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Poor households in the dry corridor affected by an early start to the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • January 2015
Poor households in the dry corridor affected by an early start to the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • National overview
  • Áreas de interés
  • Eventos que pueden cambiar la perspectiva
  • Key Messages
    • The annual lean season will begin earlier than usual, ending with the harvest of Primera crops. However, most very poor households will be able to meet their food needs through February/March with reserves from year-end harvests and income generated from performing unskilled labor.

    • Income from day labor will help improve the finances of very poor households affected by the drought and the coffee rust crisis in the Western Highlands, where food security outcomes are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as of January. However, without external assistance, by March these households will be unable to meet their basic food needs without resorting to atypical coping strategies, at which point they will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    • With average yields of Postrera crops partially replenishing household reserves and helping to generate income, as well as the improvement in wage rates for day labor in the coffee sector, very poor households in the east will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes throughout the outlook period.

    National overview

    Current situation

    Harvests of Postrera crops ended in November and December, with average yields. These harvests have helped replenish the bean reserves of subsistence farming households, including households affected by losses of Primera crops as a result of the unusually long canícula (the break in the rains during the rainy season). In addition, the larger supplies on domestic markets have stabilized prices in the last two months. The larger than average maize harvests in November and December in the Northern Transversal Strip and southern Petén area have boosted grain supplies on domestic markets from these surplus crop-producing areas. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has been reporting problems with hoarding by traders looking to speculate with commodity prices in the early part of 2015. This has artificially tightened supplies and prevented a sharp seasonal decline in prices, which could affect price behavior in the first few months of this year.

    The peak-demand period for unskilled labor is at its height, with near-normal trends in harvesting activities for major crops. Coffee is a different case since, despite the projected eight percent improvement in the 2014/15 harvest over last season, yields are still below production levels prior to the outbreak of coffee rust. Thus, in general, demand for labor is still depressed, though there is some improvement over the last two years. There has also been an improvement in wage rates for day labor since the 2013/14 season, driven by the recovery in coffee prices. While day laborers have been affected by the rust outbreak, the hardest hit group at present is that of small coffee growers, whose lack of funds prevented them from investing in necessary measures for combating the rust fungus attacking their crops, which has impacted their incomes, given that their livelihoods are highly dependent on the coffee sector.


    • Basic grain production: According to the report published by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) in mid-January, there is a 64 percent probability of the development of El Niño conditions in the first quarter of the year. If this forecast proves true, its effects could include an erratic start to the rainy season in the country’s driest areas. The first rains would fall in Pacific areas of the country, gradually extending throughout the rest of the country. In addition, the weather forecast by the Central American Climate Outlook Forum is predicting normal to above-normal levels of cumulative rainfall between January and March in the north, the Northern Transversal Strip, and Caribbean and bocacosta areas with approaching cold fronts. This positive outlook for farming activities in the first quarter of the year points to an average basic grain harvest in northern areas of the country (the Northern Transversal Strip and southern Petén areas). Cumulative rainfall totals in the rest of the country should be within normal ranges, with a second scenario predicting below-normal levels of rainfall.
    • Basic grain supplies and prices: An adequate supply of basic grains is expected on domestic markets, from above-average yields of Postrera crops and expected near-average harvests of basic grain crops in Petén and the Northern Transversal Strip in February/March. Movements in bean prices should be in line with normal seasonal trends throughout the outlook period (rising in March, inching downwards in May, and moving gradually back up until July). The hoarding of maize crops by traders will slightly distort seasonal price trends in the early part of 2015, with prices reaching their annual peak from June.
    • Labor demand: Near-normal demand for unskilled labor is projected, except in the coffee sector, where it will be slightly below-normal due to the coffee rust oubreak that has affected coffee plantations since 2012.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    There has been an improvement in the food security situation in most parts of the country with the harvest of basic grain crops from the Postrera growing season. This harvest improved food availability in farming households and on domestic markets, stabilizing prices and facilitating the food access of all consumer households. Average to slightly above-average maize and bean prices are expected during the first quarter of 2015 which, in general, should ensure adequate food access. However, there will be seasonal rises in maize and bean prices in the second quarter of the year. Households dependent on day labor will have near-average incomes, with the annual high-demand period for unskilled labor extending into March, strengthening household purchasing power. Households dependent on the coffee sector are an exception, whose incomes will be reduced as a result of the rust infestation, moving up the start of the lean season to February for very poor households. Nevertheless, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in most areas of the country between January and June 2015, except in areas of tSeashe temperate Western Highlands, where areas will reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and in the country’s eastern region, where areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Expected anomalies in the start of the rainy season could throw off planting times for the Primera growing season in April/May and reduce resulting crop yields. However, the severity of the resulting damage will depend on the extent of these anomalies and on the mitigating measures taken by farmers. Its effects will be noticeable well into the second half of the year.

    Áreas de interés

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


    Eventos que pueden cambiar la perspectiva

    Posibles eventos en los siguientes seis meses que pueden cambiar el escenario más probable



    Impacto en los resultados de seguridad alimentaria


    Cosecha de Postrera arriba del promedio en Petén y la Franja Transversal del Norte

    Reducción de los precios de maíz y frijol a raíz de un mayor suministro de granos al mercado nacional, y a los de la región oriental en particular.

    Oriente y occidente

    Inicio regular de la temporada lluviosa

    Salida de la cosecha en tiempo y mejores rendimientos pues no se tendrían los daños ocasionados al cultivo al  inicio de su desarrollo.


    Incremento atípico en los precios de los granos básicos debido al acaparamiento y la especulación

    Reducción aún mayor en el acceso a los alimentos en estos hogares, al reducir su ya limitada capacidad adquisitiva.


    Oriente y Occidente

    Entrega de asistencia alimentaria bien focalizada y en tiempo

    Mejora de la disponibilidad de alimentos en los hogares receptores, modificando positivamente la clasificación de los resultados de la seguridad alimentaria.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1


    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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