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Households in Crisis in the absence of assistance

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • February 2016
Households in Crisis in the absence of assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Outlook
  • Regional Staple Grain Markets
  • Humanitarian Assistance
  • Coffee Sector
  • Projected Regional Outlook through September 2016
  • Key Messages
    • The poorest subsistence farming households and households most severely affected by the coffee rust outbreak in southwestern Honduras, eastern El Salvador, and northwestern Nicaragua are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between March and August due to Primera crop damages from El Niño-related severe drought conditions. The worst-off households have no staple grain reserves at a time when staple food prices are rising and supplies of wild plant foods and on-farm employment opportunities are at seasonal lows. 

    • The Honduran and Nicaraguan coffee sectors have both reported some growth, with Honduras showing the strongest signs of recovery. This expansion has created more employment opportunities compared to the past two years. However, international coffee prices fell by more than 30 percent between October 2014 and the beginning of this season, affecting the incomes of small coffee growers and day laborers. El Salvador’s coffee sector is still affected by the coffee rust outbreak and weather anomalies, which may lead to reduced production this season.







    • Anomalies in rainfall distribution are stressing crops in the flowering and pod filling stages, which will lead to reduced Apante crop yields.
    • Many subsistence farmers in parts of the Dry Corridor have no maize stocks and are therefore facing an earlier-than-usual lean season.



    • According to the forecast by the Climate Outlook Forum, the rainy season could have an erratic start, jeopardizing the growth and development of staple grain crops during the Primera growing season.
    • The extended dry periods and higher temperatures are lowering water table levels and reducing groundwater recharge, limiting water sources for human consumption, farming and livestock-raising activities.  
    • The expected damage to Apante crops, mainly in Nicaragua, is fueling market speculation that will drive up bean prices and keep them elevated until the harvest of Primera crops.


    Seasonal Outlook

    Although sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific region still reflect strong El Niño conditions, this phenomenon is starting to weaken and there should be a return to neutral conditions by the middle of the year. However, sea surface temperatures will stay higher than usual during the early stages of the Primera growing season in April/May, which heightens the risk of anomalies rainfall distribution.

    The weather forecast for March/April 2016 from the Climate Outlook Forum shows below-normal levels of rainfall in Caribbean areas of Nicaragua and the central reaches of Honduras and El Salvador. It also predicts an erratic start to the rainy season, particularly in southern Mexico and northern Central America.

    According to the INETER, the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, 2016 will be even hotter than 2015, which was the warmest year in the last decade. These are the hottest months and after two years of very little rain, environmental conditions are conducive to widespread fires.

    Regional Staple Grain Markets

    In general, staple grain prices on major markets have been following a similar pattern in all regional countries. Maize prices began increasing in January, though at a moderate pace. National stocks are presumably starting to be depleted, leading to imports of Mexican grain in certain markets. However, prices in Mexico are also up by as much as approximately US $16.00/quintal, which is an indicator of a steeper medium-term rise in prices.

    January 2016 prices for beans were down from January of last year and below the five-year average. However, prices continued falling for longer than usual, suggesting the existence of adequate country-wide supplies from domestic production or imports. Crop-producing areas of Nicaragua are currently in the lean season. Although expectations are high for harvests of Postrera Tardía or Apante crops, some areas recorded rainfall deficits for December and February which may have affected crops in the flowering and pod filling stages, translating into lower crop yields.

    Humanitarian Assistance

    Honduras: The government will allocate some 600 million lempiras (US$ 27,060,000) to its strategy for coping with the effects of the drought caused by El Niño conditions. These funds will be used to implement programs designed to ensure an adequate water supply for human consumption as well as farming and livestock-raising activities. Envisioned measures include the construction of more than 300 water harvesting systems in nine departments.

    El Salvador: The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock-Raising (MAG) released an official statement announcing the delivery of maize seed and fertilizer packages and bean seed packages to small farmers across the country. These packages will be made available by MAG personnel at distribution centers across the country for an unspecified period of time.

    Nicaragua: The government made its third delivery of food rations to at-risk populations in the Dry Corridor in January. The rations consisted of 10 pounds of rice, 10 pounds of beans, five pounds of maize, two pounds of salt, and a liter of oil. These food items will help supplement the diets of high-risk households in the worst-off municipalities.

    The Office of the Communication and Citizenship Council Coordinator announced the delivery of 40,000 food assistance packages to residents of drought-stricken areas of the country, broken down as follows: Madriz – 10,000 packages; Nueva Segovia – 2,613; Estelí – 4,164; León – 6,634; Chinandega – 9,838; Managua – 647; Carazo – 392; Rivas – 945; Boaco – 571; Chontales – 554; and Matagalpa – 4,354.

    Consultations with the World Food Programme (WFP) revealed that it is not delivering food packages to drought victims. WFP operations in Nicaragua will depend on requests made by its government but thus far, no pronouncements have been made. 

    Coffee Sector

    Honduras: The volume of Honduran coffee exports as of February 26, 2016 was up 17 percent from February of last year (the 2014/2015 season). However, with the drop in international coffee prices, revenues from these exports were down by 16 percent. Projections by the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE) estimated exports for the 2015/2016 season at 7.2 million quintals, of which an estimated 32 percent had been made as of February. However, lower international prices will reduce sales revenues. 

    With the lower international price of coffee, coffee growers have been paid an average of 215 lempiras/quintal (US$D 9.70) this season, which barely covers their production costs. Farmers have asked the government to refund their withholding taxes in the middle of the year instead of in December to enable them to cover any losses.  

    El Salvador: According to the Salvadoran Coffee Council (CSC), the latest data on the coffee harvest shows production down from last season. The effects of extreme climate change have impeded efforts to revive coffee-growing activities. As of January, there were 39,010 quintals of coffee exports for the 2015/2016 season.

    Nicaragua: This season’s coffee harvests began earlier than usual, in some cases, between August and September. This is presumably a result of the same rainfall anomalies which also affected yields in other countries by preventing the coffee beans from properly developing (leaving them dry, stained, and deformed). As of the middle of February, some areas were already in the midst of their third harvest, which is the most important in terms of the volume of production. An estimated 20,000 “manzanas” of coffee plantations were repopulated with new coffee plants during this past season, which will begin bearing fruit by the 2016/2017 season. There are already areas in which these plants are in their first flowering stage and are producing coffee. Jinotega and Matagalpa account for 54 percent of national coffee production. This season, coffee plants were late in ripening in certain areas and ripened early in other areas.

    The average producer or farm-gate price of coffee for the 2015/2016 season is approximately 1,505.5 córdobas per quintal of green coffee (US$ 54.81). Projections by the National Coffee Council (CONACAFE) put coffee production for this year at somewhere between 2.4 and 2.6 million quintals.

    Projected Regional Outlook through September 2016

    February through May 2016

    Honduras: The most vulnerable households of subsistence farmers, day laborers, and small farmers in communities in livelihood zones 7 and 5 will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity between March and May. This is a result of repeated drought-induced damage to staple grain crops, the erosion in livelihoods from repeated crop losses, the depletion of food reserves, and limited seasonal employment opportunities.

    El Salvador: Small farmer households in the western and eastern areas of the country in livelihood zones 2 and 3 suffering repeated crop losses, no food reserves, and limited employment opportunities in coffee-growing activities will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity between March and May. The severity of food insecurity will be mitigated by food assistance programs conducted by the government and international cooperation agencies.

    Nicaragua: Very poor subsistence farming households and households of day laborers and small coffee growers in high-risk communities in northern and northwestern areas of the country in livelihood zones 3 and 12 are suffering losses of their staple grain crops. Households with limited employment opportunities in coffee-growing and livestock-raising activities and no food reserves will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity between February and May. The severity of food insecurity will be mitigated by regular government programs.

    June through September 2016

    The effects on livelihoods from the repeated droughts in the last three years, seasonal trends in crop production, limited employment opportunities, and seasonal increases in staple grain prices will put most affected households in high-risk communities in Honduras (livelihood zones 7 and 5), El Salvador (livelihood zones 2 and 3), and Nicaragua (livelihood zones 3 and 12 in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this period.  

    Figures Trends in grain prices across the region (wholesale level)

    Figure 1

    Trends in grain prices across the region (wholesale level)

    Source: SIMPHA, MAG

    Central America FSO

    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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