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Improvement in the outlook with the materialization of pending food assistance

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • February 2015
Improvement in the outlook with the materialization of pending food assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Despite an earlier than usual start of the annual lean season by two months, most of the country’s poorest households will be able to meet their food needs between now and June with crops from recent harvests and income from day labor, and will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    • With their income from day labor, households affected by the drought and rust outbreak in the Western Highlands are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). With the end of the peak period of labor demand and the depletion of food reserves in March, these households will enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as they will not be able to meet their food needs even with the implementation of atypical coping strategies.

    • Despite the high demand for labor and the harvest of Postrera crops, very poor households in the East will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes between now and June with the premature depletion of their food reserves and their unusually limited coping capacity. Some households in this region will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Current situation
    • Due to scheduling issues, part of the food assistance planned for December in previously targeted areas in the eastern, western, and southern reaches of the country was delivered in January, improving food availability in that month. Planned deliveries of government food assistance for the next three months have still not materialized. However, USAID and ECHO are making arrangements to provide funding for the delivery of food assistance to populations affected by the protracted 2014 canícula (the break in the rains during the rainy season). These funds would be allocated to the World Food Program (WFP) and used as follows: EUR 2 million (USD 2.26 million) supplied by ECHO to assist 10,500 households for three months, and USD 3 million supplied by FFP/USAID to assist another 10,500 households for four months. In addition, ECHO will provide another EUR 1 million (USD 1.13 million) in funding for supplemental assistance programs to be managed by an as yet undetermined consortium of organizations. The areas to be targeted by this assistance are also still pending.
    • The basic grain harvest in Petén Department and the Northern Transversal Strip got underway this past month and is expected to turn out average crop yields in spite of forecasts for a possible El Niño event. There will be a continuing flow of maize and beans from these areas into April. With the resulting boost in supplies of these crops, imports of maize from Mexico, and harvests of crops in irrigated areas in Nueva Concepción, Escuintla, maize prices have been behaving normally and began coming down in February. The depletion of bean reserves from the harvest of Postrera crops in the East has triggered a slight rise in bean prices, which should be followed by a seasonal decline in prices with the flow of beans from Petén beginning in February. The unusual price dynamics reported on markets in other parts of the Central American region have not affected domestic prices.
    • According to the FAO report as of February 8th, the basic grain reserves of very poor households in the North and South have grown in the aftermath of the harvests in these areas. However, reserves in the East and West are lower than they have been in the past few years. Households in these areas currently have enough food reserves for approximately one month, if that, compared with their normal duration of two to two and a half months. Upon their depletion, they will be forced to resort to market purchase for their food supplies. This unusual shortage at this time of year is the result of crop losses from the protracted 2014 canícula. The smaller bean reserves in the East in spite of an average harvest of Postrera crops could be a reflection of the use of part of these crops for income-generation purposes instead of for household consumption.
    • As anticipated, the coffee and sugarcane harvests boosted demand for unskilled labor. The estimated volume of coffee production has not changed (seven percent higher than last year), nor are there reports of any change in average demand for day labor in the sugarcane harvest.

    Updated assumptions

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

    • Forecasts by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their mid-February ENSO update show a 54 percent probability of the development of El Niño conditions during the three-month period from April through June. However, even if this phenomenon were to materialize, the outlook released by the Regional Climate Outlook Forum would still be valid since it would not significantly affect cumulative rainfall levels through the end of March, though it could affect the start of the rainy season. 

    Projected outlook through June 2015

    There was an improvement in the food security situation of very poor households in most parts of the country between November and February following the harvest of Postrera crops in the East and Primera crops in the North, the annual harvest in altiplano areas, and the peak-demand period for labor. This helped partially restore household reserves, though not to their usual levels. There was also a seasonal decline in market prices for basic grains. An improvement in prices and larger wage incomes from unskilled labor are strengthening household purchasing power. As a result, households in most areas of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during this period. However, the smaller than usual food reserves as a result of crop losses from the rainfall deficit in mid-2014 in parts of the Dry Corridor will end this temporary improvement in conditions sooner than usual.

     With the completion of the harvests of coffee, sugarcane, and other crops requiring large numbers of unskilled laborers, there will be a seasonal decline in the availability of wage income from day labor in or around the month of March. In addition, households will be forced to resort to market purchase approximately two months earlier than usual, which will curtail the food access of very poor households in areas affected by the protracted canícula. These areas will be targeted by food assistance programs currently funded through the month of February. However, this assistance will not fully cover food gaps. Accordingly, households affected by the drought and problems in the coffee sector in altiplano areas and the eastern part of the country are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in the first quarter of the year.

     By the second quarter, without the benefit of a harvest for the Postrera growing season to help partially restore their reserves and incomes, households in altiplano areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Their employment options are too limited to offset shortfalls in their incomes as a result of the rust outbreak and their premature dependence on market purchase for their food supplies. Repeated shocks over the last three years have also limited their options with respect to coping strategies, thereby weakening their resilience. An average harvest of Postrera crops enabled very poor households affected by the rainfall deficit in the East to replenish their bean reserves and generate income from the sale of these crops. However, the losses suffered by these households will force them to resort to coping strategies to make up for their lack of maize reserves and possible previously incurred debts. Examples of such strategies include reducing their non-food spending, and selling small animals. These households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from April through at least June, with pockets of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Materialization of the expected assistance from USAID and ECHO would change FEWS NET’s latest Food Security Outlook by improving conditions in targeted areas.


    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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