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The annual food shortage season has begun in the altiplano and eastern regions

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • March 2012
The annual food shortage season has begun in the altiplano and eastern regions

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  • Key Messages
  • Food security outlook update through June 2012
  • Key Messages
    • The recent harvest of corn and beans from the second production cycle in areas of the country with excess production, combined with the flow of these grains from Mexico, has improved availability of these products in the national market. This increased availability has in turn had a regulatory effect on prices, which will show a downward trend from now through April/May. 

    • Basic grain reserves in poor and extremely poor households in the eastern and western regions have been almost completely exhausted, with the result that these households will soon begin to purchase these commodities, for future use, earlier in the year than is typically the case.

    • As a result of the transition from the La Niña phenomenon to more neutral conditions, precipitation is expected to be somewhat irregular in the early part of the rainy season, creating risks for replanting or leading even to partial crop losses. 

    Food security outlook update through June 2012

    With harvesting now completed in Petén, the Northern Transverse Strip, and one small additional area along the southern coast where irrigation-based farming is practiced, white maize is now available in the national market. In addition, according to the FAO report on the monitoring exercise conducted as of March 4, the informal introduction into Guatemala of maize from Mexico is also in evidence, thereby further regulating the current national market dynamic. The successful conclusion of these second production cycle crops also improves the availability of grain reserves in households located in the above-mentioned regions. As regards households in the western and eastern regions of the country, given that the most recent harvest took place in late 2011, reserves have now diminished considerably and will be insufficient to satisfy food needs until the next harvest season. For this reason, households will be forced to resort to making food purchases earlier than usual, and as a result they will be more affected than usual to the gradual increase in prices for maize and beans, which occurs between May and August/September.

    In the case of black beans, the production recorded in the northern region, the excess production enjoyed by a number of producers in the eastern region, and the commercial flow of this product from Mexico – all have served to increase the supply of this commodity to the national market. It is hoped that this increased supply will force prices down. Bean reserves in households located in areas where there was no recent harvest of this product are virtually exhausted, which will force these households to resort to purchases to satisfy their dietary requirements.

    Prices for both maize and beans have remained stable during January and February, with only a slight increase in the case of white maize, but this price will certainly drop when the total volume of this product from the second production cycle reaches the market. With the average wage received for one day’s work, it is possible to purchase approximately 38.5 pounds of white maize, a figure that is consistent with forecasts made in the previous outlook report.

    The price of beef has shown an upward trend in recent weeks, a phenomenon that has in turn spurred those sectors involved in the sale of this commodity to go on strike, with the objective of pressuring the central government to take all necessary steps to halt this increase. Although beef is not found in the typical diet of the country’s poorest households, it does form a part of the basic food basket. Both the scarcity of beef and/or the increase in its price have dietary consequences for a portion of the Guatemalan population.

    As a result of geo-political factors at the global level, international prices for crude oil and petroleum byproducts have increased by almost five percent over price levels prevailing a month ago. The price of crude is now at its highest level since August 2008 (with the exception of April 2011). The outlook for these prices is far from encouraging, as no short-term solution for the core problem appears to be forthcoming. In fact, some analysts have even predicted that this upward trend will continue. Accordingly, increases of a similar magnitude could conceivably be seen in the national market in the coming weeks, with the natural result that this increase will be passed on to merchants and, ultimately, to the consumer, despite the fact that, in the case of maize and beans, the seasonal cycle begins a downward trend once the harvested crops from the second production cycle reach the market. However, a significant increase in transportation prices could also affect the price of these commodities to the consumer. Moreover, the price of other food products could likewise increase, thereby affecting the ability of households to obtain these two basic grain commodities. In addition, the price of these commodities in the various departments of the interior of the country differs from the price prevailing in the capital city, with prices in the northern region of the country considerably higher. However, the price of propane gas shows a decrease of about 16 percent vis-à-vis the price prevailing a month ago, as a result of which households using propane gas for cooking may be able to partially offset the increased prices of food products.

    On another note, the conditions brought on by the La Niña phenomenon are beginning to return to normal, with full neutrality expected to occur between March and May. This transition period coincides exactly with the onset of the Guatemala’s rainy season, and La Niña is expected to continue to influence that transition. Although it is still too soon to determine with certainty, there is concern that the transition from La Niña to neutral conditions could possibly lead to irregularities in precipitation in the early part of the rainy season. Accordingly, farmers should pay close heed to the analyses and warnings to be put out by the weather service during the coming weeks.

    The exhaustion of grain reserves and the seasonal increase in prices that will commence in April and continue on into June signal the onset of the annual food shortage season. Access to food products presents a particular challenge for the poorest households in the western and eastern regions of the country, since sources of employment are scarce during this period, as a result of which households are able to generate very little income during a period of the year during which they must resort to purchasing food. Accordingly, it is expected that these families will resort to a reduction in both the quantity and quality of their food intake and adopt typical livelihood strategies, including the sale of poultry and the search for employment in areas farther removed from their communities. No significant percentage of households is projected to resort to atypical or response strategies.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    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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