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Early start of the lean season in areas of the Dry Corridor, Alta Verapaz and west

  • Key Message Update
  • Guatemala
  • March 2024
Early start of the lean season in areas of the Dry Corridor, Alta Verapaz and west

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In March, seasonal agricultural employment for commercial cash crops, a source of income that many rural households depend on, declines. Following low staple grain harvests in 2023, the poorest rural households in the areas of the Dry Corridor, the Western Highlands, and Alta Verapaz started 2024 with little to no staple grain reserves. This was compounded by atypical debt incurred due to premature dependence on the market to meet basic food needs, which caused these households to enter the lean season earlier than usual. High food prices and seasonal decreases in income sources will cause households to resort to negative coping strategies such as increased atypical migration of household members who do not usually migrate for work, the sale of assets, and adjusting the amount of food consumed, classifying them in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until September 2024.
    • From March to May, much of the country will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Poor rural households who earned income through agricultural day labor and those who had average harvests of staple grains were able to save some of that income to meet basic food needs during these months. However, high food prices and transportation costs limit access to food, so households will continue to utilize negative coping strategies like adjusting diet quality, resorting to buying food on credit, and cutting back on education and health expenditures, among others. As the lean season progresses, pockets of rural households in the eastern and western rural areas of the country will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September.
    • High temperatures and below-average rainfall have persisted in the last few months. Due to the persistence of El Niño conditions through March-April 2024, these dry conditions are expected to continue and delay the start of primera and Altiplano single-cycle staple grain planting seasons. The transition to neutral conditions in April-June 2024 could provide an increase in precipitation. However, erratic time and location distribution of this precipitation, combined with the persistence of high temperatures, will limit the potential positive impact on planting. 
    • The supply of staple grains in domestic markets remains average due to domestic commercial and subsistence harvests and imports; however, prices remain atypically high. Wholesale prices for white maize and black beans have remained stable over the past few months but remain well above the five-year average. In February, white maize prices increased by 9 percent compared to last year and by 28 percent compared to the five-year average. Black bean prices increased by 18 percent and 51 percent compared to February 2023 and the five-year average, respectively.  Seasonal price increases are expected as the flow of domestic crops into the markets decreases. High maize and bean prices will limit access for rural households, whose diets rely on these two staple foods, until the next harvest in September. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Guatemala Key Message Update March 2024: Early start of the lean season in areas of the Dry Corridor, Alta Verapaz and west, 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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