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Prolonged canícula affects households in the eastern and central regions of the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • September 2012
Prolonged canícula affects households in the eastern and central regions of the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through December 2012
  • Key Messages
    • The Government of Guatemala (GoG) is implementing a response plan to provide food assistance to households at greatest risk of food and nutritional insecurity, particularly those affected by this year’s prolonged canícula in the eastern and central regions of the country, as well as several other localized areas. The GoG is calling for the distribution of 1,950 MT of food assistance during the month of September, which should help to offset the food deficit until the beginning of the high season for unskilled labor. In light of the above factors, the poorest households in the affected areas are expected to maintain their food insecurity classification at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the end of the year.

    • For September, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare projects a slight increase in the cases of acute malnutrition throughout the entire country. Beginning in early October, projections call for a reduction in the number of acute malnutrition cases for the remaining part of the year, in line with seasonal trends.

    • Rainfall monitoring will be important in October, particularly during the critical period of crop growth in the postrera agricultural season. Harvests from this season have the potential to improve food availability for households as well as the national market. The projected scenario for the last quarter of the year assumes normal rainfall. As a result, the dry corridor has been classified in IPC Phase 1 (None/Minimal acute food insecurity).

    Updated food security outlook through December 2012

    The prolonged canícula during July and part of August resulted in crop losses during the primera season, primarily in the eastern and central regions of the country (Figure 3). The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food, working jointly with SESAN, MAGA, FONAPAZ, the Wood Food Program, and local institutions and agencies, is implementing an action plan to mitigate losses. One of the plan's main actions was the identification of families most vulnerable to the effects of the lack of rainfall, based on criteria such as crop loss, area of land under cultivation, and children under age 5 years of age suffering from acute malnutrition. The targeted area includes communities in the departments of Chiquimula, Zacapa, El Progreso, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Baja Verapaz, Quiché, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, Totonicapán, Retalhuleu, Suchitepéquez, Santa Rosa and Guatemala. This food assistance is aimed at sustaining the household diet until these households are able to generate cash income from agricultural employment beginning in October.

    As an additional response to the crop damage, the Ministry of Agriculture hopes to bolster the local basic grains market by distributing seeds during September for postrera crops. This seed will be sufficient for 1,777 manzanas (mz) of maize, 212 mz of beans and 1,333 mz of sorghum, and will be delivered to 3,380 households in the dry corridor who farm with some degree of mechanization (i.e., irrigation) or are located on humid land, since such farms have the greatest production potential in the event of rainfall deficits. A favorable harvest would boost the supply of grain and help stabilize price levels in local markets.

    In addition, the government has announced the distribution of food aid in affected areas financed by the GoG and WFP. Plans call for the distribution of 1,950 MT of food, which will ensure a family ration sufficient for a period of four months. No plans currently exist to distribute food in 2013.

    According to reports made available by the Ministry of Health, as of August 25 the eastern region (Chiquimula, Zacapa, El Progreso, Jalapa), together with the departments of Escuintla and Baja Verapaz, had recorded the country’s highest rates of acute malnutrition (moderate to severe). In some of these areas, the number of children under age five suffering from acute malnutrition reached as high as 70 cases per 10,000 children, a prevalence considered unusual for these departments during the annual lean season. These figures are consistent with the high rates of diarrheal disease and pneumonia recorded in the same departments. As a rule, a slight increase in the rate of acute malnutrition is expected during the month of September, followed by a gradual decrease in the number of cases toward the end of the year, as has occurred since 2010.

    With the reemergence of the demand for labor beginning in the month of October, concurrently with the beginning of the harvest season for sugar cane, coffee and other crops requiring large volumes of unskilled labor, households are expected to be able to earn the income necessary to maintain their diets through November, at which time crops from the postrera season will be harvested. Consumer prices for basic grains, however, are expected to increase on a non-seasonal basis toward the end of the year, which will in turn lead to a decrease in household purchasing power, making it difficult for families to satisfy their minimum dietary requirements.

    The Ministry of Agriculture currently projects an increase of 15 percent in the wholesale price of black beans in the capital city over the price in July (and an increase of 22 percent compared to August 2011). By contrast, the consumer price remains unchanged from July to August, although it reflects a 6 percent reduction over the price in August 2011. The wholesale price for white maize has increased by 13 percent compared to July, while decreasing 21 percent compared to August 2011. The consumer price has also increased, by 8.5 percent compared to July, with a 24 percent decrease recorded over the corresponding figure for August 2011. Although the wholesale price of white maize continues to follow seasonal trends, the current price for August is above average. This could be an early indication of the increase expected as a result of the increase in the international price of yellow maize and its influence on the national market. The animal feed industry in Guatemala is dependent on yellow maize imported from the United States and can substitute for it with white maize, and in so doing increase the demand for white maize in the national market. Careful monitoring of the behavior of the price of white maize over the coming months will make it possible to identify the transfer of the international price hike to the Guatemalan market, as a result of which household access to this product could be compromised.

    As indicated in the weather outlook for August-October 2012 published by the Climate Forum of Central America, accumulated rainfall for August has ranged between normal and above normal, largely as a result of the rainfall received during the last half of the month. This is an indication that the soil will have retained sufficient humidity for crop planting in the postrera season, with these crops expected to mitigate to some extent the losses suffered by primera crops, especially in the case of beans in poor and extremely poor households in the eastern and central region of the country, which received the impact of the primera season crop losses. Crop growth and rainfall behavior will need to be carefully monitored during the month of October, since during this period that flowering and fruit emergence are expected to take place.

    Elsewhere, in the southern and western regions of the country (with exceptions foreseen for certain areas of Quiché, Sololá, Chimaltenango and Huehuetenango) a normal harvest is projected for November, which will increase demand for labor and strengthen the local market for cereal grains, thereby helping families to replenish their food reserves for 2013. In a similar vein, the harvest of postrera crops in the northern region is not expected to be negatively affected, and will improve the availability of grains in the national market, since this region produces an excess amount of white maize and beans.

    Given the external aid expected to be made available, the seasonal increase in income-generating opportunities, and household response strategies, it is expected that the poorest households in the affected areas will be able to meet their minimum food requirements during the October-December period. Accordingly, classification of these households moves from IPC Phase 2 (Stressed) to IPC Phase 1 (none/minimal acute food insecurity), although it is expected that, by early 2013, the food security situation could deteriorate with an early onset to the annual lean season.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Damage caused by drought, updated through August 2012

    Figure 2

    Damage caused by drought, updated through August 2012

    Source: MGCA

    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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