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Losses to Primera crops and damages to Postrera crops exacerbate food insecurity

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • August 2014
Losses to Primera crops and damages to Postrera crops exacerbate food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Progress
  • Agriculture and Livestock Production
  • Coffee Rust Situation
  • Cereal Grains Market
  • Food Security Interventions
  • Regional Outcomes Projected through December 2014
  • Key Messages
    • In Honduras and El Salvador, day laborers and small subsistence producers of coffee and basic grains will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between August and December, due to lack of employment opportunities in the coffee sector, limited food reserves, and high prices of basic grains resulting from losses to maize and bean crops planted at the start of the 2014 Primera season.

    • In Nicaragua, the availability of basic grain reserves and access to alternative sources of income allow subsistence farmer and migrant laborer households located in the dry corridor to be in Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through September. However, due to the losses in basic grains during the Primera season and increasing prices of red beans, households in vulnerable communities will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October through December.

    • The ENSO forecast published by the International Research Institute (IRI) as of mid-August indicates a 56 percent probability of El Niño conditions for the September-November period, while forecasts published by the Central American Climate Outlook Forum for the same period predict below-average rainfall for the Pacific coast region, which will cause losses to Postrera crops.





    Significant losses to Primera crops in both subsistence and commercial production areas.


    High prices of grains, primarily red beans, which surpass the five-year average price.


    Limited access to basic grains (maize and beans) for the region’s most vulnerable households due to crop losses, limited income, and high grain prices.


    Prolonged periods of rainfall deficits during the vegetative development of Postrera crops could affect flowering, while excess rainfall during the harvest could lead to germination and fungal damage to crops.


    Losses of basic grains during the Primera season in the eastern and western regions of the country, from damage during the flowering and early development stages.

    Damage to Postrera grain production, high prices of basic grains, and lack of employment in the coffee sector as a result of coffee rust outbreaks.


    Reduction in yields at the national level, as well as partial and total losses in production areas located in the southwestern region and in the departments of Yoro, Olancho and Francisco Morazán.


    Increased losses in areas throughout the country where the planting of Primera crops was delayed.


    Damages during the flowering or harvest phase of Postrera crops.


    Losses, delays, and inability to plant in some areas during the Primera season. Loss of harvests, total depletion of food reserves, death of cattle, and high prices during the final months of the year.


    Depletion of food reserves, loss of Primera crops, limited access to water for human consumption, loss of seed for Postrera crops, high prices of grains, and reduction in employment opportunities due to damages to basic grain production and livestock-raising activities will create conditions of food insecurity for the country’s most vulnerable population groups.


    Potential for losses to Postrera crops as a result of rain deficits.


    Seasonal Progress

    In Nicaragua, the 2014 drought is considered to be the worst in the past 30 years, generating significant losses to basic grain production, depletion or exhaustion of well water, and lack of food availability and access for the country’s most vulnerable population groups.

    The graphic depicting the anomaly at the start of the Postrera crop cycle, from August 10-15, 2014 (Figure 2) shows that the Central American region is experiencing a delay in the onset of rainfall for the Postrera season. This delay has reached 5-20 days in some areas, which could cause delays and damage to Postrera season crops.

    Agriculture and Livestock Production

    In the third week of August, El Salvador’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock distributed packets of improved bean seeds for the planting of Postrera crops to some 53,299 farmers in the eastern region (an area with increased levels of damage caused by the lack of rainfall during the current season), with the goal of ensuring the proper development of these crops, which account for the greatest volume in terms of national-level supply. This activity covered 74 percent of all population groups identified as having been affected by crop damage. This effort is part of the national supply program for food and nutritional security, part of the Family Agriculture Plan (Plan de Agricultura Familiar – PAF).

    In Honduras, rainfall delays and deficits have caused damages to Primera season crops, including total or partial damage depending on the production area and the phase of crop development during the critical periods of drought. Affected areas can be classified in two categories: those growing crops for household consumption, where damages are concentrated in the departments of La Paz, Valle, El Paraíso, Lempira, Intibucá, Choluteca, and San Francisco Morazán, and those producing commercial or cash crops, where damages are greatest in the departments of Yoro, Santa Bárbara, and Olancho.

    Honduras’ Permanent Contingency Commission (Comisión Permanente de Atención de Contingencias de Honduras) has identified 97 municipalities that have experienced damages, affecting an estimated 114,511 households. Food aid interventions (corn flour, maize, rice, beans, sugar, and coffee) and the provision of seed for the planting of Postrera crops are planned for affected households, prioritized and targeted according to food needs.

    In Nicaragua, an evaluation of the impact caused by the drought was carried out jointly by the Association for Survival and Local Development (Asociación para la Sobrevivencia y el Desarrollo Local – ASODEL) and producer associations from the municipalities of Villanueva and Somotillo in the Department of Chinandega and the municipality of Quezalguaque in the Department of León, both located in Nicaragua’s north-central region. The evaluation identifies total losses of Primera season crops, dry wells, sale of livestock driven by the high risk of death due to the drought, and a high risk of Postrera season losses. A field survey to verify conditions found a similar situation in the Pacific, central, and northern regions.

    The livestock sector in Nicaragua remains critical, given the lack of financial support to enable small farmers to purchase food, and the absence of a government strategy to enable them to mitigate the effects of the drought.

    In Nicaragua, the decrease in rice production is estimated at 25 percent. However, both producers and commercial enterprises are calling for actions that will maintain the supply and stabilize prices, as existing stock will satisfy demand for a period of only three months. They are also requesting a renegotiation of the volumes of rice that may be imported within the tariff contingency mechanism, based on the country’s needs.

    In addition to maize and beans, the region’s Primera cycle rice crops have been significantly affected. However, any imbalance in supply at the national level can be offset by imports, toward which end both farmers and commercial enterprises can request that revisions be made to the volumes of rice that can be imported, as established in tariff contingency plans.

    Among remotely monitored countries, only Honduras has published official data on production losses and number of households affected by the lack of rainfall for Primera season crops, with preliminary data indicating that there could be 17 percent losses of maize crops. For El Salvador, estimates for maize losses are 14 percent, while in Nicaragua, where periods of drought affected larger areas of the country, it is estimated that there are 75 percent crop losses (including losses stemming from the inability to plant). Nevertheless, the government has indicated in the media that losses are closer to 14 percent.

    Coffee Rust Situation

    According to the coffee rust early warning system, which surveys 241 farms in El Salvador, as of the end of July the greatest number of farms affected by coffee rust in the country were located along the Apaneca-Ilamatepeca mountain range, where 9.59 percent of farms were infested, followed by the area along the Cacahuatique mountain range, with a rate of 9.18 percent. Together, these two mountainous areas account for more than 50 percent of national production and, accordingly, provide the greatest source of labor opportunities involving coffee harvesting.

    In the survey conducted in Honduras, coffee growers indicated that irregular rainfall during the current season has led to forced maturation and small, underdeveloped beans, the loss of recently sown plants, and the loss of fertilizer applied during the drought, with the lack of humidity preventing the fertilizer from leaching into the soil and providing the greatest possible benefit to the plant. In other words, this investment in fertilizer failed to translate into more productive coffee trees. It is projected that this will lead to decreases in production between November 2014 and March 2015.

    Cereal Grains Market

    Wholesale prices of red beans in the Tegucigalpa market during July 2014 increased 24 percent compared to June, 188 percent as compared to July 2013, and 109 percent compared to the most recent five-year average.

    In Honduras, local producers rejected the request made by the agribusiness sector to import 30,000 tons of duty-free rice. While rice processing plants point to the lack of supply and have requested authorization for duty-free imports, producers deny any such lack of supply, stating that national demand can be met by locally produced rice or rice imported within the framework of the DR-CAFTA import quota.

    Wholesale prices of red beans in the San Salvador market during the month of July 2014 increased 33 percent over the preceding month, 174 percent as compared to July 2013, and 69 percent as compared to the most recent five-year average.

    Due to speculation on the price of red beans, on July 4th the Salvadoran government ordered the establishment of a tariff contingent (zero tariff) on the importation of 9,000 MT of red beans, with the stipulation that all duty-free imports be distributed for internal consumption. In addition to its approval of the import tariff contingent, the government will keep its restrictions on exports in effect through November 15.

    During the third week of August, the first imports of white maize (11,500 MT) were introduced into San Salvador from the United States, along with 450 MT of red beans from Ethiopia.

    As a result of local production losses, the Nicaraguan government authorized an increase in the volumes of duty-free imports of red beans, rice and maize for the second half of the year. The importation of 10,000 additional tons of red beans was authorized — over and above the 20,000 tons approved in June. In the case of rice, the amounts will be identified and agreed upon by farmers and commercial enterprises, based on tariff contingent procedures.

    In Nicaragua, the government continued to distribute beans under its Frijol Solidario program in the poorest neighborhoods of the country’s primary cities, at a price of 16 córdobas per pound (prices in the market are in excess of 30 córdobas).

    Food Security Interventions

    In view of the production losses affecting basic grains crops in most areas of Nicaragua due to rain deficits, the government is moving forward with distribution of school lunches as a strategy that will reach 1,050,000 children in all of the country’s schools.

    Regional Outcomes Projected through December 2014

    In all countries of the region, as of mid-August the prices of red beans reflect a tendency toward stabilization, attributable to the decrease in prices initially observed in markets operating in production areas, and the flows of grain from the recent harvest of Primera season crops. These factors are complemented by controls put in place in order to constrain speculative practices of traders.                      

    In El Salvador, the coffee rust infestation identified in July in the Apaneca-Ilamatepeca mountain range area and the irregular rainfall occurring at the end of the season (September through November) provide the basis for projections of conditions that could further spread coffee rust infestations. Estimations indicate that the increase might occur primarily in regions where poor farm management is widespread, without investment in rust-resistant plants, resulting in increased unemployment during the coffee harvest.

    The ENSO forecast published by the International Research Institute (IRI) as of August 21 indicates a 56 percent likelihood of El Niño conditions for the September-November period. This could lead to lower than normal rainfall, primarily in the region’s dry corridor and the Pacific watershed, causing losses to basic grain crops planted in the Postrera crop cycle. This would impact primarily on the prices of red beans in all three countries, given that Postrera crops account for the greatest percentage of production during the year.

    Due to the damages caused to Primera season crops and the increase in prices, primarily of red beans, poor households will have difficulty in satisfying their needs between the Primera crop harvest (September) and the harvest of Postrera crops (November/December 2014). Accordingly, all three remotely monitored countries (El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Figures Figure 2.Start of season anomaly, for the Postrera season, August 10-15, 2014

    Figure 1

    Figure 2.

    Source: USGS / FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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