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Primera crops develop normally with the good spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • August 2017
Primera crops develop normally with the good spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall

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  • Key Messages
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Key Messages
    • In spite of the below-average levels of cumulative rainfall for the Primera growing season in parts of southern Honduras, El Salvador, and northeastern Nicaragua, the regular distribution of rainfall and lack of an extended canicula (break in the rains) have allowed staple grain crops in practically all parts of the region to develop normally. This includes staple grain crops of small farmers in Dry Corridor areas plagued by poor crop production for the past several years.

    • The incidence rate for coffee rust disease is the lowest it has been since the initial rust outbreak in 2012. However, coffee production and job creation rates in El Salvador and Nicaragua have not fully recovered due to the impact of the rust fungus over a period of several years and the low price of coffee during that same time, limiting incentives for investment in that sector. There is also the risk of a new surge in rust infestation rates between now and the end of the year with climatic conditions that are conducive for the proliferation of the rust fungus.

    • The food security situation for most populations in the three regional countries currently experiencing food insecurity is expected to improve by September with the harvest of Primera crops. In addition to the harvest, seasonal expansion in employment opportunities and sources of income is expected and most households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. However, households especially hard hit by crop losses over the past several years, mainly in southern and southwestern Honduras, will most likely continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes for the entire outlook period.


    In spite of the below-normal levels of cumulative rainfall for the Primera growing season in certain parts of the region lying within the Dry Corridor, there was a regular spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall across the region. In addition, there was a short canicula (break in the rains), with no damage to Primera crops. Thus, there should be normal or larger than usual staple grain harvests for the Primera growing season, even in the most arid areas with degraded soils in what is commonly referred to as the Central American Dry Corridor.

    Based on forecasts by the Fifty-Third Central American Climate Outlook Forum, cumulative rainfall totals for the period from August through October 2017 in all three countries will likely be close to the historical average, except in the Autonomous South Atlantic Region (RAAS) of Nicaragua where the most likely scenario is for below-normal levels of cumulative rainfall. According to current forecasts, the expected pattern of rainfall will help facilitate the planting and good vegetative growth and development of Postrera crops throughout the region. However, in spite of the good rainfall outlook, there are some reservations with respect to the potential impact on crops of excessive moisture promoting the proliferation of crop pests or diseases.

    The analysis by the NOAA’s CPC and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) shows neutral conditions in the ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) cycle, with a high likelihood of the extension of ENSO-neutral conditions through at least the end of 2017.


    Maize prices on all major reference markets are down from last year and below the five-year average (Figure 2). Households plagued by acute food insecurity in recent years lack the capacity to produce a good maize crop to meet their food needs throughout the year. However, the low price of maize is helping to enable even the poorest households to purchase it on the market. This price behavior suggests that there are sufficiently large maize inventories in the region and points to a possible region-wide downward shift in the price curve with the harvest of Primera crops beginning in August.

    Trends in red bean prices are mixed. Prices in Honduras and El Salvador have been stable since the month of June, while prices in Nicaragua ae up by 14 percent from last month. This time of year is marked by major price increases all across the region, in line with seasonal trends in bean production. However, this year’s seasonal rises in prices have been moderate, most likely, due to existing inventories.


    Staple grain production

    According to observations made as part of the field survey conducted by FEWS NET in the second week of August in the northwestern and eastern parts of the country and corroborated by government agencies and local farmers, staple grain crops for the Primera growing season are doing well. Harvests are expected to be within or above normal range and larger than in the last four years. Maize and bean crops grown in areas at elevations of less than 800 meters above sea level have already reached physiological maturity and bean crops are even already in the harvesting (picking and drying) stage.

    Coffee sector

    According to the rust monitoring system established by the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE), movements in the national incidence rate for coffee rust disease in susceptible varieties stayed within the “Blue Alert” range throughout this past quarter of 2017, putting it at its lowest levels of the year, though trending slightly upwards. The highest incidence rates for the month of July were in Cortez, Santa Bárbara, and Comayagua departments. The rust-prone coffee varieties with the highest incidence rates are Caturra, Bourbon, and Villa Sarchi, with the lowest rates associated with the Lempira and Pacamara varieties. 

    In general, with environmental conditions during this past quarter believed to have been conducive to the development of the rust fungus, incidence rates are expected to rise during the maturation stage of coffee plants and at the beginning of the harvest, which normally takes place in the last quarter of the year (October/December).

    The August 17, 2017 edition of the statistical bulletin published by IHCAFE puts coffee exports to date at 9,035,485 46-kg bags, up 41 percent from the reported 6,408,972 bags of coffee exports at the same time in the 2015-2016 season. These exports are valued at USD 1,271,800,000, 57 percent above the figure of USD 807 million reported at the same time in 2015-2016. The average export price to date is USD 140.76, compared with the average of USD 125.93 at the same time in 2015-2016, which is a 12 percent gain.

    Food security outlook 

    Most poor households meeting part of their food consumption needs with home-grown staple grain corps will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity with the improvement in their situation from their expected average to above-average harvests beginning in August. However, many of these households with little crop production in 2016 due to crop pests and the irregular distribution of rainfall may continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes even after their harvests, making spending on nonfood needs somewhat problematic. The majority of these households are in communities lying within the Dry Corridor (in the south and southwest) in livelihood zones 7 and 5. A small group of households may continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions due to a shortage of seeds, in some cases, preventing the planting of Primera crops, or even to localized crop losses from severe damage by pests such as white grubs, fall armyworms, or aphids and their accrued debts over the past few years, necessitated by their poor if any crop production and limited employment opportunities. In addition, the cost of basic services (health, education, water, etc.) for households in these areas is generally relatively high, which limits their amount of disposable cash income for the purchasing of food supplies.

    El Salvador

    Staple grain production

    This year’s Harvest Forecast Survey of Staple Grain Crops by the Ministry of Agriculture estimates the size of the harvest at approximately 26.5 million quintals, which puts it above the production figure for 2016. The 2017-2018 harvest is expected to produce an estimated 20.5 million quintals of maize, 2.7 million quintals of beans, 2.7 million quintals of sorghum, and 563,649 quintals of rice. The government is expecting this volume of production to have an effect on price stability, as well as on demand for labor and other goods and services.

    The government is delivering farm input packages for the growing of bean crops for the 2017 Postrera season to 20 warehouse facilities scattered across the country’s four regions providing 25 pounds of improved CENTA Pipil and CENTA San Andrés seeds with the capacity to produce a quarter of a “manzana” (approximately 0.175 hectares of beans). So far, it has delivered 390,700 packages of improved maize seeds and fertilizer (close to 90 percent of the total) as part of its Farm Input Packages program.

    Coffee sector

    The government is continuing to work with organizations of coffee nursery operators across the country guaranteeing the production of good-quality coffee plants in an endeavor to revive coffee-growing activities. The Ministry reaffirmed having spent a total of USD 764,496 on coffee plants in Ahuachapán department, distributing 1,887,290 healthy plants as of the month of August in a coordinated effort with its Technical Coffee Service (Dirección Técnica del Café) and Plant Health Service (Dirección de Sanidad Vegetal), ensuring that the plants are free of soil parasites and are fungus and disease-free.

    According to statistical data compiled by the National Coffee Council (Consejo Nacional del Café), the national coffee industry is on the road to recovery. This data puts coffee production as of April 30th at 835,010 quintals, three percent above the average production figure for the last four years.


    Remittance records maintained by the Central Bank of El Salvador put income from family remittances for the period from January through July 2017 at USD 2,873,100,000, which is 10.7 percent above the value of incoming remittances for the same period last year. During this time, there were remittances from 146t countries across the globe. Remittances from the United States came to USD 2,684,500,000, accounting for 97.3 percent of the total. Remittances from Canada amounted to USD 24.4 million (0.9 percent), which is comparable to the value of remittances from the European Union, namely USD 23.7 million (0.9 percent). Remittances for the month of July totaled USD 418.9 million, USD 45.5 million (12.2 percent) more than the figure for July of 2016. According to Central Bank data, the five departments with the largest influx of remittances in the first seven months of 2017 were San Salvador (20.1 percent), San Miguel (12.5 percent), La Unión (8.6 percent), Santa Ana (8.3 percent), and La Libertad (7.9 percent).

    Food security outlook

    The good distribution of rainfall and seasonal expansion in employment opportunities and increase in economic income as of October will enable many poor farming households in the Dry Corridor in eastern and western El Salvador to produce good harvests and improve their situation, at which point they will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. However, households especially hard hit by poor harvests and limited job opportunities such as those of landless peasants in mountain coffee-growing areas could remain in the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity after the harvest of Primera crops, until the beginning of the coffee harvest. Nevertheless, since the numbers of these households will not exceed the 20 percent threshold in any area, the severity of food insecurity across the country will continue to be classified as Minimal (IPC Phase 1) throughout the outlook period.


    Staple grain production

    Based on the pattern of rainfall between May and August and local reports, there is a high likelihood that expectations for the 2017/2018 Production, Consumption, and Trade Plan crafted by the government and Nicaraguan production chains will be exceeded. The field assessment in the second week of August found evidence that crop production will be within normal range. Maize and bean crops in certain crop-producing areas are in the flowering and early harvesting stages. In general, there is a great deal of optimism inspired by the good harvests of Primera crops and the expected production surplus for the current growing season. However, there are also concerns over the falling market prices of crops, which could drop below corresponding production costs.

    Employment and remittances

    The press release by the Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN) talks about the labor market statistics (on jobs and wages) for the month of June published on August 11, 2017 showing 921,102 workers enrolled in the National Social Security Institute (INSS) as of the month of June according to INSS records, which is seven percent more than in the same month last year. The business sectors with the highest inter-annual growth rates were: mining and quarrying (at 15.8 percent); trade, hotels, and restaurants (at 14.3 percent); electricity, gas, and water (at 11.1 percent); agriculture, forestry, hunting, and fishing (at 10.0 percent); and construction (at 8.2 percent). The average nominal wage earned by workers enrolled in the INSS was reportedly 9,771.3 córdobas (NIO), representing an inter-annual increase of 5.6 percent. The inter-annual increase in average real wages was 2.5 percent, putting this wage figure at 4,583.4 2006 córdobas.

    Coffee sector

    The field assessment conducted in the second week of August showed coffee growers optimistic over the upcoming coffee harvest, at which time there was no evidence of a high incidence of rust disease. Export records put exports above figures for last season, which, together with prospects for developing new markets for the sale of coffee crops and the recovery of international coffee prices, points to a positive scenario implying higher incomes for small coffee growers and temporary migrant workers.

    Export records maintained by the Export Processing Center (CENTREX) put coffee exports for the period from October 2016 through July 31, 2017 at 2,585,881 quintals, which is 18 percent more than the volume of exports at the same time last season (2,197,523 quintals).

    Food security outlook

    Small-scale staple grain farmers (growing maize, beans, and sorghum) in northern Pacific and northwestern areas of the country in communities within livelihood zones 3 and 12 affected by the last poor growing season and, thus, living on limited food reserves are expected to overcome their currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security situation and experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity as of September with their better harvests for the Primera growing season and growing temporary employment opportunities with the demand for labor in the coffee harvest and other agro-processing industries.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: Market information system data from each country

    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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