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Households in the Dry Corridor will remain in Crisis even with an average Postrera season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • October 2015 - March 2016
Households in the Dry Corridor will remain in Crisis even with an average Postrera season

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  • Key Messages
  • National overview
  • Key Messages
    • The increase in rainfall during September and October will help promote the proper growth and development of Postrera crops, replenishing household bean reserves in the East, and improving food availability and, to a lesser extent, income-generation from crop sales between December and January.

    • Evidence from the month of August indicates a deterioration in the nutritional status of children under five years of age. This is likely the result of the combined effects of crop losses during the last four Primera growing seasons in the East and the last two seasons in the West, reduced earnings in the coffee sector, and a decrease in coverage of health care services.

    • With the exception of a single scheduled delivery of one month’s worth of food assistance for municipalities in Izabal, Chiquimula, and Zacapa departments, there are no plans for the provision of any additional food assistance in other parts of the country. This will not significantly mitigate the severity of the damage to the food security situation of very poor households in eastern and western areas of the Dry Corridor. As a result, most of these areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) for the entire outlook period.  

    National overview

    Current situation

    The annual lean season ended between August and September following the harvest of Primera crops, with households replenishing their staple food reserves. This harvest is helping to improve food availability on the national market and at the household level. However, this is not the case in areas within the Dry Corridor, where there were sizeable drought-induced losses of anywhere from an estimated 50 to 100 percent of Primera crops, both in the eastern part of the country and in western altiplano areas dependent on a single annual growing season for crops generally harvested in November/December.

    Prices at national level and in many departments have responded to the influx of harvests from surplus areas such as the southern coast, the Northern Transversal Strip, and southern Petén. Wholesale prices for staples on the La Terminal reference market in Guatemala City in September were down from August by three percent in the case of beans and five percent in the case of maize, reflecting the growth in market supplies, both from domestic production and imports from Mexico. Maize prices are under the five-year average by 13.1 percent, while bean prices are 6.9 percent above the five-year average.

    The Postrera growing season started 15 days late this year due to the below-normal rainfall during the first weeks of the season (August 1 through September 15, see Figure 4). However, so far reports from the field indicate that crops are developing adequately. The heavy rains in the second half of September and October improved moisture in the soils, which was important for crop growth and development, particularly for Postrera crops in the East in the month of October, though households were reluctant to plant more crops after their losses during the Primera season, their usual source of seeds for the planting of Postrera crops. The period of high demand for labor is underway, with some coffee harvests starting in parts of San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Suchitepéquez, Retalhuleu, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chiquimula, and Zacapa, mainly on plantations at elevations of less than 3,500 feet above sea level. However, coffee crops across the country have been impacted by the coffee rust outbreak since 2012. There are also reports of other crop diseases and pests and of rainfall deficits affecting the ripening of coffee beans. Thus, the coffee harvest for the 2015/2016 season is expected to be approximately 2.3 percent smaller than for the 2014/2015 season and 17.6 percent smaller than in 2011/2012, the season just before the coffee rust outbreak.

    With households affected by the severe drought during the Primera season looking to supplement their income, there is a surplus of unskilled labor for needed farm work for all types of crops, which will mean less seasonal income for households of day laborers, who will find themselves without work or earning less pay for a day’s work.


    • Climate and the El Niño phenomenon: According to the mid-October report by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), there is a 100 percent likelihood of the extension of El Niño conditions into the three-month period from January through March, with indications that it will strengthen towards the end of the year.
    • End of the rainy season: INSIVUMEH (the Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology, and Hydrology Center) expects the rainy season to end sometime between October 25th and November 5th, which is contrary to the original forecast for an early end-of-season.
    • Staple production for the Postrera growing season: With the increase in rainfall and the continuation of rains through the end of October, harvests are expected to be near average for households that were able to plant. However, these harvests will take place later than usual, in December, assuming there is sufficient rain through the end of October.
    • Staple production in the Northern region: Based on the forecast for continuing rainfall in this region, which includes the Northern Transversal Strip and southern Petén, upcoming harvests between February and March are expected to be average to above-average and will help ensure adequate national market supplies of maize and beans.
    •  Prices and supply of staples: Adequate staple supplies are expected throughout the country from recent Primera harvests of maize and, to a lesser extent, beans in surplus areas in the North and on the southern coast, as well as the steady flow of imports from Mexico. As a result, basic grain prices will follow normal seasonal trends. Thus, maize prices are expected to come down until December and to gradually rise between December and March as reserves are depleted, until the beginning of the next harvest. Bean prices are expected to remain stable through November and to start to come down with the harvest of Postrera crops (in November/December) and continue to decline through February/March, when harvests in the country’s Northern region get underway.
    • Income sources: During the outlook period, there will be a high seasonal demand for unskilled labor compared with the rest of the year through February, which will reach its peak in December/January. This labor is demanded for activities related to production of coffee, sugar cane, tobacco, and other crops. According to the National Coffee Association (ANACAFE), the rainfall deficits in the past few months subjected coffee plants to water stress, which affected their development during the flowering and/or cherry development stages of their growing cycle. In addition, the increase in rainfall in September and October increased the incidence and severity of coffee rust. The combination of these two factors will reduce the quantity, quality, and weight of coffee beans. Since day laborers are paid according to the volume of beans picked, this will reduce the amount of income earned by workers in the harvest. The more time it takes to meet the specified quota for a day’s pay, the lower its value. The need to generate extra income to make up for the losses of staple crops from this year’s and last year’s Primera seasons will continue to produce a larger than usual supply of unskilled labor, with atypical migratory movements, creating competition for existing jobs and, thus, reducing employment opportunities or lowering wage rates.
    • Food assistance: At this time, there is one scheduled delivery of food assistance by the government in the municipalities of Izabal, Zacapa, and Chiquimula consisting of donated food supplies from the Brazilian government, supplemented by supplies to be procured through the World Food Program (WFP) with funds from the Guatemalan government. With no plans for any further deliveries of food assistance, the household food security situation could begin to deteriorate. There are no planned deliveries of food assistance to any other parts of the country during the outlook period.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The harvest of Primera crops and the beginning of the period of high demand for unskilled labor have improved the food security situation of the poorest households in most parts of the country, with the exception of the areas most affected by drought. The harvest for the Primera growing season in August/September enabled households in most parts of the country to replenish their reserves and improve their food availability, reducing their dependence on market purchase as a source of food. The expected near-average harvest of Postrera crops will further bolster their reserves and food availability. In addition, the coffee harvest has begun in certain areas of the country, boosting the amount of income earned by households of day laborers compared with the last few months. These and other employment options in agricultural activities for different crops such as sugar cane, melons, tobacco, etc. will increase as the period of high demand for labor continues, ending between February and March 2016. At the same time, there will be a seasonal decline in staple prices, which will also help facilitate access to food. Prices for beans and maize on the “La Terminal” wholesale reference market in Guatemala City are down from last year by three percent and five percent, respectively, due to both domestic production and imports from Mexico.

    Thus, there will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity in most areas of the country between October 2015 and March 2016. The exception will be coffee-dependent households affected by last year’s and this year’s droughts, who faced an earlier than usual lean season at the beginning of the year and had a much smaller than usual harvest of Primera crops for the fourth consecutive year after losing over 60 percent of last year’s crop. Although the Postrera harvest is expected to be near-average, it will not get underway until December. In the case of western areas of the country, without the option of a second growing season, production losses will affect household food availability and incomes through November 2016. In addition, the coffee sector, which is a major source of income for these households, is expecting below-average production as a result of the drought and the coffee rust outbreak, which will mean less income for day laborers and small coffee growers. Even with normal trends in staple prices and no extreme price spikes anticipated, the lack of purchasing power is limiting household food access. The lack of scheduled food assistance to mitigate the impact on food security outcomes will leave these households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the last quarter of the year as they will resort to negative coping strategies (the sale of productive assets, the consumption of seeds, etc.) to meet their basic food needs. There will be an improvement in the availability of staples, primarily beans, in eastern areas after the Postrera harvest.


    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.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Rainfall anomaly, August 1 through September 15, 2015

    Figure 2

    Rainfall anomaly, August 1 through September 15, 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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