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Positive climate conditions are expected for the Primera harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Positive climate conditions are expected for the Primera harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Following the devastating eruption of June 3, 2018, many households in the foothills of the Fuego volcano lost their local employment opportunities, including in some coffee-producing areas, and are therefore having difficulty accessing regional markets and supplying local markets. However, the food assistance planned over the next three months means that they are currently classified as Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Following this period, they will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2), having improved their access to and opportunities for employment.

    • Given the current moisture in the soil and the forecast for around normal precipitation until August, it is likely that the 2018 harvests will be average. This will result in improved availability of food in producer households from September onward. 

    • The continuing low price of coffee, and the decline in production caused by rust in some areas of the country, will result in low incomes for sector-dependent households, including small producers and day laborers. This situation will be similar to the previous year. 

    • Given the significant deterioration in livelihoods and in the response capacity of the poorest households affected by crop losses and low incomes between 2013 and 2016, a second consecutive year of average harvests will not manage to counterbalance their ongoing income-generation difficulties. These households, especially those located in the dry corridor, will therefore remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until at least January 2019. The rest of the country will suffer Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, including during the lean season. 



    Current Situation

    The poorest households in the country are currently in the lean season, meaning they are almost solely dependent on purchases of food. This comes at a time when it is difficult to make money from casual labor due to the seasonal dip in demand for workers and their daily wage. To this must be added the upward trend in the prices of basic commodities over the same period, when the national market has to rely on reserves stored from previous harvests.

    The Primera season this year began with sowing in April to May, depending on the moisture levels, altitude and the arrival of the first rains. The season began on time in most parts of the country, although initial irregularity in precipitation delayed sowing by one or two weeks in areas such as Huehuetenango and in the east of the country. The greatest cumulative precipitation fell in the south-west and Pacific regions, resulting in various rivers bursting their banks and flooding, although damage was localized. In the north-west region and Petén, rainfall has been somewhat poor, but this should change as the rainy season progresses.

    Nationally, the wholesale and retail prices of white maize remained stable throughout May 2018 compared with the previous month and year, although there were some exceptions, particularly in the northern region (including Petén). This is because the market is transitioning toward stored grain and informal flows from Mexico, following the end of the harvest in the north. Following very low prices reported in 2017, these have now stabilized around the average for the last five years. In the case of black bean, prices have remained stable in relation to last April due to the fact that, in addition to market reserves, there is grain available from other sources. Compared to May 2017, wholesale prices have declined by 8.33 percent, due to increased supplies on the market. Unlike maize, bean prices suffered an atypical increase last year, although imports and near-average harvests have meant that prices have been gradually falling back to average levels.

    Households in the dry corridor and areas affected by the coffee-growing problems are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to their difficulties in meeting their basic non-food needs. They are therefore resorting to unsustainable coping strategies because they have still not recovered from their damaged livelihoods.

    On the other hand, those households most affected by the violent eruption of the Fuego volcano on 3 June are in shelters, and therefore experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity as they are receiving humanitarian assistance. Other households from the communities around the foothills of the volcano are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), due to the assistance that has recently commenced. This will improve their economic access to and availability of food, despite the instability of their physical access, which remains a concern.


    • Climate and conditions of El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO): According to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at the start of June, neutral ENSO conditions are more likely to occur until the July-September 2018 quarter, with the likelihood of an El Niño phenomenon then gradually increasing.
    • Canícula and second rainy season: The National Institute for Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology of Guatemala’s (INSIVUMEH) forecasts indicate that the midsummer dry period (canícula) will arrive between July 10 and 20 in the east and the central highlands, and last for approximately seven to ten days. For the second part of the rainy season, the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME) indicates average to low precipitation, although the scale of the negative anomalies is low. Forecasts from Colorado State University and the National Hurricane Center in the US indicate average to slightly above-average cyclone activity during the season (June to October), both in the Atlantic/Caribbean and the Pacific. However, these cyclones are expected to be less powerful than those in 2017.
    • Production levels in the Primera season: Given the near-average rainfall over a large part of the country in June, and that the canícula is expected to be normal, including in the subsistence areas in the dry corridor, near-average production levels are expected from the Primera season.
    • Production in the Postrera season: The mesoscale meteorological forecasting models show a slight decline in overall precipitation for the second half of the rainy season (August-October). However, given that September is a very rainy month and that the previous months could leave a heavy build-up of moisture in the soil, no problems in crop production are anticipated.

    Supply and price of maize and black bean: Maize supplies on the national market will remain above average due to the continuing flows from Mexico, along with production from the Primera harvest in August/September plus the lower production quantities from the Postrera in November/December. Despite the increasing price of fuel and increases in the international price of maize, prices are expected to remain close to the average, and the seasonal trend will be maintained with a decline from August onward, and then a slight increase in December. In the case of black bean, market supplies are expected to increase seasonally with the end of the Postrera harvest.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Harvests in the 2017/2018 agricultural season were better than in previous years due to more regular rainfall, with overall precipitation close to the seasonal average. This resulted in improved basic grain reserves in producer households, including those in the dry corridor. Despite the above, these reserves have already run out in poor households, as is usual for this time of year, making these people totally dependent on purchasing their food. Market prices are currently rising seasonally, which usually means reduced purchasing power for these people – especially as this is accompanied by a decline in employment opportunities, with the end of the annual season of high demand for casual labor.

    Unemployment during the rainy season has been relatively normal thus far, despite the delayed rains in some areas of the north and west, and reports of localized damage due to hail, strong winds and rivers flooding. Primera harvests (expected in August/September) are therefore likely to result in a restocking of producer households and in an average supply of basic grains onto the national market; the latter will result in a seasonal drop in prices. This will lead to improved availability of and access to food. For the Postrera season, as meteorological forecasts of a slight decline in overall rainfall should not result in a considerable decrease in yields, households will be able to fill their stocks and increase the supply to the market, especially of black bean. This will contribute to improved food security outcomes during the last four months of this outlook, which ends in January 2019.

    In addition, the harvesting of crops that require a large number of daily workers will begin in October, resulting in improved income generation and purchasing power. It is therefore expected that most poor households in the country will not face atypical conditions in terms of their access to food. Most of the country is therefore classified as being in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity throughout the whole period analyzed. However, many of the poorest households in the dry corridor, both in the east and in the western highlands, that have still not recovered from the effects of the last three or four years on harvests and labor, will remain in a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation throughout the whole period of this outlook. This is despite the results of the Primera and Postrera harvests, and the start of the period of high demand for informal labor.

    A further area of concern relates to those affected by the Fuego volcano, which erupted at the start of June. Different municipalities were affected to a greater or lesser extent depending on their distance and geographical location in relation to the volcano. As households directly affected by the pyroclastic flows are being cared for in shelters, their food security situation is adequate due to the assistance provided. However, households located in communities in the foothills of the volcano that were affected by volcanic rock, large amounts of ash and mudflows are in immediate difficulty due to the lack of access to food. Some of these households are receiving food assistance, making them likely to be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) for three months. However, given the uncertainty of assistance for the remaining five months of the period in question – and since these communities have lost crops, arable land and employment opportunities – it is reasonable to assume that there will be population groups in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from September onward. These groups will probably resort to unusual coping strategies, particularly once the season of high demand for labor has commenced.

    Figures Calendario estacional para un año típico

    Figure 1

    Calendario estacional para un año típico

    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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