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Prices of staple grains remain high as farmers prepare to plant for the primera agricultural cycle

  • Key Message Update
  • Guatemala
  • April 2024
Prices of staple grains remain high as farmers prepare to plant for the primera agricultural cycle

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Poorer rural households in the Dry Corridor, Western Altiplano and Alta Verapaz have started the lean season earlier than usual due to crop losses during the primera and postrera agricultural cycles. They are continuing to buy their food at high prices, extending their dependence on the market and increasing household spending.  With limited savings and fewer opportunities to generate income, these households will resort to using negative coping strategies, such as atypical migration of additional household members who did not usually leave their area of residence to work, selling productive assets and reducing the quantity of food consumed, resulting in their classification of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), through September 2024.
    • The pressure of high food, transportation, and agricultural input prices will cause rural households in the rest of the country to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through September. To meet their food needs, these households will use their savings and resort to purchasing on credit, as well as adjust the quality of food in their diet. As spending on agricultural inputs rises to ensure planting for the next growing season and as staple grain prices rise seasonally – both to atypically high levels – more poor households will see their purchasing power further reduced with the progression of the lean season. This pressure on household budgets will cause them to adjust downward the quantity of food consumed, such that more areas of the Dry Corridor and the Western Altiplano will likely fall into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from June onwards.
    • According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), in March 2024 monthly inflation was 3.24 percent, a 0.06 percentage point reduction from the previous month, while interannual inflation was at 3.30 percent, representing a reduction of 5.47 percentage points, compared to March 2023. While there is a slowdown in headline inflation, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in March 2024 showed an increase of 0.17 percentage points from the previous month, driven by the transportation and food divisions. In March, wholesale prices of white maize and black beans in the La Terminal market were stable compared to the previous month (DIPLAN/MAGA). The price of white maize is 15 percent lower than in March 2023, when it registered the highest price in the last five years. Also compared to March 2023, prices of black beans presented an increase of 24 percent. However, prices remain above the five-year average, with maize showing a 17 percent increase and black beans a 51 percent increase. The persistence of above-average prices is the result of staggered and late harvests in the past agricultural cycle, lower yields, and the high cost of agricultural inputs. However, black bean prices have been increasing since mid-2020, and recorded the peak price of 730 GTQ in October 2023. A decrease in domestic production due to losses associated with weather events, as well as higher production costs have influenced the persistence of high prices.
    • The accumulation of below-average rainfall that has prevailed in most of the country since the beginning of the year, as well as high temperatures, have caused a significant drying of vegetation. Together with the controlled burns of agricultural land typical at this time of year, this has created an environment conducive to the spread of forest fires. As of April 28, the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) reported 1,443 forest fires, with Huehuetenango (10,518 hectares damaged), Petén (6,822 hectares damaged) and Quiché (2,614 hectares damaged) being the departments most affected.
    • The commercial harvests of the postrera tardía agricultural cycle in the northern areas of the country ended in mid-April, while in much of the rest of the country, land clearing and preparation activities are being carried out for the next season. After almost seven months without rain and with dry soils, farmers in the Dry Corridor are preparing their fields for the planting of the primera cycle, which is traditionally done in the first half of May with the establishment of the rains. In addition, the lack of rain since October, high temperatures, and high evapotranspiration have affected the flow of rivers, impacting the availability of water for household use.
    • Between April and June, the El Niño phenomenon is expected to transition to neutral ENSO conditions, which is likely to increase rainfall. However, persistent high temperatures, dry soils, and irregular rainfall distribution could delay planting activities. According to the Climate Outlook for the May-June-July quarter, the national meteorological service – INSIVUMEH – forecasts above normal rainfall for the Northern Transversal Strip, Western Caribbean, Southern Central Altiplano, Bocacosta and most of the Pacific; and normal rainfall for the rest of the country. It also forecasts the beginning of the rainy season between April 22 and May 6 for the South Coast, Bocacosta, Central and East; between May 13 and June 3 for the Northern Transversal Strip and Petén. While the rains may start on time, the establishment of the rainy season –  continuous days of rainfall that farmers wait for to start planting – could be delayed.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Guatemala Key Message Update April 2024: Prices of staple grains remain high as farmers prepare to plant for the primera agricultural cycle, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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