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Possible irregular rains could compound challenges for households dependent on the coffee sector

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • February 2014
Possible irregular rains could compound challenges for households dependent on the coffee sector

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2014
  • Key Messages
    • With an early end to the coffee harvest and low food reserves, the lean season for very poor households in the east and the temperate western highlands is beginning two months ahead of schedule. However, these households will continue to experience Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through March.
    • Day laborers and their respective households in the western part of the country will have a harder time meeting their basic food needs due to lower incomes from the coffee harvest season and a growing dependence on market purchase for food supplies. Therefore, this population will be Stressed between April and June (IPC Phase 2).
    • The possibility of a shift to El Niño-like conditions in the second quarter of the year is close to 45 percent. If this were to occur, the resulting erratic rainfall would threaten the growth and development of staple grain crops for the Primera season and could potentially jeopardize crop yields.

    Current Situation
    • The staple grain harvest about to get underway in the north is expected to improve the flow of grain to markets in the rest of the country. An average to above-average harvest of these crops is forecast.
    • Fluctuations in staple grain prices between December and January were in line with seasonal price trends. Prices for white maize are up slightly throughout the production chain, from the farmer to the consumer, while producer and wholesale prices for black beans have been declining. Despite these price variations in both cases, current prices are well below the five-year average given the above-average harvests across the country and in the rest of the region, which have boosted supplies and reduced the trade flow amongst countries. Moreover, this trend is expected to continue through the next production cycle ending in August/September based on the positive outlook for the upcoming harvests in the northern part of the country and overall for the Apante season throughout the region.
    • According to an FAO report from February 2, households in the country’s northern and southern coastal areas had approximately 3.5 and 3.0 months worth of maize reserves, respectively. Households in the western and eastern parts of the country had 2.0 months and 2.5 months of reserves. These reserves are about average compared with figures for the last few years, with the exception of the larger than average reserves in the east. Households in the eastern part of the country reportedly had 3.4 months of bean reserves, compared with the 1.7 months worth of bean reserves in the north and west. These bean stocks are larger than usual due to the good crop production from the Postrera season.
    • According to INSIVUMEH (the National Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology Institute), observed minimum temperatures for the first two weeks of February were similar to earlier forecasts for that period. Heavy rains resulting from the cold front that passed through the Petén department at the beginning of the month did not cause any significant negative effects on crops.
    • Official estimates of national coffee crop losses from the 2013/2014 season due to the rust outbreak are approximately six percent below initial projections at the beginning of the production cycle. There is an approximate 22 percent shortfall in production compared with the 2011/2012 season, which is comparable to the job-loss rate in the coffee sector. However, the losses suffered by small coffee producers are considerably greater, though there are currently no statistics reflecting the totality of the situation. Moreover, even with the recent small rebound in international coffee prices, prices are still down significantly from their peak 2011 levels. The results of this compound problem are: a more limited availability of jobs picking coffee, with fewer days of work, and lower daily wages due to the smaller amounts of coffee harvested. A more in-depth analysis of the region-wide situation can be found in the special report Coffee producer and laborer income to decline for a second consecutive year.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2014 have been revised as follows:

    • Based on an analysis of comparable years, the rainy season is expected to begin between April and May, yet 10 to 20 days late, particularly evident in the Central Highlands (the Meseta Central), the North, and the Northern Transversal Strip.
    • The possible shift to El Niño-like conditions during the transition period for the first rainy season in May/June could potentially produce an uneven spatial and/or temporal distribution of rainfall.

    Projected Outlook through June 2014
    • With the coffee harvest season ending early, generating less income from fewer days of work and lower daily wage rates, and the losses of last year’s Primera crops sharply limiting food reserves, the lean season for very poor households in the eastern part of the country and in the temperate western highlands in particular will begin in February, two months ahead of schedule. However, their income from the last few months, although small, should enable these households to meet their short-term basic food needs. Therefore, these areas, like the rest of the country, will experience Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through March. 
    • If there is a late start to the rainy season, then precipitation anomalies during this time could delay the planting of Primera staple grain crops and affect crop yields for that season. The result will be an extension of the annual lean season and less food reserves for affected households. However, these effects will not be noticeable until after the end of the outlook period. Developments in the potential El Niño phenomenon in the second half of the year will be closely monitored by FEWS NET to anticipate its effects on crop growth and development.
    • Households in highland areas greatly affected by last year’s losses of Primera crops will be forced to resort to irreversible coping strategies in the second quarter of the year in order to meet their nonfood needs, exposing them to Stressed food security outcomes (IPC Phase 2). The rest of the country will continue to experience Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).
    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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