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Lean season for 2019 begins early

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Guatemala
  • September 2018
Lean season for 2019 begins early

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • For households affected by the heat wave, income generated during the season of high demand for casual labor, even in the heavily affected coffee sector, will enable them to meet their minimum caloric requirements. Some households will have to resort to atypical coping strategies.

    • The eastern and western dry corridor is classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and the rest of the country as Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Some households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until January, but not a large enough proportion to change the phase classification for the area. The number affected will nevertheless increase from February as the lean season advances.


    The Primera season suffered the consequences of the seasonal dry period that began early and lasted for more than 25 days, especially in the dry corridor and areas on the south coast, near the Pacific coast. The rainfall deficit from late June to August occurred during a critical time for crop development. In the east of the country, total losses in rainfed bean production and losses greater than 75 percent in maize crops are reported. Due to a longer development cycle in the west of the country, maize production in this area is reduced by approximately 50 percent, with total losses in bean crops. The stocks of basic grain in subsistence households located in the affected areas will be reduced to a minimum, resulting in dependence on the market for food access. 

    According to preliminary data from the Ministry of Agriculture, as of August 15, 291,705 families and nearly 180,000 hectares were affected, mainly compromising corn and bean crops. More than 70 percent of the damage is concentrated in six departments (Chiquimula, Jutiapa, Zacapa, Huehuetenango, El Progreso and Jalapa). The areas of greatest production, Franja Transversal del Norte, the south of Petén and the southern coast, obtained average yields which ensures market supply. Although the rains began again on August 15, soil moisture deficits persist in areas affected by the dry spell. The second production cycle, which is mainly dedicated to bean cultivation, began at the end of August in the east of the country. However, the losses of Primera crops had a negative impact on the availability of economic resources for planting, meaning that some households did not plant in the second production cycle.

    Maize prices have returned to normal after an atypical 15 percent increase in early August caused by market speculation after subsistence farming losses in the dry corridor were confirmed. After a ten percent reduction in August, black bean prices remain stable due to the large quantities of grain in storage centers.

    The current demand for labor is seasonally low for traditional export crops, but the demand for other sources of more local employment, such as vegetable and fruit production, is more constant. Activities related to the production of basic grains, livestock or informal trading continue, except in the production areas of the dry corridor as agricultural losses reduced employment opportunities this year. There are some reports of migration to unusual locations as a coping strategy, including towards urban areas.

    The government is planning to implement a response plan for households affected by agricultural losses due to the extension of the dry spell. However, due to administrative difficulties, implementation of the plan is not imminent. Humanitarian actors report interventions across 28 affected regions, such as transfers of economic or in-kind resources, assessments and regular resilience projects, among others.


    The assumptions used by FEWS NET to develop the most likely food security scenario for June 2018 to January 2019 have been changed as follows:

    • Second rainy season 2018:  Normal to below-normal cumulative rainfall is forecast, except in the North and South-west, in the regions Franja Transversal del Norte and Boca Costa and on the Caribbean coast, where the forecast is for normal to above-normal cumulative rainfall. The rainy season will end early, between October 15 and 25. According to forecasts, hurricane activity will remain below average in the Atlantic/Caribbean area and above normal in the Pacific area.
    • Production in the 2018 Postrera season: An early end to the rainy season, low soil moisture due to the deficit from July to August and lower cumulative rainfall for the second part of the rainy season (August-October), as well as the reduction of planted areas, will affect Postrera crop yields.
    • Supply and price of maize and black beans: Despite losses in subsistence production, maize supplies will be normal due to the continuous flow from Mexico and crops from the north and south coast. Prices will remain close to the seasonal average.


    The lean season for the poorest people in the country has ended thanks to the Primera harvests, a seasonal reduction in the prices of basic grains and a greater availability of employment opportunities, starting in October. However, the situation is precarious for households located in areas affected by the dry spell as food availability is minimal due to crop losses. Starting in October, seasonal opportunities to generate income will increase due to the demand for casual labor to harvest products such as coffee, sugar cane, melon, tobacco, vegetables and fruits. However, coffee production is experiencing an ongoing crisis which is currently exacerbated by a significant reduction in sale prices. Therefore, small producers and day laborers who depend on this sector will continue to have reduced incomes. These households will turn to coping strategies such as seeking employment in remote areas or in unusual sectors based in urban areas, including store assistants, domestic employment or in the security sector. They will use this income for the immediate purchase of food, instead of using it to purchase agricultural inputs for Primera planting in 2019. The income will also go towards purchasing food during the lean season, as it would in a normal production year. For households in the eastern part of the country, the below-average yield of beans in the Postrera harvest in November/December will be used entirely for consumption and will not contribute to increasing income either.      

    The areas located in the east and west of the dry corridor will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with certain groups in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), due to deteriorating food insecurity caused by crop losses and reduced incomes. Many of these households have not finished recovering from shocks in consecutive years as agricultural and economic concerns diminished their response capacity and resilience.




    The climate conditions forecast for December to March of near-average cumulative rainfall would allow production of average to slightly above-average yields of basic grains in the southern Petén and the Franja Transversal del Norte regions. Prices would consequently correspond to the seasonal average. 

    El Niño conditions are expected to continue at the start of the 2019 rainy season, leading to irregular rainfall patterns which will affect Primera sowing dates and normal crop development. This would lead to below-average yields. In poor households located in the dry corridor, the diversion of economic resources towards food purchases due to a lack of reserves, will result in fewer options for financing this agricultural cycle.


    For households in the dry corridor, the 2019 lean season is expected to start as early as February given the losses in subsistence production and reduced employment opportunities during the season of high demand. From February 2019 onwards, employment opportunities will fall seasonally, making it difficult to obtain income to purchase basic grains, which is necessary due to the lack of household reserves. Seasonal prices will continue until they peak in July, which will gradually hinder access to food. 

    The combination of the factors mentioned above will result in below-average Primera planting in 2019 for the same areas affected by the 2018 heatwave. It is anticipated that they will not fully recover from the crisis faced this year, even though no impact on supply and prices in the domestic market is expected. As a result, these households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from February to August, while the rest of the country will be in Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).

    Figures The sowing of Primera occurs in April and May, of Postrera in September and of Apante in December. Primera harvests occur in

    Figure 1

    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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