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Early onset of lean season due to insufficient harvests and income

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • February - September 2023
Early onset of lean season due to insufficient harvests and income

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Area of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • In localized areas of the Dry Corridor, Western Highlands, and Alta Verapaz, poorer households will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes throughout the outlook period. The various shocks of the past several years have not allowed them to recover their livelihoods. In addition, they started this year with atypically high debts and no household stocks of staple grains for their consumption. Thus, they will enter the annual lean season prematurely and will depend on market purchases earlier than usual and at prices well above average. To meet their minimum food needs, households will resort to unsustainable coping strategies that will continue to put their livelihoods at risk

    • Meanwhile, the other poor rural households were able to count on stable employment during the season of high agricultural labor demand, partially offsetting the above-average prices and allowing for a slight reduction in food insecurity for a few months. However, with the high cost of living and minimal stocks of staple grains, households will begin to limit the quality and quantity of food consumed and employ coping strategies that will result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through May. The continual increase in staple grain prices to very high levels until the primera harvest and the seasonal lack of work at the local level will cause an increase in households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September, especially throughout the Dry Corridor. 

    • The forecast of high temperatures coupled with below-average rainfall will negatively affect agricultural activities during the primera cycle. While national staple grain production is expected to be within average ranges, below-average harvests for subsistence farmers will negatively affect the potential reserves of those poorer households that manage to plant even a little and will push them to continue to rely on market purchases.

    • The purchasing power of poor households will remain limited by the rate of increase in the cost of living. Newly generated income is being allocated to the purchase of basic foodstuffs and to the payment of atypical debts, limiting the savings capacity of poor households to compensate for seasonal factors in the lean season. Food prices will remain stable, following seasonal trends but remaining above the five-year average. The general economy will continue to recover, with lower inflation than last year, although both headline and food inflation will remain well above normal. Various economic sectors are expected to maintain their level of activity but with incomes below pre-pandemic levels. During land preparation, planting, and fertilizer use, rural households dedicate a few days a month to cultivating their land and engaging in these activities to earn income. This year, employment opportunities for the cultivation of maize and beans will be reduced due to cutbacks in production costs and the projected decrease in rainfall. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    The postrera staple grain harvest ended between November and December with mixed results. While commercial surplus producers reported average production from the usual use of agricultural inputs and favorable rainfall, subsistence farmers showed below-average volumes. For these farmers, access to agricultural inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) has been limited due to their high prices, forcing them to go without or reduce the quantity of these products and the area planted, thereby restricting production for own consumption. Consequently, reserves of maize from the primera and postrera seasons have only been enough to cover one to two months of consumption, causing most poor households to start buying maize and beans for consumption prematurely.

    In the Western Altiplano, the sole staple grain crop production season ended recently, which is dedicated to own consumption. Similar to the postrera cycle in the rest of the country, there was also a reduction in subsistence crops here due to the lack or low use of fertilizers and other inputs. Conversely, the postrera tardía crops in Petén and in the Northern Transversal Strip are developing favorably and are close to being harvested between February and March. Fresh grains in domestic markets will be supplied by average production volumes, together with national reserves from past harvests and imported products.

    As the peak season for agricultural labor demand for cash crops, such as coffee, comes to an end, so will the employment options and the main source of income for poor rural households. During this time, households often migrate to large farms, either an individual family member or the family as a whole, where they are employed for approximately three months. These farms are generally located outside their area of residence within Guatemala, and even as far as Honduras and Mexico. Given that the demand for labor and its price is within average ranges at these farms, the income for laborers is between 30 and 50 GTQ/quintal1 (equivalent to 3.80 and 6.40 USD/qq), with an average picking volume of 1 to 1.5 quintals/day/person. Farms located in the west faced an additional challenge as high migration to Mexico and the United States has reduced the supply of pickers. This forced farms to increase the value of the daily wage by 10 to 25 GTQ/qq. However, small producers have lowered demand for day laborers in response because they seeking to reduce production costs by increasing family labor instead of hiring external day laborers. The reduction in labor demand is also attributed to the increase in fertilizer prices and the expected decrease in yields due to poor fertilization. In general, households that do not usually migrate during these months and seek work locally are experiencing a decrease in income.

    Income for other cash crops (sugarcane, bananas, African palm, vegetables, and other fruits) are within normal ranges, except for cardamom, whose daily wage is below average due to the low international sale price for the second consecutive year. The productive zones of Alta Verapaz and northern Quiché are the most affected.

    The national economy is continuing its slow recovery, according to the latest data from the Monthly Index of Economic Activity (IMAE) in December 2022. The index remains at 3.8 percent, similar to the figure observed in the last quarter of the year. However, the January report published by the Bank of Guatemala (BANGUAT) shows 48 percent for the Economic Activity Confidence Index, which measures the public’s changing opinion on the country’s economic situation. This indicates a reduction in confidence compared to December (50 percent) and January 2022 (80 percent). International trade showed a similar trend to 2021: the value of exports grew by 15 percent compared to the close of 2021, mainly thanks to coffee increasing by 20 percent. Other items also contributed to export growth, such as clothing, edible fats and oils, bananas, and sugar, while cardamom saw a 21 percent reduction. Imports also increased by 21 percent during the same period, according to BANGUAT. Tourism activity, which supports the livelihoods of households in several areas of the country, also shows a trend towards recovery as the number of non-resident visitors in 2022 showed a 177 percent growth compared to the previous year. However, it is still 28 percent below 2019 (pre-pandemic). As the restrictions imposed to curb the advancement of COVID-19 are left behind, the sector faces the new challenge of inflation in countries where tourism originates. Similarly, local tourism has increased but has also been affected by rising prices and household economic constraints. This limited economic growth hinders the sources of income available for the poorest households while rising inflation continues to reduce their purchasing power.

    Middle income and affluent households with the financial capacity to go overseas send remittances that contribute to supporting family expenditures and consumption (CABI). In addition, they stimulate the local economy through consumption via small businesses mainly, and to a lesser extent through employment generated by housing construction. At the end of 2022, total remittances received were 18 percent above 2021, and in January of this year, they had already shown an increase of 17 percent compared to January 2022. The three departments with the highest number of remittances received are Guatemala, Huehuetenango, and San Marcos. According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of Guatemalans repatriated from the United States in 2022 increased by 140 percent compared to 2021; nevertheless, remittances continue to grow.

    The beginning of 2023 has shown international prices continuing to influence prices within the country. In January, international nitrogen fertilizer prices remained approximately 40 percent above the five-year average; however, these products recorded slight declines in the last quarter of 2022. Domestically, the price of urea remained 45 percent above that of January 2022 and more than 100 percent above the five-year average, following international trends. Reductions observed in the international market have not yet manifested in local markets due to the availability of high-priced imported product reserves from 2022. The high prices have led to lower demand and, consequently, a reduction in imports. For example, from January to July 2022, the volume of imported nitrogen fertilizer was 16 percent lower than in 2021, but the value of such imports increased 75 percent over the same period (Comtrade). Similar to fertilizer, the international price of oil has shown a downward trend since mid-2022. In December 2022, the domestic price of diesel showed a 9 percent reduction compared to November, although it was still 45 and 72 percent above December 2021 and the five-year average, respectively. At the beginning of the year, the price of crude oil (Brent) was stable compared to January 2022 but remains 26 percent above the five-year average. Changes in the international price show slight reductions. However, these changes have not been passed on to transportation prices, which increased nearly 100 percent during the pandemic and have yet to return to previous price levels. Likewise, the rise in freight prices continues to be passed on to food prices.

    As of January 2023, the annual inflation rate increased slightly to 9.69 percent since December 2022. The rise in headline inflation is influenced by the increase in the food and transportation expenditure sector (Figure 1). Staple grains, vegetables, and tubers lead the price increase for the food sector. Most regions report that regional differences in inflation rates, and in particular those higher than the national indicator, are as a result of significant increases in food prices (Table 1). For the first time in a year, transportation spending showed a decrease in monthly variation.

    Figure 1

    Annual rate of inflation by sector, January 2022 to January 2023
    This figure shows the annual rate of inflation by sector, January 2022 to January 2023

    Source: FEWS NET con datos del Instituto Nacional de Estadística

    In January 2023, wholesale prices for a quintal of maize were stable compared to the previous month but increased 29 and 65 percent compared to January 2022 and the five-year average, respectively. Black beans experienced some seasonally adjusted decreases but remained well above the five-year average (41 percent), as did other staples such as oil and rice.

    To cover the increases in the cost of the basic food basket, households have had to resort to borrowing money more frequently. Total loans increased by 3 percentage points compared to December 2021, according to BANGUAT; loans that were targeted for households that needed them for food consumption grew at a faster pace and increased to almost 10 percent over the same period. Key informants reported this information from rural areas, where informal lending is common within the community and where there is an increasing frequency of borrowing money or food on credit from community stores. Households then repay debt as soon as they have money, but quickly return to borrowing.

    According to preliminary data on the epidemiological situation of acute malnutrition in children under 5 years of age, fewer accumulated cases and a lower rate than 2021 (111.2 in 2022 versus 117.1 in 2021) were seen during the last week of the year, December 25-31, 2022. However, at the beginning of the year, data for the week of January 15-21, 2023 (week 3) shows a 51 percent increase in cumulative cases compared to the same week in 2022. The cumulative rate of total acute malnutrition at the national level is 11.5/10,000 inhabitants, 3.8 points higher than last year. The highest rates correspond to the departments of Escuintla and Retalhuleu, followed by Zacapa, Santa Rosa, Suchitepéquez, Chiquimula, El Progreso, and Alta Verapaz. 

    Table 1
    Annual rate of inflation by region (January 2023)
    RegionChange in inflation (%)
    Region II. Alta Verapaz y Baja Verapaz12.22
    Region VII. Huehuetenango y Quiché10.53
    Region IV. Jalapa, Jutiapa, Santa Rosa10.17
    Region VI. Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu, San Marcos, Sololá, Suchitepéquez, Totonicapán9.96
    Region III. Chiquimula, El Progreso, Izabal, Zacapa9.93
    Region V. Chimaltenango, Escuintla, Sacatepéquez9.42

    Source: National Institute of Statistics

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    The recent postrera maize and bean harvests and the single production cycle in the Altiplano have allowed poor rural households to have their own staple grains for consumption and avoid having to buy them in the market for one to three more months. Production volumes obtained by these households are below average, as they reduced their cropped area and did not use fertilizers in the usual quantities due to the high prices that made them inaccessible to subsistence farmers. Poor households in most rural areas have maize and beans from their own harvest for the current month and have money to cover a basic minimum diet. The peak labor demand season generated average income for households that take advantage of these months to earn the highest income of the year. Income from employment in areas far from their residences where households seasonally migrate has remained generally within average ranges for both the value of the daily wage and the number of days employed. Local opportunities, especially for small producers, have lowered income this year due to high production costs. In addition, due to high food and transportation prices, income earned is rapidly being used for credit repayments and the purchase of staple foods. To ensure feeding all family members, these households have made adjustments to the quality of their diets, replacing foods with lower quality foods, reducing their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and consuming minimal protein-rich foods. In addition to reducing health, education, and other non-essential expenditures, these households are intensifying or engaging in other coping strategies such as using savings, resorting to loans and credit, and migrating to atypical locations to ensure a minimum diet, and are therefore classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Poor households in the Dry Corridor have been carrying deficits caused by poor harvests in previous years; and like households in the Western Altiplano, their livelihoods were severely affected during the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions. In addition, in previous years, they suffered from coffee plantation damages, such as coffee rust, which caused a decline in employment. In Alta Verapaz, poor households suffered crop and soil damage caused by storms Eta and Iota in 2020 and a decrease in the production of staple grains for own consumption. Low cardamom prices have meant a reduction in income-generating opportunities. So far, poor households in these areas have not been able to recover from these various shocks. During the last staple grain growing season, most poor households decided to reduce cropped area due to high input costs, and therefore they did not have typical harvests. In addition, there were households whose crops were affected by rain or wind during the last production cycle, and some households did not plant staple grains due to a lack of money to buy fertilizers, obtain seeds, or rent land. These households have no staple grain reserves and have depended on market purchases for longer than usual. Even with average income earned during the peak agricultural labor season, this has not been enough to ensure a minimum adequate diet because of the prolonged dependence on markets, the high costs of staple foods, and the need to immediately repay accumulated debts. In addition to continuing to reduce portions and frequency of meals, households have had to employ unsustainable coping strategies that jeopardize their livelihoods, such as atypical migration of additional household members or the sale of productive household assets, materials, tools, or work equipment, and therefore are experiencing Crisis outcomes (IPC Phase 3).

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    This graphic shows the seasonal calendar for Guatemala in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    An irregular onset of rainfall and possible delays in primera planting are expected between March and May. As the rainy season progresses, the probability of below-average rainfall will increase, especially in the Dry Corridor. The canícula, which usually occurs in July/August, is likely to be normal; however, reduced rainfall and high temperatures are expected before and/or after it (Figure 2).

    Figure 2

    Percentage of normal rainfall forecast from May to July 2023
    This map shows percentage of normal rainfall forecast from May to July 2023

    Source: NOAA/FEWS NET

    • Although primera's domestic staple grain production is expected to be within an average range, above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall could affect crops and decrease yields for subsistence farmers.
    • Towards the second rainy season, soil moisture will be below average, which could moderately delay the start of postrera planting in August/September and affect the development of crops in the only production cycle of the Western Altiplano.
    • Fertilizer prices will stabilize with values above the five-year average and slightly below those in 2022.
    • Due to poor quality seeds or a lack of seeds from lower yields in 2022, it is likely that small producers of staple grains will have to buy seeds in addition to other agricultural inputs for the 2023 primera cycle. Others may decide not to plant because of the costs of seeds, fertilizers, or other inputs.
    • Small coffee and cardamom producers will invest less in their own production because of high production costs and, in the case of cardamom, because of low sales prices. This will reduce employment opportunities for poorer households who typically prepare and maintain these local crops before the harvest season.
    • For this period, labor demand from surplus producers is sporadic for cleaning of fields, planting, maintenance, and harvesting activities (particularly of staple grains) and will be average both locally and further afield. However, the supply of local labor from small producers will be lower than usual due to high production costs causing a reduction in day labor employment, similar to 2022. In addition, potential weather impacts could lead to reduced hiring for maize crop maintenance throughout the country and/or for the harvesting of primera crops.
    • Households will maintain atypical debts during the year, given the high cost of staple food and transportation. In addition, high transportation costs could make it difficult for the poorest households to look for non-local work, which could cause them to cut back on workdays and reduce their income.
    • Income generated by non-agricultural work and informal employment, including the tourism sector, continue to recover, with a slight improvement expected compared to last year. However, they will not reach pre-pandemic levels and will continue to be below normal, which could be manifested through fewer workdays, part-time work, or lower pay per day worked.
    • While normal market supplies are expected, maize and bean prices are expected to remain 60-70 percent and 30-40 percent above the five-year average, respectively. Gasoline, transportation, other food products, and basic services are expected to remain above their respective prices compared to the 2019-2021 period. Inflation will continue to be higher than previously expected, but slightly below last year.
    • Increased border controls to enter Mexico will limit both the purchase of staple foods at more favorable prices, as well as the access to income from work in Mexico for border households that typically engage in this work.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From February to May, poor households will have minimal reserves that will cover their food needs only until February or March. After that, they will begin depending on market purchases prematurely. During these months, the peak season for agricultural labor demand will come to an end with the last harvests of cash crops such as coffee, sugar, and cardamom, among others. Although it has been an average season for employment options, while the value of wages increased in some areas, incomes did not compensate for the increased cost of living. Incomes are going towards the purchase of staple foods and the payment of atypical debts as a priority, limiting households’ ability to save for the following months. Poor households that migrated to different areas for temporary work will return to their places of residence to cultivate their land (whether owned or rented). 

    During these months, poor households have few days of local employment from their main source of income—activities related to maize and bean preparation and planting. However, high production costs, potential rainfall deficits, and high temperatures will cause a reduction in planted areas by smallholders. There will also be a decrease or elimination of the use of fertilizers, which will lead to greater use of family labor rather than outsourcing labor. These conditions will have an impact on the number of working days, reducing income generated by these activities for households that depend on agricultural labor. In addition, economic growth is expected to be less dynamic due to the influence of international macroeconomic factors: the persistence of high raw material prices, logistical difficulties, and global increases in inflation rates. In addition, inflation is projected to continue to be higher than previously expected, which would generate more pressure on household purchasing power. The lack of reserves in subsistence producer households will accelerate the onset of the lean season in March. Therefore, poor rural households in most of the country will have to make adjustments to food quality and diversity to ensure a basic diet, in addition to resorting to the use of coping strategies such as cutting non-essential expenditures, spending savings, atypical migration to unusual places and at unusual times, and indebtedness, and therefore they will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

    From June to September, the few agricultural activities that generate daily wages will be decreasing, and staple grains prices will reach their seasonal peak in August, at levels well above average. More households will find it difficult to access food because they were unable to save enough money to cover their needs in the face of atypically high prices. To cover their basic food needs, they will have to further reduce portions and frequency of meals, and resort to more severe coping strategies that put their livelihoods at risk, such as migration of other household members who do not usually migrate and the sale of productive assets, materials, and work equipment; they will therefore be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until the end of this outlook period. September is expected to bring the primera staple grain harvests. While national production yields are expected to be close to average, the forecast of high temperatures coupled with low rainfall will affect production and decrease yields for poorer households practicing rainfed agriculture. A below-average harvest for subsistence farmers will also mean a significant decrease or lack of staple grain reserves for the households that were able to plant crops; this will keep them reliant on market purchases in the subsequent months. 

    Localized areas of the Dry Corridor, Western Highlands and Alta Verapaz will be classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the entire period of this outlook. The poorest households in these areas began this period carrying atypical debt, lacking grains from their own harvests, relying on market purchases to buy their food, and already using coping strategies, and therefore started the annual lean season prematurely. These households have not yet recovered from the various shocks they have faced over the past three years, such as high food and transportation costs that have forced them to maintain a limited diet. While incomes were average during the cash crop harvesting season, income from local odd jobs growing staple grains will be reduced. The cost of living, particularly for foodstuffs, will continue to be very high as the price of maize and beans will remain well above average, even after the primera harvests starting in September. For these households, the harvest season will not have the expected benefit of adequate levels of food security as the forecast of climatic irregularities will prevent them from having the normal reserves needed.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 2
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalAverage rainfall accumulations could benefit cropsFavorable planting and development of crops would improve the hiring of laborers for maintenance and improve expectations for the harvest, resulting in fewer households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    NationalGovernment measures to contain the price of staple grains and/or fuelsThe prices of staple grains and/or fuels could stabilize and even decrease, which would improve household purchasing power, keeping households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for a longer period of time.
    NationalImplementation of food assistance programsSufficient food assistance would allow areas classified as Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to downgrade their classification to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).
    NationalAdditional increase in the international prices of fertilizers and/or fuelsHigher food production and/or transportation costs would be passed on to the final price of products, further restricting households' purchasing power, causing a higher proportion of the population to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
    NationalRainfall and below-average temperatures, more than the forecast indicatedA more severe impact on crop production would cause lower volumes, even at the national level, causing greater dependence on the market with higher prices, leading to a prolongation of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and a change in the classification of some areas from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in August/September.


    Area of Concern

    GT06 – Western Highlands Labor, Staple Crops, Vegetables, Trade and Remittances – concentration in Huehuetenango (Figure 3)

    Current Situation

    The sole maize production cycle in this area ended by mid-January. In the higher altitude areas, the crops were still in the field drying (en dobla) or in the process of harvesting (tapizca), but in the rest of the department, the crops had already been harvested between November and December. This year, staple grain yields are below average due to the reduction of planted area or the reduction or non-use of fertilizers due to their high costs. For example, current average prices for 20-20-0 fertilizer — the most used by smallholder farmers — are 400‑450 GTQ/qq compared to 250-300 GTQ/qq in 2022 and 200 GTQ/qq in 2020 and 2021. In addition, crop damage from rain, winds, and pests was reported in some areas. This means that poor households in the area will have maize for only one or two months, and their reserves will run out during February.

    Figure 3

    Reference map of the area of concern: GT06, Western Highlands Labor, Staple Crops, Vegetables, Trade and Remittances
    This map is are ference map for the Western Highlands area of concern

    Source: FEWS NET

    The coffee harvest is the main source of income for poor households in Huehuetenango; it began in October and can extend into March, depending on the altitude. Households typically find two or three months of work on coffee farms, mainly within Huehuetenango or in Mexico, but also in the neighboring departments of San Marcos and Quiché. Men or entire families migrate to coffee plantations during this period to receive 50-75 GTQ per day/person or per quintal picked (equivalent to 6.40-7.60 USD), depending on the location. The salary in Mexico is similar to that of Guatemala; however, it is a more sought-after location given its better working conditions. Other activities in coffee production also require labor but tend to be more permanent jobs that demand less labor, with salaries similar to those of the harvest. For this harvest, small coffee growers indicated they expect lower-than-average production due to reduced fertilizer use. These small local producers are also now relying more on family labor rather than outside workers due to the sale price and high production costs.

    In this area, high levels of permanent migration in recent years, among other factors, have reduced the availability of labor for the coffee picking period. During the 2022/23 season, low labor availability has caused an increase in daily wages of approximately 10-25 GTQ per day or quintal picked, which represents an increase of between 25 and 50 percent compared to the value of the daily wage in 2019 when it was 40-50 GTQ per day or quintal picked. Similarly, payment for farm labor in the area, mainly for maize preparation and planting activities, has increased from 5-10 GTQ/day compared to 2019. While these increases mean higher incomes for day laborers, they also negatively impact production costs, which may likewise result in less labor supply to compensate for them. Additionally, when day laborers return home to work their land, they often look for a few days of work within the same town or in neighboring communities. In 2023, the daily wage is between 35 and 60 GTQ/day, but it is very variable: it can range from one to three times per week, one to three weeks per month, and lasts only for two or three months. In the most remote and poorest communities, the demand for local labor for these activities has been drastically reduced because of low yields and high production costs.

    Despite the increase in the value of daily wages for picking coffee, household expenses have increased, even doubled, especially for food and transportation, and incomes are insufficient. Mexican maize is 210-240 GTQ/qq (40 percent higher compared to 150-170 GTQ/qq in 2021), and local maize, which is usually more expensive, is 250-280 GTQ/qq (also 40 percent higher compared to 180-200 GTQ/qq in 2021). Black beans cost 8-10 GTQ/qq compared to 5 GTQ/qq last year. Most households interviewed said they lack sufficient income to save for use during the lean season. Also, transportation costs have doubled. For the more remote communities that go to the main town once a week for market day, mainly to the municipal capital, prices can reach up to 100 GTQ round trip. The border areas have a different dynamic and, given their proximity, work is done in Mexico, and food and other basic necessities are bought at favorable prices given the exchange rate of the GTQ against the Mexican peso (MXN). These areas sell Mexican products whose Guatemalan equivalents are more expensive, mainly because of the transportation costs that add to the price of the products.

    Table 3
    Price reference, 2019 and 2023
    Average price 2019
    ProductUnitUnit price in GTQQuantity per monthCost per month with firewood in GTQ
    Total   1105


    Table 4
    Average Price 2023
    ProductUnitUnit price in GTQQuantity per monthCost per month with firewood in GTQCost per month with out firewood in GTQ
    Total   18401340

    Source: FEWS NET, linea de base HEA GT06


    Table 5
    Monthly income for a daily agricultural laborer, 2019-2023
    Payment for sale of farm labor20192023 average2023 maximum
    Daily wage in GTQ305075
    Total for 20 working days per month in GTQ60010001500

    Source: FEWS NET, HEA GT06 baseline


    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    Households that started the year with low maize reserves will see these reserves last until the end of February, with the exception of some households that did not harvest staple grains at all.

    • The amount of money dedicated to food purchases or savings to be used during the lean season will be below normal. The low availability of resources to cover food expenses during the lean season could cause households to go back into atypically high debt.

    The value of wages will remain above average, but this will not sufficiently compensate for high food costs

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Poor households in the GT06 Western Altiplano livelihood zone will have some staple grain harvests that will allow them to avoid market purchases for at least the current month. Coupled with a seasonal increase in income, they will be able to improve the quantity of food in their diet, but they will not be able to cover essential non-food expenditures without intensifying the use of coping strategies such as increasing typical migration, reducing health expenditures, or increasing informal poultry sales; therefore most poor households will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for the first month of this outlook. Due to atypical debt repayments and the immediate use of income during the coffee harvest season, plus high food and transport prices restricting purchasing power, households failed to save money in anticipation of the upcoming lean season beginning in March. The cut in production costs and the potential reduction in rainfall will result in fewer agricultural laborers being hired to maintain staple grain crops. The income they may earn during the staple grain planting season is minimal and insufficient to improve their diet as they face the lean season amidst continued high market prices. Covering their basic dietary needs is the aim of these households who will have to start earlier than usual to make adjustments in the quantity and quality of their diet and will have to resort to more drastic coping strategies; more households and areas within this zone will be classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from March until the end of this outlook period.

    However, in some areas of this zone, households that failed to harvest staple grains and suffered various shocks from which they have not been able to recover have been market dependent for a longer period of time and continue to reduce the quality and quantity of food to ensure a minimum supply of food. In addition, they are likely to engage in Crisis coping strategies such as selling productive assets to cover minimum food needs and will therefore experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from February until the end of the analysis period. 

    On the other hand, Huehuetenango, like San Marcos, has an extensive border with Mexico. The proximity to the border generates a particular economic dynamic that offers greater employment opportunities and the possibility of acquiring food at a better price due to both the exchange rate and the proximity, avoiding the high transportation costs of traveling to the nearest municipal capital or main town. These areas will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until May 2023. However, because border households have experienced travel limitations in recent months due to increased controls related to illegal migration, as the lean season begins and dependence on market food purchases increases, they may be restricted from their usual transit to Mexico. They will be unable to then purchase food at more favorable prices or generate sporadic income in Mexico. During the peak of the lean season, these households will see a reduction in their usual income and will also have to buy their food in municipal markets at higher prices, so they will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September.

    Finally, it is expected that areas close to the municipal capital, which generates business and other types of services, will see a more favorable environment due to modest economic stimulation in these productive sectors. Therefore, urban and peri-urban communities will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. GUATEMALA Food Security Outlook February to September May 2023: Early onset of lean season due to insufficient harvests and income, 2023.


    One quintal (qq) is equal to 100 pounds.

    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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