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Adequate supplies of staple grains stabilize food security conditions

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • March 2013
Adequate supplies of staple grains stabilize food security conditions

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The start of the rainy season marks the beginning of the sowing period for staple grain crops. The accumulated soil water deficit since last December in all parts of the country, with the exception of the North, could reduce yields or require the replanting of crops, with further effects on the harvest.

    • Output from the recent harvest and increased trade flows to markets across the country have improved staple grain prices and reserves. This is bolstering food availability and food access for most households, with the exception of populations affected by last year’s extended dry spell.

    • Most parts of the country will experience Minimal acute food insecurity (Phase 1 IPC 2.0) through the month of June. Households affected by the lengthy 2012 dry spell in temperate altiplano areas will be Stressed (Phase 2 IPC 2.0) as of April.

    Current Situation
    • According to recent reports by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock Raising (MAGA), wholesale and consumer prices for staple grains dropped between January and February with the releasing of warehouse inventories and trade flows from the grain harvest in the northern part of the country.
    • As for staple grain reserves, according to updated FAO field reports as of March 3rd, the levels of maize reserves in all parts of the country were unchanged or slightly improved given the addition of grain crops from the recent harvest, which in many cases would normally still be in the fields. These crops should help keep food insecurity at Minimum (Phase 1 IPC 2.0) for the next two months.
    • Households in temperate altiplano areas suffering crop losses from last year’s extended dry spell have less purchasing power. Not only did they not produce enough grain to sell, but they have been forced to resort to buying grain sooner than expected. Thus, even with the low prices of staple grains, these households will have difficulty maintaining their food access.
    • The sharp rise in fuel prices since the end of February (by four percent for diesel fuel and six percent for regular gasoline) has increased transportation costs. This could drive up the prices of foods that are more sensitive to these types of fluctuations, such as fruits, vegetables, and certain fish products, thereby limiting the access of poor households to these items.
    • NOAA satellite images show a cumulative rainfall deficit of as much as 50 percent compared with the historical average since December in all parts of the country, except in the North where rainfall was closer to normal. Such a widespread rainfall deficit in the midst of the dry season means low soil water reserves (which, with high daytime temperatures and strong nightly winds, have contributed to the spread of forest fires) and poor soil water availability, potentially hampering the germination and growth of maize crops.
    • The preliminary forecast for the start of the rainy season by the Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology Center (INSIVUMEH) remains on targetEstimated dates for the start-of-season and commencement of the sowing period for staple grain crops are still expected to fall within the normal range. A number of farmers in western areas (Quiché and Totonicapán) have reportedly already started planting maize.
    • The coffee rust outbreak has prompted the Guatemalan government to launch the “Cash transfer strategy for migrant populations anchored in temporary community-based job creation (GETCo).” The program is specifically targeted at unskilled migrant workers, infra-subsistence and subsistence farmers (farmers with less than one “manzana” (0.7 hectares or 1.7 acres) of cropland), families with children under five or suffering from acute malnutrition, and individuals with no means of support. The target population will receive a total of 2,400 quetzals in government assistance in four installments for work on infrastructure and other public works projects. This assistance will go to an estimated 58,000 families in Baja Verapaz, Alta Verapaz, Huehuetenango, Chiquimula, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Quiché, San Marcos, and Zacapa departments.
    • In addition, MAGA has reported the mobilization of 40 million quetzals for the purchase of fungicide and the provision of technical assistance as part of its response to the national emergency to fight the spread of coffee rust. Ministry officials are confident that these inputs will be delivered in time for the first scheduled application of fungicide in May. A delay in its delivery would make its application useless in slowing the spread of the fungus. In such case, small farmers would either be forced to use their own limited funds to buy the chemical fungicide or would have no way of controlling the spread of the rust fungus for this year’s crop, adding to their end of year and early 2014 losses. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely food security scenario for the period from January through June 2013 have changed as follows:

    • The low soil water reserves in the weeks leading up to the start of the rainy season could cause problems for maize crops. With the parched condition of the land, even the timely start of the rains may not suffice to fully satisfy crop water requirements in the initial stages of plant growth. This could hamper crop growth and development, affecting yields or, in the worst-case, requiring a second round of planting. 

    Projected Outlook through June 2013

    With the replenishment of staple grain reserves in most parts of the country and the downward trend in prices early in March, good food availability is expected as well as adequate access to main staple foods for poor households. Income for unskilled labor will maintain this for as long as possible, although the annual peak demand is almost over, . Therefore, Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected through the end of June for the country as a whole. However, as of April, households in temperate altiplano areas affected by last year’s extended dry spell (in Huehuetenango, Quiché, Sololá, and Totonicapán) will continue to be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the growing complications with their food access since last year. The impact of a reduction in yields or of a second round of planting could extend until the next harvest season, beyond the current outlook period.

    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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