputs for the control of rust disease, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock has implemented an emergency assistance plan designed to build capacity and help control the disease. The first phase, scheduled to begin in February, should provide 60,000 small farmers with enough fungicide for three applications during the course of the year. Recommended specifications indicate that these applications should be made after the main flowering period. Ideally, the first application should be made between April and May.
    • According to the FAO report, as of February 5th, households in the country’s northern and southern coastal regions had 3.4 and 3.8 months worth of maize reserves, respectively, while households in the western and eastern regions had only two and 1.5 months worth of reserves. There was reportedly 1.7 months worth of bean reserves in the eastern and western regions. This suggests that this year’s lean season in areas of concern will begin around March.
    • Field reports show the staple grain harvest in the north, which generally begins by February, already underway, which should increase the flow of grain to markets in other parts of the country. Current forecasts indicate an average harvest, which should temporarily help stabilize prices.
    • Regarding food assistance, the World Food Programme has already begun making the first of three deliveries to 4,500 households in Totonicapán, San Marcos, Sololá, and Quetzaltenango departments hard hit by last year’s earthquake. These household rations are designed to meet food energy requirements for 45 days. In addition, the third and last delivery to households in seven departments impacted by last year’s extended dry period should be completed by the beginning of March. These rations will meet food energy requirements for 20 days.
    • According to the current forecast for the start of the rainy season published in the INSIVUMEH Weather Bulletin for January 2013, the rains are expected to begin by the second week of April in the western Boca Costa (Pacific Foothills) and central regions, becoming fully established by the first week of June in the Caribbean and northern regions. This forecast is subject to change and consensus by the Central American Climate Forum. However, in general, rains are expected to begin within the normal range of dates.

    Updated Assumptions

    Below are adjustments to the assumptions used by FEWS NET to establish the most likely scenario for the January through June period:

    • Given the short-lived household food reserves in areas of concern (the Oriente and Occidente), as reported by FAO, households will gradually resort to buying staple grain supplies beginning as of February. Bean reserves will be depleted before maize reserves.
    • Last year’s extended dry period has eroded the food purchasing power of affected households. The cumulative effects of the financial stress caused by the loss of their crops will likely impair the ability of these households forced to resort to market-buying earlier than usual (as of March) to purchase needed food supplies. Their staple grain reserves are smaller or were depleted earlier than expected. The situation for households in other parts of the region varies, as reports indicate approximately two months worth of grain reserves as of the beginning of February.

    Projected Outlook through June 2013

    Grain output from the Postrera harvest and the harvest in the north is helping to improve household food availability for subsistence farmers and to stabilize market prices in the first quarter of the year. These three months are also the peak demand period for unskilled labor, giving households access to income sources. Given these factors, the projection for January to June remains at Minimal (Phase 1, IPC 2.0) acute food insecurity, even with the start of the yearly lean season in March/April throughout the country. Households impacted by last year’s extended dry period in the temperate Altiplano (in Huehuetenango, Quiché, Sololá, and Totonicapán departments) are expected to shift into Stressed (Phase 2, IPC 2.0), with the cumulative effects of the financial stress caused by the loss of their crops making it difficult for them to purchase food supplies.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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