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Labor demand declines seasonally as prices remain atypically high

  • Key Message Update
  • Guatemala
  • March 2023
Labor demand declines seasonally as prices remain atypically high

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In March, very poor households in localized areas of the Dry Corridor, Western Altiplano, and Alta Verapaz intensified their dependence on the market for food, marking the early start of the lean season, which peaks in August. These households began this year with atypically high debts and without reserves of staple grains for their consumption, while also experiencing prices well above average and scarce employment opportunities. This situation will force them to use unsustainable coping strategies that put their livelihoods at risk to ensure their basic food security, resulting in their classification in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September.

    • In the rest of the rural areas, poorer households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until May given that, although they have reserves of staple grains and income from peak demand for agricultural labor in cash crops, they face high food and transportation prices. These atypical prices limit their purchasing power and their ability to meet their non-essential food needs and recover their livelihoods. Starting in June, these households will likely experience a deterioration in their food security as the lean season progresses. Poorer households will intensify adjustments to the quality and quantity of their diet and employ negative coping strategies that will result in additional households and areas beginning to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September.

    • Wholesale prices for white maize and black beans were stable in February compared to January, but remain atypically high. Maize registered price increases of 28 and 64 percent – and black beans increased 11 and 40 percent – compared to last year and the five-year average, respectively. So far, prices have not shown the usual seasonal declines with the arrival of the latest postrera tardía harvests from the north of the country. This trend is due to several factors, including high production costs, higher local demand due to lower subsistence harvests, and the speculative and hoarding effect of traders. The prices of staple grains will continue to rise in the coming months when the market must be supplied with stored and imported products.

    • Farmers are preparing their land for planting at the beginning of the rainy season, between April and May. Motivated by better weather conditions last year and the results of past harvests, planting intentions among subsistence farmers are stable compared to 2022, even though fertilizer prices remain 50 to 100 percent above the five-year average. However, weather forecasts indicate reduced rainfall and high temperatures for the coming months, which could affect the start of the planting season and result in a decrease in demand for sporadic agricultural labor until the harvest.

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Guatemala Key Message Update March 2023: Labor demand declines seasonally as prices remain atypically high, 2023.

    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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