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Postrera harvests improve food access for poor households

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • December 2015
Postrera harvests improve food access for poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal progress
  • Staple food markets
  • Food-insecure population
  • Coffee sector
  • Projected regional outlook through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • Due to the ongoing El Niño, cumulative rainfall in the Atlantic basin of Nicaragua and Honduras is expected to be below-average during the first quarter of 2016, which could have an adverse impact on the production of red beans during the Apante/Postrera Tardía season.

    • Most poor subsistence farming households and households of day laborers in the Dry Corridor in southwestern Honduras, eastern El Salvador, and northwestern Nicaragua will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from December through February, with a seasonal improvement in food access driven by Postrera harvests, employment opportunities in the recovering coffee sector, stable prices for staple foods, and ongoing food assistance programs.

    • Due to Primera maize losses of up to 100 percent for subsistence producers in the Dry Corridor, the erosion of livelihoods after consecutive production losses in recent years, and the expected impact of below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures during the first quarter of 2016, the poorest households in these areas are likely to enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in March 2016, in the absence of assistance.






    Subsistence farmers in areas within the Dry Corridor do not have households maize reserves, which is unusual for this time of year.

    The excess rainfall in October and November, primarily in El Salvador and Honduras, may have caused damage to coffee production, including the generation of the necessary conditions for an expansion of the coffee rust outbreak, particularly on inadequately maintained coffee farms.





    Climate models predict below-average cumulative rainfall in the Atlantic basin of Honduras and Nicaragua during the first quarter of 2016, which could affect Postrera Tardía and Apante crops.

    The possible damage to Apante crops, mainly in Nicaragua, would trigger market speculation and an increase in prices for beans, which would remain high until Primera harvests in August 2016.

    Higher temperatures and stronger winds could fuel forest fires during the summer season, which is just getting underway.

    Seasonal progress

    Nicaragua: Through the Crisol program of the Ministry of Household, Community, Cooperative, and Organizational Economics (MEFCCA), the cultivation of staples was supported during the Postrera season by providing financing for small-scale farmers applying to the National Production, Consumption, and Trade Network for extensions on their loans and for additional credit for the planting of Apante crops, leading to improved production prospects.

    In response to rainfall deficits in recent years, a number of farmers’ organizations have diversified their rainfed farming activities, planting crops requiring less water such as millet or sorghum and sesame (Sesamum indicum). However, contrary to weather forecasts, the pattern of rainfall reversed itself during the sowing season for Postrera crops, with excessive rainfall in September and November, causing some losses in these crops.

    El Salvador: Meteorological forecasts are predicting anomalies in mean temperature in each month of the dry season, with the possibility of extreme high temperatures, particularly on very hazy days. Supplies of surface and underground water resources are expected to be sharply reduced during the dry season, mainly in the eastern part of the country.

    The dry season (between February and April 2016) is expected to be hotter than usual. The month of April 2015 was marked by record high temperatures across the country (averaging 91 – 97 degrees Fahrenheit) and 2016 is expected to be as hot if not hotter, possibly breaking the historical records set in 2015 at certain locations (108 degrees at Puente Cuscatlán; 95 degrees in Ilopango, San Salvador; 107 degrees in La Hachadura, Ahuachapán; and 101 degrees in Nueva Concepción, Chalatenango).

    The Climate Outlook Forum for Mesoamerica, Dominican Republic, and Cuba for the period from December 2015 through March 2016, held on November 18th and 19th, reached a consensus for the “regional climate outlook,” indicating below-average rainfall in parts of the Atlantic basin of Honduras and Nicaragua, which could affect Postrera Tardía and Apante production areas.

    While forecasts for El Salvador indicate normal cumulative rainfall, staple production areas of Olancho, Colon, Gracias a Dios, Atlántida, and Yoro Departments in Honduras are expected to receive below-normal rainfall, and forecasts for Nicaragua are indicating below-normal cumulative rainfall in the eastern parts of the Northern and Central regions, as well as the North and South Autonomous Atlantic Regions.

    Staple food markets

    The Honduran government is promoting the marketing of red beans through the National Marketing Board (Instituto Hondureño de Mercado), buying 20,000 quintals at a set support price of HNL 1,000 to help bring the national grain reserve to its target level of 150,000 quintals for subsequent distribution as part of its market supply and stabilization program.

    The government issued a decree (“Acuerdo Gubernativo”) which fixes the prices of selected commodities in an effort to prevent market speculation, particularly during the year-end holiday season. The commodities in question include staples such as maize, beans, and rice.

    The Producers and Exporters Association of Nicaragua has concerns with respect to the supply of beans to meet both domestic and export demand, given the impact of weather anomalies on bean production. Thus, the association is working with the government on the implementation of appropriate strategies, including seed varieties to improve production under adverse weather conditions.

    According to price records and official government press releases, market prices for staple crops (maize, beans, and rice) are stable, with future price expectations contingent on the impact of weather patterns on Apante crops in the first quarter of 2016.

    Food-insecure population

    Honduras: The WFP will provide food assistance to 3,600 households in the south affected by the 2015 drought, with USD 500,000 in support from the Japanese government.

    There were reports of floods in a number of communities in Colón and Atlántida Departments in the northern part of the country at the beginning of December, caused mainly by the overflowing of the Lean, Lancetilla, and San Alejo rivers.

    El Salvador: According to information from the Ministry of Agriculture, a delivery of food assistance for 42,847 drought-affected households, concentrated mainly in the Dry Corridor and other areas affected by the 2015 drought and other weather anomalies over the previous four years, was scheduled for the first half of December. This intervention was to be carried out in conjunction with the National Food Security Council (CONASAN), the National Agricultural Technology Center (CENTA), and departmental governments, based on a jointly established list of recipients.

    Beginning in October, the Red Cross made seven deliveries of food assistance to drought-affected households in different strategic locations, providing food rations to approximately 1,000 households (30 pounds of beans, 30 pounds of cornmeal, 20 pounds of rice, two pounds of sugar, 22 pounds of Incaparina and a gallon of oil).

    The government will recondition wells in Irrigation and Drainage District N° 1 (Zapotitán) in an effort to jump-start crop production in general and staple production in particular, to which end it is planning to purchase eight new pumps early in 2016. This district has a potential area of 3,200 hectares of land suitable for irrigation with underground water from 22 deep pumping wells.

    According to WFP, the impact of this year’s crop losses, in addition to four consecutive years of adversely impacted harvests, may have added to the size of the food-insecure population as established by the assessment in mid-2015, according to which 37 percent of drought-affected farmers and 58 percent of day laborers in the coffee sector were buying their food supplies on credit or asking for loans and, for the first time, two percent of this same population had resorted to begging.

    Nicaragua: The government made a third delivery of food rations to drought-affected populations in the Dry Corridor, consisting of 10 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of beans, five pounds of maize, two pounds of salt, and a liter of oil to supplement the diets of especially vulnerable households in the worst affected municipalities.

    Although the government is implementing its assistance plan for drought-stricken households in the Dry Corridor, religious organizations are still calling for the declaration of a state of emergency in these areas so that they can receive international cooperation funding. Donations of food supplies by non-governmental organizations have helped provide assistance to some of these areas.


    Coffee sector

    Honduras: Projections by the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE) put coffee exports for the 2015/2016 season at 7.2 million bags (46 kg), up 11 percent from the previous season as a result of the recovery of coffee plantations damaged by coffee rust, as well as productivity gains. Closing figures for the 2014/2015 season (as of 9/18/2015) put total exports from that harvest at 6.53 million bags of coffee (46 kg), 20 percent above the figure for the previous season.

    In August, measurements of the extent of coffee rust indicated that certain coffee-producing areas of Copán and Francisco Morazán Departments had prevalence of 21 and 17 percent, respectively. With the increase in rainfall in October and November, prevalence of coffee rust and affected area could increase, which would be reflected in the outcome of harvests between November and March.

    El Salvador: Although there are no precise estimates of losses, according to CENTA/CAFÉ the dry period between May and July affected the planting of new seedlings. In addition, the excessive rainfall between September and November caused ripe coffee cherries to fall to the ground, mainly in areas planted with Bourbon cultivars, which were in a more advanced maturation stage at that time. These weather phenomena will affect the projected production figure for this season (2015/2016), which is officially estimated at 998,000 bags of coffee, an eight percent increase from last season. The price paid to coffee producers is at an eight-year low, or USD 76.75 per bag of green coffee, the equivalent of 500 pounds of ripe coffee cherries.

    The recovery program for the coffee sector continues, with the establishment of new plantations with improved rust-resistant varieties following the distribution of 7.4 million coffee plants in 2015. Plans for 2016 call for the distribution of another 8.5 million coffee plants for the repopulation of 15 percent of coffee-producing areas across the country by the time the current administration leaves office. Rust monitoring data as of October 2015 puts the nationwide incidence rate at eight percent. However, this figure has risen since October with the high levels of rainfall in the past three months, although the exact impact has yet to be determined.

    Nicaragua: November 14th marked the official beginning of the 2015/2016 coffee harvest in Nicaragua. Estimates by the National Coffee Council (CONACAFE) put nationwide production approximately nine percent above the figure for last season, with production growing from 2.3 million quintals to 2.5 million quintals.


    Projected regional outlook through March 2016

    Subsistence farmers in the Dry Corridor of Central America were severely affected by losses of Primera crops. Most of these farmers grow maize, which they then consume over a period of several months. They will have no maize stocks for the first eight months of 2016 to help meet household food needs, until the next harvest begins in August 2016. Thus, affected households will depend on income from the sale of assets, wage labor, or harvests of Postrera and/or Apante crops. Rainfall anomalies during the 2015 rainy season (including both rainfall deficits and excessive rains) also affected other agricultural activities (involving crops such as peanuts, sugar cane, bananas, citrus fruits, and cattle), impacting employment across the region. At the same time, the coffee sector is recovering to varying degrees in each country, which will contribute to the generation of employment opportunities.

    Contrary to seasonal forecasts, good distribution of rainfall beginning in the second half of September facilitated the development of Postrera crops, consisting primarily of beans throughout the region. Primera season losses in all three countries triggered the implementation of food assistance programs, which have temporarily mitigated food security outcomes.

    Based on the most likely scenario, households of small-scale staple producers and coffee growers concentrated mainly in the Dry Corridor, as well as households dependent on wage income from day labor in agricultural activities in southern and western Honduras, households in eastern and mountainous coffee-growing areas of El Salvador, and farming households in northwestern Nicaragua are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in December 2015 and January 2016, due to the availability of Postrera crops and employment opportunities in the coffee harvest, as well as stable prices for staples and food assistance programs. However, with their livelihoods eroded by repeated shocks in the past few years including crop losses, these households could reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in March, due to a lack of household food reserves, the depletion of their earnings from the coffee harvest, and the likely impact of a period that is expected to be drier and hotter than normal.

    Figures Climate Outlook for Mesoamerica, December 2015 - March 2016

    Figure 1

    Climate Outlook for Mesoamerica, December 2015 - March 2016


    Figure 2

    Honduras: Staple foods established prices


    Trends in wholesale staple prices across the region

    Figure 3

    Trends in wholesale staple prices across the region

    Source: Honduras and Nicaragua: SIMPHA; El Salvador: MAG Agricultural Statistics

    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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