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Near-average production prospects for the Primera growing season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • February - September 2018
Near-average production prospects for the Primera growing season

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  • Key Messages
  • National overview
  • Key Messages
    • According to the weather forecast for the first rainy season, there is a good probability of a normal amount and distribution of rainfall, suggesting average crop yields from the harvest in the Northern region and for the Primera growing season in the rest of the country, including the Dry Corridor. This will help keep maize prices below the five-year average, while movements in bean prices will stay in line with normal seasonal trends.

    • Food security outcomes will be better than they were at the same time last year and in other recent years since at least 2014, bolstered by better staple grain production in 2017, low prices, and a near-average demand for labor.

    • However, households in Dry Corridor areas still recovering from the effects of the crisis in the last four years whose recourse to borrowing and sales of livelihood assets has sharply eroded their coping capacity will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    National overview


    Current situation

    With the average crop performance for the Postrera growing season and the growing season in western altiplano areas in 2017, many farming households still have food reserves, which will begin to exhaust in March. This is the first year households have normal food reserves after four consecutive years of well-below-average harvests in more arid areas of the country’s western, central, and eastern regions (the Dry Corridor) due to adverse weather impacts, making them dependent on market purchases for their food supplies earlier than usual.

    With the more or less average harvests for the 2017 Primera and Postrera growing seasons, there is a good availability of maize and black bean crops on domestic markets from existing stocks. Prices for both maize and beans were stable between December and January. With market supplies of locally grown crops bolstered by large quantities of Mexican maize, prices for this grain crop are 13 percent below the five-year average according to the national average price index published by the Ministry of Agriculture. Black bean prices are currently close to the five-year average after reaching atypically high levels between August 2016 and July 2017.

    The high rates of cumulative rainfall between January 23rd and January 30, 2018, with the northern part of the country getting up to 145 mm of rain in a single day, caused some losses of maize and, to a lesser extent, bean crops. The staple grain harvest in this region (southern Petén, the Northern Transversal Strip, and Izabal) is just getting underway, with crops already being shipped to domestic markets. The harvesting period will reach its height in March, with crop yields expected to be in line with the average.

    Temperatures dropped in January, as they normally do at that time of year. Although there were no extreme minimum temperatures, they did stay low for several consecutive days causing localized damage to vegetable crops, mainly in western altiplano areas.

    Advancing cold fronts brought more rain in February, mainly to the northern part of the country, though there was less cumulative rainfall than in January. Temperatures were slightly higher than in the previous month but were expected to be impacted by two to four cold fronts before the end of the month. These conditions should help facilitate farming activities closing out the current 2017/2018 crop year.

    There is a group of landless households in the country unable to grow staple grain crops and, thus, completely dependent on market purchases for their food supplies. Their main source of income is casual labor. The crop losses in the past few years have reduced the incomes of this group of households by limiting local employment opportunities. However, there appears to be an average demand for workers in the current high-demand period for casual labor, except in the rubber sector, where low sales prices have reduced hiring rates. The availability of work will help improve income levels compared with previous years which, combined with the low prices of staple grains, will mean better food access for these households. However, these households still have outstanding debts from previous years and less possibility of investing in their livelihoods, particularly in farming activities. Their earnings will not suffice to enable them to recover from the erosion in their livelihoods and coping capacity, given their need to settle outstanding debts and recoup assets sold off as a way to generate income. As a result, they will remain highly vulnerable to shocks liable to affect their sources of food and/or income throughout the outlook period.

    International remittances are an important source of revenue for recipient households and related commercial and service sectors. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 6.2 million people in Guatemala received remittances in 2016, representing nearly 40 percent of the population and 1.7 million more than in 2010. The Bank of Guatemala reported USD 634,582,000 in foreign exchange income for January 2018, eight percent above the figure for January 2017. There has been a growing influx of remittances into Guatemala since the change in U.S. migration policy. Thirty-five percent of this income is used for consumption, with a fourth of this figure used to meet food needs.

    Current food security conditions in most parts of the country are classified in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, with many households benefiting from good food availability from their food reserves after the average harvests in 2017 and with the average and, in some cases, below-average prices of staple grains. However, conditions within the Dry Corridor will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with households in these areas still unable to easily meet 100 percent of their basic nonfood needs.


    • Staple grain production in the North: Staple grain production in surplus-producing areas of Petén, the Northern Transversal Strip, Polochic, and Izabal should be in line with the average in spite of some crop damage from excessive rainfall.
    • Onset of the rainy season and start of the 2018 Primera growing season: With the expected extension of current La Niña conditions through at least the end of the three-month period from February through April, at which point there should be a transition to ENSO-neutral conditions, the most likely scenario is that the rainy season will get off to a normal start, beginning in the Pacific region and then in the rest of the country. Thus, this should allow for the planting of crops between March and May.
    • Staple grain production for 2018 from the Primera growing season and in altiplano areas: Weather forecasts are predicting above-average levels of cumulative rainfall in the central part of the country through the month of May, including areas within the Dry Corridor. There should be a seasonal decline in rainfall activity in June and July, the expected timing for the canícula (the mid-summer dry spell). There should not be any anomalies in this year’s canícula, which is expected to be of average duration and intensity. Rainfall levels in August and atmospheric temperatures are also both expected to be in line with the average. Accordingly, there should be a normal volume of production for the 2018 Primera growing season and average levels of crop production in higher-elevation (altiplano) areas with a single annual harvest.
    • Staple grain supplies and prices: The expected near-average harvests in surplus-producing areas of the country between February and April and normal market supplies of imported maize from Mexico will keep maize prices below-average. Prices for maize crops will move in line with normal seasonal trends, climbing between June and August until the harvest of Primera crops and coming down as market supplies steadily increase. Bean prices are expected to drop slightly in March with the bean harvest, before beginning to steadily rise through the month of August, coming down again in September in similar fashion to maize prices. Bean prices will stay slightly above-average. In both cases, there should not be any changes in trade policies liable to have any effect on the market.
    • Sources of income: The conclusion of harvests of agro-industrial crops between March and April is beginning to trigger a seasonal decline in demand for unskilled labor, though there should continue to be an average demand for labor in brick-laying and market gardening activities. There will be a seasonally low availability of work for practically the entire outlook period, through the month of September, limited to jobs in staple grain farming activities in near-by areas (clean-up work, land preparation, fertilization, harvests), maintaining land used for raising cattle, and the cutting and transporting of firewood. Since these types of jobs are generally rare, temporary, and sporadic, households dependent on casual labor will have lower levels of total monthly income. In general, wage rates for casual labor will stay at their usual level of close to GTQ 30-35 per person per day (approximately USD 4.00 – 4.70).
    • Emergency assistance: There are currently no reported plans for the delivery of emergency humanitarian assistance during the outlook period.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    There will be a seasonal decline in the availability of staple grain reserves and income-earning opportunities for the country’s poorest households as the outlook period continues. These households will be dependent on market purchases for their food supplies at a time of year generally marked by seasonal rises in prices and dwindling sources of income. This will continue to be the case until the harvest for the 2018 Primera growing season in August/September, with staple grain prices peaking between July and August. Maize prices should stay below seasonal averages, while bean prices are expected to stay slightly above the five-year average.

    With the projected scenario involving no unusual events and with maize prices remaining below-average, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in most geographic areas of the country for the entire outlook period from February through September 2018.

    However, households in large parts of the Dry Corridor dependent on home-grown staple grain crops and income from wage labor, primarily in different types of farming activities, will be an exception. While there will be average levels of staple grain production for 2018 and prices are expected to stay close to or below-average, households in arid areas of the east and temperate western altiplano areas still need to recover from the string of crises they’ve experienced over the last four or five years, which depleted their capital and forced them to go into debt. As a result, the large majority of these households will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the annual lean season, until August/September 2018 and the beginning of the harvest for the Primera growing season.


    For information on specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of this page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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