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Near-average staple grain harvests for the Postrera growing season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • December 2017
Near-average staple grain harvests for the Postrera growing season

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  • Key Messages
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Key Messages
    • The good spatial-temporal distribution of rainfall in both 2017 growing seasons (the Primera and Postrera) contributed to the best staple grain harvests in several years by farmers in the region’s Dry Corridor. With their grain reserves from these harvests and the employment opportunities in agro-processing industries for coffee, sugar, tobacco, and market garden produce, households in Dry Corridor areas should experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity for the entire outlook period.

    • The worst-off households with little if any crop production from this growing season and for several consecutive years due to rainfall anomalies will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the outlook period. Most of these households are concentrated in southern and southwestern Honduras, eastern and western El Salvador, and parts of northern and central Nicaragua.

    • The reportedly high rainfall rates between September and November affected crops in highly localized crop-producing areas across the region, producing delays and, in some cases, requiring the replanting of crops. The hardest hit households lost their crops to pests and diseases as a result of the excessive rainfall. The areas reporting the most damage are crop-producing areas in valleys, along the banks of rivers, and in coastal areas of Honduras and Nicaragua.

    • The current La Niña conditions expected to extend through the second quarter of 2018 (April through June) should help ensure the good progress of Apante/Postrera Tardía crops, though they also pose a risk of crop damage from excessive rainfall in certain parts of the region.


    The above-average rainfall activity during the developmental and harvesting stages of Postrera crops in major crop-producing areas of Central America (Figure 1) was conducive to good crop growth and development. However, while there is still no official data available, it is possible that the excessive rainfall may have affected bean production in certain localized areas. Current rainfall conditions bode well for the planting of Apante/Postrera Tardía crops, mainly in Atlantic Coast areas of Nicaragua and Honduras. 

    The model-based IRI/CPC consensus forecast predicts the extension of current La Niña conditions through the second quarter (April through June) of 2018. Based on this forecast, there is a high likelihood that harvests of Apante/Postrera Tardía crops for the 2017/2018 crop year will meet current expectations exceeding the historical average, particularly in the case of bean production in Nicaragua and Honduras. 


    As of November 2017, maize prices on markets in the capitals of all three countries were decreasing in line with normal seasonal trends, driven by the harvest of Postrera crops and the surplus from the harvest for the Primera growing season (Figure 2). Bean prices are moving in the opposite direction, particularly in Honduras and Nicaragua, with positive inter-annual variation rates of 21 and 36 percent, respectively, compared with the negative inter-annual variation rate of -9 percent in El Salvador.

    The positive trends in bean prices in Honduras and Nicaragua are attributed to market speculation fueled by the prolongation of the harvest with the delay in crop planting activities and by the potential impact on the harvest of the increased rainfall activity in October and November. However, only in Nicaragua did movements in bean prices drive them above the five-year average by six percent.


    Staple grain production

    According to the latest agro-meteorological bulletin, the excessive rainfall hindering the performance of land preparation work and crop planting activities delayed the harvest of Postrera crops in the country’s western zone. Crops in the Valle del Aguán area were affected by the high rates of rainfall during their developmental stage. Approximately 20 percent of the area planted in crops in the country’s western zone was affected by the excessive rainfall activity reported in that area. Harvests were expected to get underway by the end of November or the beginning of December.

    Consultations with local representatives reinforce expectations that staple grain production for the current growing season will outstrip the five-year average in spite of the damage caused by the excessive rainfall activity in certain crop-producing areas. However, the December rains in certain northern and eastern areas of the country may have damaged bean crops in the course of the harvest.

    With the unstable political climate in the wake of the recent election, grain markets are beginning to feel the effects of the travel restrictions on major arteries connecting the different parts of the country and the decision by carriers to refrain from shipping crops due to the risk of losing their cargo. This has slowed the flow of crops to local markets, driving up prices in the middle of the harvest season.

    The analysis of the current status of staple grain production in Honduras by the Honduran Private Enterprise Council (Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada) estimates bean production at 3.0 million quintals, 200,000 quintals (7.1 percent) more than last season. This figure was bolstered by the government strategy for promoting bean production through a production and marketing agreement between farmers and the Honduran Crop Marketing Agency (the IHMA or Instituto Hondureño de Mercadeo Agrícola) setting a support price of HNL 1,000 per quintal. However, this production target will most likely not be met due to the reported flooding problems across the country.

    Coffee sector

    Production forecasts based on data compiled by the PROMECAFE/FEWS NET Coffee Network put coffee production for the 2017/2018 season at 10.7 million quintals. Exports to date come to 647,030 46-kg bags of coffee, which is a gain of 16 percent compared with the figure of 559,680 bags as of the same time in 2016/2017. However, this year’s exports are valued at USD 76.7 million, three percent less than the USD 78.7 million in exports by this time in the 2016/2017 season. The average price of coffee exports to date is USD 118.67, down by 16 percent from the average of USD 140.76 in 2016/2017.

    According to IHCAFE Statistics Bulletin No.8, the neutral climatic conditions and normal rainy season between June and August triggered a surge in the incidence of coffee rust disease in all coffee-growing areas. However, infestation rates for susceptible coffee varieties dropped in the month of September due, mainly, to the chemical control of the disease in these varieties in the country’s various coffee-growing areas. There was a slight rise in nationwide infestation rates for both susceptible and rust-resistant varieties in the month of October to 4.9 percent in the case of susceptible coffee varieties and to 1.45 percent for resistant varieties. The departments with infestation rates above the national average are Santa Bárbara, Comayagua, Cortez, and Yoro.

    The coffee harvest is currently at its height. This will continue to be the case through the month of January. However, harvesting activities have been affected by rain and sudden drops in temperature in certain cases and in certain specific areas and by the labor shortage created by the higher demand for workers in the harvest with the larger crop-producing areas and the uncertainty produced by the unstable political climate since the recent election.

    Food security outlook

    Subsistence farming households with fewer reserves of home-grown crops to meet their food consumption needs for the last three years purportedly now have several months’ worth of household food reserves as a result of the good distribution of rainfall during the 2017 Primera and Postrera growing seasons. With the alleged improvement in their food security situation, these households are believed to be experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.

    However, many poor households within the Dry Corridor affected by the poor distribution of rainfall and outbreaks of crop pests and diseases over the past four or more years have resorted to strategies such as borrowing and changing their livelihoods in order to meet their basic needs. Some of these households prevented from planting any staple grain crops for either 2017 growing season by a lack of investment capital (for seeds, fertilizer, hired labor, etc.) will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity, with difficulty meeting their basic nonfood needs and maintaining adequate food consumption. Most of these households are in communities in the southern and southwestern part of the country in livelihood zones 7 and 5.

    El Salvador

    Staple grain production

    Extra-official data based on the Survey of Expectations for Staple Grain Crops puts grain production above the record production forecast, estimating total national staple grain production at 26.5 million quintals. This breaks down into 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. Current grain prices on markets across the country are stable and trending downwards, suggesting that mid-year production expectations have been met.

    Coffee sector

    According to the findings by the survey of coffee harvest forecasts for the 2017/2018 season, the country will have a 22.2 percent larger harvest than in 2016/2017, estimated at 1.03 million quintals of coffee. Final export figures for the 2016/2017 harvest put coffee exports at 668,937 quintals, marketed at an average sales price of USD 175.98 per quintal. 

    The government has presented the legislature with a draft Coffee Recovery Act designed to redirect funding into strengthening the production capacity of the country’s coffee industry by purchasing new coffee plants and supporting the Special Trust Fund for the Agricultural Sector (Fideicomiso Especial del Sector Agropecuario).

    Migration and remittances

    The Central American countries with citizens in the United States currently holding temporary protected status (TPS) are El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. El Salvador has the largest number of migrants holding this status, at 195,000. Of these TPS holders, 92 percent send remittances back home to their country, which amounted to an estimated USD 640 million in 2017. The temporary protected status accorded Salvadoran migrants will expire at the beginning of March 2018, which is expected to have socioeconomic ramifications.

    According to Migration Bureau (Dirección General de Migración) records, as of November 17, 2017, there were 14,170 Salvadoran returnees from the United States, 10,079 Salvadoran returnees from Mexico, and 45 returnees from other countries. This is a 46 percent drop from the same time in 2016. 

    Food security outlook

    The higher yields from the staple grain crops of subsistence farming households with the good distribution of rainfall in both growing seasons (the Primera and Postrera growing seasons) and better temporary employment opportunities in coffee-growing and other agricultural activities have helped improve the food security situation of many poor farming households and households of day laborers in eastern and western Dry Corridor areas of El Salvador, enabling them to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. However, households in highly localized areas whose harvests for both growing seasons were affected by rainfall anomalies (rainfall deficits or excessive rainfall) and landless households with limited job opportunities in certain areas due to the slow recovery of coffee-growing activities could remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity after depleting their reserves of crops and income from the coffee harvest. However, since the numbers of these households will not exceed the required 20 percent threshold for reclassifying these areas, food insecurity levels across the country will continue to be classified as Minimal (IPC Phase 1) throughout the outlook period.


    Staple grain production

    Consultations with local informants suggest that staple grain crops in certain highly localized areas may have suffered damage from excessive rainfall and from the same rainfall anomalies delaying crop planting activities in other areas.

    Market prices for beans have reportedly risen. However, these price increases are being attributed to market speculation driven by the large rain-induced losses, although prices are expected to come back down at the end of December with the conclusion of the grain harvest.

    Employment and remittances

    There were USD 355.6 million in remittances injected into the Nicaraguan economy in the third quarter of 2017, 13.6 percent more than in the same quarter of 2016 (USD 312.9 million), extending the positive trend in the influx of remittances since 2010. Migrant remittances accounted for 10.2 percent of the estimated value of GDP for the third quarter of the year, serving as an important source of foreign exchange income for Nicaragua. The cumulative value of migrant remittances as of September 2017 was USD 1,019,600,000, up by 10.6 percent from the figure for 2016.

    Coffee sector

    The incidence of coffee rust disease as of mid-November was estimated at 7.1 percent, putting it up slightly from the previous month (6.1 percent). Incidence rates in Carazo, Managua, and Masaya departments are above the warning level (10 percent). The breakdown of rust infestation rates by coffee variety is as follows: Pacas (10.1 percent); Caturra (9.5 percent); Mezcla (6.5 percent); Catimores (4.0 percent); and Robusta (3.3 percent). The highest infestation rates were reportedly in areas at altitudes of less than 1000 meters above sea level. The hardest hit varieties are Arabica coffee varieties, mainly in the Pacific Coast area of Nicaragua, where the average infestation rate is 8.4 percent.

    There is a shortage of labor for the coffee harvest. One of the main contributing factors is the flow of migration to Costa Rica, where migrant workers earn higher wages and enjoy better living conditions on the coffee plantations. There are also reportedly stricter controls by the police and the military in coffee-growing areas designed to prevent coffee from being smuggled in from Honduras.

    According to the Association of Coffee Exporters (Asociación de Exportadores de Café, or Excan), figures at the close of the 2016/2017 growing season in August put exports at 2.85 million quintals, meeting expectations. This recovery is attributed to the new coffee production in areas that were rehabilitated four years ago.

    Food security outlook

    Small-scale staple grain farmers (growing maize, beans, and sorghum) in the country’s Northern Pacific and Northwestern regions in communities within livelihood zones 3 and 12 whose Primera and Postrera crops have been repeatedly affected by rainfall anomalies have had better crop yields for this growing season. Accordingly, as of November, food insecurity has improved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as a result of their larger harvests of Primera crops and better temporary employment opportunities, fueled by the demand for labor in the coffee harvest and other agro-processing industries.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: USGS/UCSB - CHIRPS

    Precios mayorista de maiz y frijol en mercados de los capitales de cada pais

    Figure 2

    Precios mayorista de maiz y frijol en mercados de los capitales de cada pais

    Source: Entes oficiales de cada pais

    Figure 3

    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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