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Larger harvests and incomes will improve the food security situation

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Guatemala
  • October 2017 - May 2018
Larger harvests and incomes will improve the food security situation

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most small farmers in the Dry Corridor should have near to above-average harvests of Primera crops due to the generally good rainfall performance this season. There should be a seasonal decline in staple grain prices with these and the next two harvests (the Postrera and the Northern harvest) in the coming months. A normal seasonal boost in employment opportunities  and income is expected from these sources.

    • The harvests, low maize prices, and the start of the peak labor demand period will improve the food security situation of households. However, after several consecutive years of poor household crop production, household-borrowing and other coping strategies used in the last few years will keep most of these households Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least May 2018.

    • Heavy rainfall in late September and early October caused damage to maize crops in localized areas. These rains affected mostly the northern part of the country. While this is not expected to significantly affect national production or market prices, many subsistence farming households lost a major source of food and/or income and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) at least until their next harvest.


    Current situation

    The rainy season was marked by a generally good distribution of near-average levels of cumulative rainfall, with no protracted dry spells. Seasonal weather patterns produced a near-average national staple grain harvest and above-average yields in most parts of the Dry Corridor after four consecutive years of low levels and an uneven distribution of cumulative rainfall. However, there were reportedly high levels of cumulative rainfall between September 20th and the middle of October (as much as 500 mm). The above-average rainfall activity during that period, especially in already saturated part of the north and the Bocacosta areas, triggered floods, landslides, and lahars and caused rivers to overflow their banks. 

    Assessments conducted by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock (MAGA) in the second half of October show crop damage and localized losses of many crops in northern areas of the country (Petén and the Northern Transversal Strip), Chiquimula department in the east, and areas farther south. Most of the damage was to maize crops, but banana, cardamom, coffee, rice, chili pepper, peanut, lemon, vegetable, sesame, gourd seed, and bean crops were also affected. According to the assessment, because most of these crops are grown by subsistence and infra-subsistence farmers, the extent of the damage is such that it should not affect prospects for an average to above-average national harvest of Primera crops. However, these crops are important to the just over 6,500 affected households. Their location will allow most of these households to plant another round of crops in mid-November, enabling them to recoup part of their reported losses in early October.

    The harvest of Primera crops also had a positive effect on the maize supplies of farming households, enabling them to build up at least four months’ worth of reserves. In addition, maize and, to a lesser extent, bean crops are beginning to be shipped to markets across the country, boosting domestic supplies of these crops. This brought maize prices down slightly between August and September. According to the FAO, producer prices in all monitored areas are also down sharply from September 2016. These prices had been well below the multi-year average for several months and the same trend continued into September, reducing prices by approximately 15-30 percent. Bean prices have been stable since August after several months of steep price increases fueled by the reported crop losses in 2016. This confirms the reversal in the direction of price trends, bringing prices back down to near-average levels.

    The Postrera growing season has already started up in the central and eastern part of the country. So far, the slightly above-average rainfall activity has had no major effects. The most advanced crops are in Jutiapa and Jalapa departments due to their early planting dates. The main crop produced by the Postrera growing season is beans. This next growing season is expected to get underway by the middle of November in the northern part of the country.  

    The annual high-demand period for informal labor has already kicked off with the coffee harvest in the lower Bocacosta area. However, the beginning of the sugar cane harvest is expected to be delayed by several weeks due to flooding issues. The growing employment opportunities generating a larger stream of income should gradually improve food access. The good pattern of rainfall during the current season is expected to significantly boost the availability of maize and beans on markets across the country and in farming households. With the poor crop production by most communities in the Dry Corridor in 2016 (in the east, on the central plateau, and in intermediate and arid western areas), poor households in these areas have been dependent on market purchases for their food supplies for an extended period. There have been poorer than usual income-earning opportunities with the large supply of labor and low rate of pay for day labor in the coffee sector. These households had been going through a period of very limited employment opportunities for day laborers in seasonal farming activities and very poor households have had no household food reserves. However, things have turned around with the harvests of Primera crops in August/September, followed by the beginning of the high-demand period for farm labor.

    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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