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The Primera harvest will ease the lack of reserves and reduction in income

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • July - December 2013
The Primera harvest will ease the lack of reserves and reduction in income

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Food security conditions across the country are stable, at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, households in the western part of the country affected by last year’s extended dry spell are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes. 

    • In localized areas, the coffee rust outbreak will sharply reduce the demand for unskilled labor for the coffee harvest between October and March. The group most affected by crop losses will be small-scale coffee growers with no staple grain crops.

    • According to the Crop Monitoring System, soil moisture conditions are conducive to normal growth and development of Primera crops, particularly maize and beans. Harvests throughout the country are expected to be average. .


    National Overview
    Current situation

    According to the Crop Monitoring System, Primera crops were planted on schedule, between May and June, and, so far, maize and bean crops across the country are making normal progress. These crops will be harvested in August/September and in November/December in highland areas.

    Guatemala is currently in the middle of its annual lean season, marked by seasonal rises in staple food prices and low demand for unskilled labor. According to an FAO report as of June 30, most small farmers around the country have already depleted their maize and bean reserves. Only households in the northern part of the country and along the southern coast still have bean reserves (for 2.3 and 1.9 months, respectively). All other households are virtually entirely dependent on market purchases, which is normal for this time of year. This will continue to be the case until the upcoming harvest of Primera crops in August/September. The high-demand period for unskilled labor begins in October/November with the harvesting of coffee, cardamom, tobacco, and sugar cane crops.

    According to data released in July by the National Coffee Growers Association (ANACAFÉ), the coffee rust outbreak destroyed 15 percent of the nation’s 2012/13 coffee crop. An ongoing study by the World Food Program (WFP) will provide more details on the impact of this loss. There is no estimate yet on the extent of the expected damage to the 2013/2014 coffee crop (scheduled to be harvested between October and March). However, the resulting losses will reduce the incomes of the following household groups:

    • Poor households producing coffee for sale. Households not able to fertilize and spray their crops could be facing the loss of over 15 percent of their crops. The impact of these losses will be felt into next year, when they will have less income from the sale of their coffee crops. Thus, the situation will need to be continually monitored.
    • Households dependent on income from labor in the coffee harvest. Between October and March, the coffee harvest creates a demand for labor. Part of the income generated by work in the harvest is used to buy food. The cumulative effects of the reduction in income will be felt in the second quarter of next year when household savings will be depleted sooner than usual. 
    Assumptions
    • Maize and bean supplies and prices: Domestic stocks and Mexican imports of staple grains have been maintaining a stable supply of maize and beans as they have done in previous years. Prices are rising in line with normal seasonal trends and are expected to continue to climb from here on as grain inventories around the country steadily dwindle, until the harvest of Primera crops in August/September.
    • Progress of Primera crops: According to the Crop Monitoring System established by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock Raising (MAGA), there will not be a severe dry spell, with July rains stimulating the growth and development of Primera maize and bean crops and the planting of Postrera crops.
    • Second rainy season: The forecast by the 40th Central American Climate Forum is predicting an above-normal second rainy season (August through October) in the western part of the country and along the southern coast, but tending towards normal in the rest of the country.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Food security outcomes will improve with the end of the annual lean season and the harvest of Primera crops in August/September. Poor households across the country still in the middle of the annual lean season are completely dependent on purchased food supplies. However, current income-earning opportunities are limited and the coffee rust outbreak affecting the 2012/2013 harvest has, more than likely, reduced the incomes of poor coffee-producing households. WFP is carrying out an in-depth analysis. The harvest of Primera crops in August/September will improve the household food security situation. The beginning of the peak-demand period for unskilled labor, extending from October through March of next year, will increase household income, though income levels are expected to be lower than usual due to the coffee rust outbreak.

    Adequate market supplies and affordable grain prices in most parts of the country should keep prices accessible. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected across the country between July and December. However, food security conditions in areas of concern will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as discussed below at greater length.


    Areas of Concern

    Livelihood Zone 5 in the Western Highlands [1] (Subsistence Agriculture)

    Current situation

    Height of the annual lean season. According to the monthly FAO report on food reserves as of June 30, households in this area had already depleted their maize and bean reserves and were dependent on purchased food supplies. This is normal for the time of year and these households should be able to meet their basic food needs. So far, local maize and bean crops have been developing with normal seasonal progress. The localized hailstorms in certain parts of the area had no effect on most of the population. According to the Crop Monitoring System’s July bulletin, prevalence rates for crop pests and diseases are in line with the norm compared with previous years. However, according to INSIVUMEH (the National Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology Institute), cumulative rainfall in this area for June ranged from 170 and 370 percent of the norm which, combined with the high soil moisture content, exposes black bean crops to the risk of damage from crop pests and disease. This area is highly dependent on its one and only annual harvest of staple grain crops in November/December.

    Staple grain prices. Staple grain supplies in local markets are a mix of domestic grain stocks and Mexican imports. Consumer prices for black beans in this region remained stable between May and June, at 16 percent below prices at the same time last year. On the other hand, the price of white maize rose by nine percent between May and June, but stayed just below June 2012 prices. Prices for both grains are expected to steadily rise until the harvest of Primera crops in the rest of the country beginning in August/September.

    Sources of income. The coffee industry has been affected by the coffee rust outbreak, with losses calculated at approximately 15 percent of last year’s production, according to ANACAFÉ (the National Coffee Growers Association). While most of the impact of the rust outbreak will be on the 2013/2014 coffee harvest, it has also affected this year’s demand for unskilled labor, reducing the supply of work for the local population and limiting its income-earning prospects. There is no major change in the flow of remittances compared with figures for the last two months (based on country data). According to the last study of migrant remittances by the IOM in 2010, 49.4 percent of remittances are used for household consumption, with a similar percentage going towards the purchase of food supplies. Moreover, the volume of remittances is tied to the resilience of the construction industry in this region which, in turn, affects the availability of unskilled jobs within the reach of the poorest segments of the population.

    Livelihoods. No changes in household livelihoods are expected during the outlook period. Households will utilize their usual livelihood strategies during the annual lean season. It will be important to monitor the situation for households in areas affected by last year’s extended dry spell, whose response capacity is limited, in addition to households whose incomes could be significantly reduced as a result of the coffee rust outbreak.

    Assumptions

    The outlook for this region is based on the following assumptions, in addition to the national assumptions outlined earlier in the report:

    • Reduced yields from coffee crops affected by the coffee rust outbreak are expected to limit income generation for the poorest households in this area as a result of: (1) reduced demand for labor for the harvest in Boca Costa and parts of Huehuetenango (livelihood zone 11) between October and next March; and (2) shortfalls in own production for both the 2012/13 and the 2013/14 growing seasons. The majority of the impact will be felt next year.
    • There will be a normal demand for unskilled labor for the agricultural harvest in the southern coastal area (livelihood zone 12).
    • As in previous years, households could turn to the collection and sale of firewood and the sale of small livestock as a way to earn extra income until the November/December harvest.
    • There will be more unskilled laborers looking for employment in more distant areas than usual or migrating to the capital.
    • Based on the pattern from the last two years, a near-average flow of remittances should continue. While very poor households do not receive remittances, the volume of remittances has a direct effect on demand for labor in construction work, which is an important source of income for this household group.
    • There will be an adequate supply of wild plant foods, which will be gathered as usual.
    • Above-normal rainfall is expected in western areas during the second half of the rainy season, between August and October. With the already high cumulative levels of rainfall in this region, continued rainfall activity could promote the spread of fungal diseases in Quiché and western areas, affecting black bean crops in particular, and most likely, coffee crops as well, especially with above-average temperatures expected according to OIRSA (the International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health). The magnitude of the resulting losses will depend on the severity of the outbreaks.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Poor households in this area are going through the most difficult time of year without staple grain reserves and with few income-earning options and prices on the rise. A deterioration in food consumption and dietary diversity of all households is expected during the first half of the outlook period (between July and September), until the upcoming harvest in August/September. However, this should not increase the risk of acute malnutrition beyond the normal expected seasonal rise in malnutrition rates, nor is it expected to increase mortality rates. The nutritional status of households affected by the dry spell could deteriorate, but this is not expected to result in severe acute malnutrition.

    Households affected by last year’s dry spell will probably be forced to forego meeting certain non-food needs in order to feed their families, given the five to ten percent reduction in their income since the beginning of the year. These cuts in their income as a result of the coffee rust outbreak could heighten their food insecurity. The situation of all households covered by the study will continue to steadily deteriorate until the end of the annual lean season in this area in November/December.

    The annual lean season will be finished by the end of this quarter. October to December is the peak-demand period for unskilled labor and the area’s one and only harvest begins in November/December. However, households affected by last year’s dry spell and by the reduced demand for labor for the coffee harvest will continue to be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Therefore, July through September will see Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, even in the areas most affected by the 2012 earthquake, due to the humanitarian assistance provided during the first quarter of 2013. However, conditions in areas affected by last year’s extended dry spell will continue to be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period, from July through December.

    Livelihood Zone 8 in the “Dry Corridor”[2] (Basic Grains, Border Zone with Honduras and El Salvador) and Livelihood Zone 9[3] (Basic Grains and Wage Labor)

    Current situation

    The annual lean season in this area is well underway. Households have depleted their staple grain reserves and are reliant on grain supplies purchased in local markets. There are few job prospects for unskilled laborers. The situation of very poor and poor households affected by last year’s extended dry spell and ensuing losses, whose repercussions, particularly for the household economy, are still being felt, is of special concern. Despite distributions of food rations by the government and the World Food Program designed to improve food availability, the lean season for these households began earlier than usual. Another group at risk is the small coffee growers without any staple grain crops or any possibility of diversifying their crops. This group is facing reduced income as a result of the coffee rust outbreak. The impact of such an income loss will be most severe early next year.

    Progress of staple grain crops. Maize and bean crops planted as of the last week of May and the first week of June , when the rainy season was fully established, are developing normally. According to the Crop Monitoring System, certain parts of this area had severe rainfall deficits in June. However, these deficits did not affect agricultural activities due to the high soil moisture content.

    Staple grain prices. Prices for maize and beans are rising in line with normal seasonal trends. This upward trend in prices could continue through the end of August, which marks the beginning of a new harvesting cycle in certain crop-producing areas of this region. This should bring down the prices of staple grains and make them more affordable for local households.

    Acute malnutrition. According to the latest report by the Ministry of Health, acute malnutrition rates are in line with seasonal norms, but the number of cases of malnutrition has been growing since the end of May and is expected to continue to grow throughout the lean season. However, malnutrition rates are expected to stay at or under five percent.

    Assumptions

    The outlook for this region is based on the following assumptions, in addition to the national assumptions outlined earlier in the report:

    • Income levels are expected to decrease by five percent during the outlook period due to reduced income from labor from the coffee harvest.
    • Households will increase the sales of small animals or other available assets, as they normally do in times of stress. They will be forced to look for alternative sources of local employment or for work in other departments or the capital in construction, security, agriculture, etc.
    • There will be a normal pattern of supply and demand for unskilled labor for the harvest season in the southern coastal area (livelihood zone 12).
    • The coffee rust outbreak is expected to reduce demand for labor for the coffee harvest beginning in November in this area, in Boca Costa (livelihood zone 11), and in Honduras.
    • Higher than usual temperatures and sporadic rainfall are creating conditions conducive to the spread of fungal diseases in maize and bean crops, as well as coffee crops. The magnitude of the resulting losses will depend on the severity of the outbreaks.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    There will be no change in household food consumption in this region from July through September, but there will be less dietary diversity. These households will be forced to intensify their usual coping strategies. Even with a small amount of crop losses, the harvest of Primera crops in August/September will significantly improve food availability.

    The last quarter of the year will be marked by better grain availability from harvests across the country and by the beginning of the peak-demand period for unskilled labor. In spite of the lower demand for day labor due to the coffee rust outbreak, there will still be more work available than in previous months, which should help generate more income.

    No food consumption gaps are expected during the outlook period.

    Since the outlook period typically coincides with the annual lean season, an increase in the number of cases of acute malnutrition is to be expected, peaking in August, just before the beginning of the harvest. However, any such increase will be in line with normal seasonal trends and acute malnutrition rates should not exceed five percent.

    In general, food security outcomes in this area throughout the outlook period from July through December will be consistent with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.


    [1] See the 2007 Livelihood Profile (available in Spanish only): http://www.fews.net/docs/Publications/gt_profile_es.pdf

    [2] See the 2007 Livelihood Profile (available in Spanish only): http://www.fews.net/docs/Publications/gt_profile_es.pdf

    [3] See the 2007 Livelihood Profile (available in Spanish only): http://www.fews.net/docs/Publications/gt_profile_es.pdf


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    National

    Hurricane or similar seasonal climatologic event

    According to the 40th Central American Climate Forum, this year’s hurricane season will be slightly more active than usual compared with the 1995-2012 average, but comparable to figures for the last two years (18 to 19 events). The impact of a direct or indirect hurricane would change the national outlook, whose effects would depend on its magnitude and location.

    Baja and Alta Verapaz, Jalapa, Huehuetenango, Chiquimula, Jutiapa, Quiché, San Marcos, and Zacapa

    Implementation of the community-based temporary job creation (GETCo) program

    Implementation of the government’s GETCo program could improve the situation for households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes, particularly for households affected by last year’s dry spell and small coffee growers.

    Quiché and Peten

    Excessive moisture

    Risk of crop pests and diseases. Reports of Tar Spot Disease in Quiché. Flooding risks for crops planted along the banks of rivers, which would reduce the size of harvests and household food reserves.

    High-migration areas (primarily in the west, the Boca Costa area, and the east)

    Coffee rust outbreak

    Lower incomes due to the reduced demand for unskilled labor for the coffee harvest.

    Dry Corridor (Chiquimula, Jalapa, El Progreso, and Baja Verapaz)

    Diminishing, sporadic rainfall

    Diminishing rainfall activity could trigger losses of Primera staple grain crops in these areas, affecting the size of food reserves for local households. This would make them especially dependent on the Postrera crops harvest in October/November.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes for July 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes for July 2013

    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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