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Near-average precipitation forecast for first season (Primera) crops, with the possibility of a prolonged dry spell (canícula) in the Gulf of Fonseca

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • April 2018
Near-average precipitation forecast for first season (Primera) crops, with the possibility of a prolonged dry spell (canícula) in the Gulf of Fonseca

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  • Key Messages
  • Projected outlook
  • Regional staple production and markets
  • Coffee sector
  • Remittances
  • Regional outlook through September 2018
  • Key Messages
    • Most poor households in the region’s dry corridor, which were affected by successive seasons of low staple production and limited employment opportunities mainly between 2014 and 2016, are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. This is primarily due to the supply of staples from 2017/2018 seasons and revenue from coffee harvesting.

    • Households of small-scale staple producers in communities that faced limitations in planting or harvesting in the last agricultural year (mainly the south and west of Honduras, the east and west of El Salvador and central and northern Nicaragua), will become Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from May until Primera season harvests in August/September due to exhausted food reserves and a lack of income from temporary local employment.

    • The above-average precipitation recorded in some parts of El Salvador and Nicaragua, combined with the prevailing weather conditions, is increasing the risk of coffee leaf rust exceeding the levels seen in the last agricultural year. These conditions may also modify the flowering cycles, which could affect coffee growers’ production and the availability of employment during the next harvest (October/November 2018 to March 2019).

    • Staple food prices are increasing according to the typical seasonal pattern, primarily for maize. Over the coming six months, maize prices may exceed those recorded last year to a price above the five-year average. This situation could increase food costs, resulting in reduced resources available for non-food spending (e.g. education and health) among the poorest households.

    Projected outlook

    According to the forecast for May to July 2018 presented at the Climate Forum for Mesoamerica, Cuba, and Dominican Republic in April 2018, rainfall in most of the Central America region is likely to be within normal ranges, with drier conditions in the Gulf of Fonseca region, including the south, central-eastern, and central-western regions of Honduras, the east and north-west of El Salvador and the western Pacific region and the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua (Figure 1).

    The Honduran National Center for Atmospheric, Oceanographic, and Seismic Studies (CENAOS) and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras (SAG) forecast a normal wet period for various areas of Honduras, although heavy rainfall is expected for the western zone, with early rain in the departments of the Honduran dry corridor. However, forecasts are irregular for July, with rainfall deficits expected to coincide with the start of the dry period (canícula) in the zone comprising Choluteca, Valle, La Paz, and the south of the departments of Francisco Morazán, El Paraíso, Intibucá, Lempira, and Ocotepeque.

    With forecasts indicating a likelihood for average to below average rainfall in the region, planting for the first season (Primera) is expected to begin between the last week of April and the second week of May.

    Regional staple production and markets

    In the first quarter of the year, regional staple production from the Postrera Tardía/Apante season is concentrated in the areas with agricultural and meteorological conditions favorable to production, such as the central north and Atlantic regions of Nicaragua and the central-east and north of Honduras, which supply the market. The highest volumes are produced in the areas of Nicaragua that are harvested in March and April. 

    Honduras: For the coming agricultural year (2018/2019), precipitation is expected to be similar to last year (2017/2018), facilitating the normal development of crops during the first season (Primera). The Department of Agriculture estimates that 20 million quintals of staples (maize and beans) will be produced in 2018/2019.

    El Salvador: The Ministry of Agriculture will continue its strategy to support staple production. The farming package program to distribute certified seed and fertilizer will provide 408,375 packages for the year to the same number of farmers. There will be two distributions, differentiated by region and season, in April and June, representing an investment of USD 17 million.

    Nicaragua: The Apante harvests of maize, beans, and rice from late March through early April are in process, with activities including threshing, harvesting, drying, and grain storage. Rains during the season affected bean production in some areas of Matagalpa and Rivas.

    Regional prices for staples: The seasonality of production means this period marks the beginning of reduced maize flows to markets, with the exception of Nicaragua, where maize prices remained stable between February and March. Increases of 10 to 22 percent were recorded in the markets analyzed in Honduras and El Salvador. These were highest in the latter, caused by better prices for buyers during the periods set by the flour industry.

    The red bean price remained stable between February and March in the markets analyzed in the three countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador). However, the markets in Honduras and Nicaragua showed upside variations in the range of 10 to 22 percent, respectively, compared to last March and the average over the last five years. Sources suggest that this is the result of market speculation following an alleged fall in production caused by excess rain in some areas of these countries, although there is no official information on this matter.

    Coffee sector

    The Coffee Market Report for March 2018 from the International Coffee Organization (ICO) reports that the composite indicator fell by 1.1 percent in March 2018, to an average of USD 112.99 cents/lb, the lowest monthly price since February 2016.

    The newsletter reports a surplus in the 2017/2018 coffee-growing year for the second consecutive year, with production exceeding consumption by 778,000 bags, which is ‘weighing down on global coffee prices in the current coffee year.’ Exports during the first five months of the year increased compared to the same period for 2016/2017, which saw record export volumes.

    El Salvador: According to official estimates, production for 2017/2018 in El Salvador will be approximately 900,000 quintals, below the previous forecast of 1 million quintals. Nonetheless, this estimate represents a six percent increase on the production of 845,600 quintals in 2016/2017.

    Honduras: According to statistics from the Honduran Institute of Coffee (IHCAFE), exports totaled 5.2 million 46-kg bags by 19 April 2018: a five percent increase compared to the volume exported by the same date in the previous agricultural year (4.9 million bags). However, these exports were valued at USD 639 million, i.e. 11 percent lower than the USD 718 million recorded for the previous year (2016/2017). The average export price at the time of writing is USD 122.87/bag, i.e. 16 percent lower than the average export price from the previous agricultural year of USD 145.59/bag. The primary markets for exports from Honduras are currently Germany (29 percent), Belgium (23 percent) and the United States (14 percent).

    The most recent coffee leaf rust monitoring newsletter (N.1-018, January 2018) reported a national incidence of 7.22 percent for vulnerable plant varieties. A green alert was declared, with the highest incidences in the departments of Cortés (18 percent), Santa Bárbara (12 percent), Comayagua (11.38 percent), and Yoro (8.84 percent). Varieties resistant to leaf rust are on blue alert, with a national incidence of 2.62 percent and the highest levels in the departments of Comayagua (6.73 percent), Intibucá (6.41 percent) and Lempira (4.15 percent).

    The newsletter notes that at least one of the new strains of coffee leaf rust that affect the Lempira variety is now present in nine departments throughout the country, although the strains are not widespread in coffee-growing zones. In Olancho, where the first outbreak of leaf rust on the Lempira variety appeared, the incidence is lower than in the departments where the presence of new strains was recently recorded, such as Yoro, Santa Bárbara, Cortés, and Comayagua.

    Nicaragua: According to a report by Bolsagro, the Export Processing Center (CENTREX), total exports for the current harvest (1 October 2017 to 28 February 2018) are 930,826 quintals (green), exceeding the 673,744 quintals for the same period for the previous harvest. However, a USD 13.56/quintal drop in the average export price was recorded, from USD 150.76/quintal for the previous agricultural year to USD 137.20/quintal for the current year.

    According to monitoring of leaf rust, national incidence in March 2018 stood at 7.3 percent (a reduction from the February figure of 10.61 percent). The departments of Masaya, Estelí, and Rivas and the Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region reported the highest incidences above the alert level (10 percent).


    In March, remittances for Guatemala totaled USD 2.019 billion, having increased by 4 percent; in Honduras, the figures were USD 1.078 billion and 3.8 percent; while in Nicaragua, cumulative income had increased by 9.6 percent since February (information from the Central Banks of these countries).

    El Salvador: According to the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador, in the first three months of 2018, the country received USD 1.239 billion in family remittances, USD 62.4 million more than during the same period of the preceding year. In March, El Salvador received USD 456.4 million, an increase of 0.8 percent from the same month the previous year. The main sources are the United States (USD 1.155 billion, 93.2 percent), Canada (USD 10.9 million, 0.9 percent) and the European Union (USD 11.9 million, 1.0 percent). The five departments with the highest remittance income in March 2018 were: San Salvador (20.4 percent), San Miguel (12.3 percent), La Unión (8.6 percent), Santa Ana (8.2 percent) and La Libertad (8.0 percent).

    Honduras: The Central Bank of Honduras report on the latest twice-yearly survey of family remittance income (January 2018) found that, in a study of countries in the Central America region, Honduras was the third largest recipient of remittances, with USD 4.438 billion for 2017, a year-on-year increase of 12.4 percent. The figure increases to USD 4.447 billion if remittances from visiting migrants are included (pocket remittances). Among those surveyed, 75.7 percent had sent remittances, with an average monthly value of USD 486.6. Of those who sent remittances, 39.5 percent were women, sending a monthly average of USD 358.5, while males who sent remittances from abroad averaged USD 570.4/month).

    In 90.6 percent of cases, beneficiaries used remittances to meet basic needs or make everyday purchases (40.6 percent maintenance, 20.4 percent drugs and medical services, 13.7 percent education, 9.8 percent other (unspecified)). The remainder (9.4 percent) used remittances for investments in purchasing or improving personal or family property.

    To strengthen assistance for returning migrants, the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported the Municipal Units for the Care of Returned Migrants (UMARs) in the municipalities of Gracias and La Esperanza. These units seek to guarantee the educational, social, and economic reintegration of migrant children and families returning to the country. From 1 January to 16 March 2018, a total of 13,471 returning migrants were recorded in Honduras, including 1,445 children and adolescents.

    Nicaragua: According to the Central Bank of Nicaragua, remittances in February 2018 totaled USD 116.9 million, compared to USD 107.6 million in February 2017: a year-on-year change of 8.6 percent. In January and February 2018, the cumulative total of remittances received by the Nicaraguan economy reached USD 229.8 million, an increase of 9.6 percent with respect to the same period for 2017. Of the cumulative remittances received as at February, 54.2 percent came from the United States, followed by 21.1 percent from Costa Rica and 11.5 percent from Spain.

    Regional outlook through September 2018

    The livelihoods of many of the poorest households in the south and south-west of Honduras, the east and west of El Salvador and the north and central zones of Nicaragua were affected for five consecutive years, primarily due to irregular rainfall and reduced income caused by damage from coffee leaf rust. However, income from employment in agriculture and livestock activities and improved staple harvests in the most recent cycle have led to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes in these areas. Nevertheless, families of small-scale staple producers (maize, beans, and sorghum) that have faced challenges in planting or harvesting and difficulties in accessing temporary employment have exhausted their food reserves, and their crops for the first season (Primera) are likely to be affected by the reduced precipitation forecast for July. Together with the seasonal increase in the prices of basic foods, it is estimated that these households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from May until at least the first harvests (Primera) in August. Impacts from cyclonic events are possible during the second wet period, which could alter the food security outlook.

    Figures Seasonal Outlook for Mesoamerica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. May to July 2018, cumulative rainfall probabilities versu

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Outlook for Mesoamerica, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. May to July 2018, cumulative rainfall probabilities versus average.

    Source: Central America Climate Forum, April 2018

    Prices for maize and beans in the region

    Figure 2

    Prices for maize and beans in the region

    Source: SIMPAH Honduras, MAG El Salvador, SIMPHA Nicaragua

    Regional maize prices and forecasts for 2018

    Figure 3

    Regional maize prices and forecasts for 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Regional bean prices and forecasts for 2018

    Figure 4

    Regional bean prices and forecasts for 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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