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Below-average rainfall expected during Primera season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • February 2017
Below-average rainfall expected during Primera season

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  • Key Messages
  • Regional outlook
  • Production and prices for staple crops and coffee
  • Honduras
  • El Salvador
  • Nicaragua
  • Key Messages
    • For 2016, the production of staples by small-scale farmers across the region was generally better than during the previous two years. However, farmers in localized areas, particularly in Honduras, suffered damage to their 2016 crops and are depending on alternate sources of income to meet their food needs. The coffee sector continues to recover in all three countries, with Honduras expecting record production for the 2016/2017 season.

    • Although forecasts indicate a normal start to the 2017 rainy season, the ongoing warming of sea surface temperatures (SST) increases the risk of below-average cumulative rainfall during the Primera season. This could have an adverse impact on staple production for small-scale farmers in parts of the Dry Corridor. In some localized areas of Honduras and Nicaragua, 2017 could mark the fourth consecutive year of damage to staple production due to rainfall anomalies.

    • With near-average employment opportunities and staple harvests in most parts of the region, it is likely that the majority of poor households are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, there are populations in all three countries who are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), and it is likely that some households who were particularly impacted by low crop yields and limited employment opportunities could reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3) before the Primera harvests in August. It is expected that the greatest number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will be in Honduras.

    Regional outlook

    Agroclimatic conditions and forecast

    • According to the synopsis by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the La Niña conditions that were prevalent in late 2016 have dissipated, with sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean within the ENSO-neutral threshold. Most models are predicting a continuation of ENSO-neutral conditions (3-month average of the Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) until Northern Hemisphere summer. Due to the high degree of uncertainty in forecasts made at this time of year for the upcoming spring and summer seasons and the lingering tropical convection patterns consistent with La Niña conditions, the consensus forecast favors ENSO-neutral conditions during the spring season, with a 60 percent chance of this being the case. There is an above-normal probability for the development of El Niño conditions by the third quarter of 2017, with a similar chance of ENSO-neutral conditions during this period.
    • Based on the forecast predicting ENSO-neutral conditions for the start of the rainy season in this region, the most likely scenario for the start of the 2017 Primera season is for near-normal conditions, with a typical risk of rainfall anomalies at the beginning of the season.
    • However, the NMME forecast model ensemble shows a high probability of average to below-average levels of cumulative rainfall beginning in June. In addition, according to experts in regional weather services, there is a high risk of a longer and drier than usual canícula (break in the rains) between July and August. These conditions, combined with the seasonal rise in temperatures, can affect water availability for the growing of crops and help promote conditions conducive to the spread of crop pests and diseases.


    Production and prices for staple crops and coffee

    The month of January marked the end of staple harvests for the Postrera season in production areas for this season (northern, eastern, and southeastern Honduras; central and northern Nicaragua; and southern, western, and eastern El Salvador). In general, improved distribution of rainfall in 2016 compared with the previous two years increased household crop production by small farmers across the region. A review of price trends for the past year and the last five-years shows the steepest declines in white maize prices, with red bean prices hovering around the five-year average, except for the 14 percent above-average price in Nicaragua.

    According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) composite indicator, the international price of coffee in December 2016 was USD 1.32/pound, 15 percent above its December 2015 price. More broadly speaking, the current producer price is close to the historical average but below the peak price recorded in 2011 (Figure 3).



    Staple production

    According to the Agrometeorological Report (Year V – No. 5), maize crops for the Postrera Tardía season in the western part of the country (Lempira, Ocotepeque, and Copán) and the Valle del Aguán area are making good progress with the favorable climatic conditions in these areas. Most crops are in the seed filling and maturation stages and are developing normally. Bean crops in the country’s western departments (Lempira, Ocotepeque, and Copán) are in their final developmental stage, producing good yields, while crops in the Valle del Aguán area have all been harvested. There are 900 “manzanas” planted in irrigated bean crops in El Paraíso Department. These crops are in the growth and flowering stages and are also developing normally.

    Coffee sector

    As of February 2017, Honduras had exported 2.26 million bags of coffee, representing 22 percent of estimated exports for the 2016/2017 season projected at 9.4 million bags. These exports are valued at USD 292.94 million, 60 percent more than the value of exports at the same time of the 2015-2016 season, namely USD 177.83 million. The average price of these coffee exports is USD 144.59/bag, 15.62 percent above their average price of USD 125.06 at the same time last season.

    Food security outlook

    In Honduras, subsistence farming households highly dependent on home-grown staple crops whose crops suffered damage in 2016 from the irregular distribution of rainfall are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes. Most of these households are in communities located in the Dry Corridor (in the southern and southwestern part of the country) lying within livelihood zones 7 and 5. As of March, some of the worst-off households with limited coping capacity in areas with soils degraded by erosion and regularly cut off from basic services (health, education, and water) may reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The size of this population could continue to increase until the next harvest at the end of September.

    El Salvador


    Staple production and markets

    The production forecast for the 2016-2017 harvest based on the findings by the survey conducted by the Agriculture Economy Office (Dirección General de Economía Agropecuaria) attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) is for 2.9 million quintals of beans, 20.1 million quintals of maize, 3 million quintals of sorghum, and 700,000 quintals of rice. This would put maize and bean production up by 12 and 10 percent, respectively, from figures for the 2015/2016 season and would guarantee an adequate supply of these crops to meet domestic consumer demand for 2017, resulting in stable prices.

    Approximately 85 percent of the certified maize seeds to be supplied by farmers to the government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) for distribution as part of this year’s farm input packages have already been produced by farmers in the country’s eastern region. The MAG has agreed to purchase all the seeds produced by these growers, who include members of cooperatives and farmers’ organizations, as well as individual farmers. The seeds will directly help more than 23 farmers’ organizations across the country and indirectly help member households, serving as an important source of income and local job creation, particularly for rural women and youths, helping to meet domestic demand.

    Coffee sector

    According to the Salvadoran Coffee Council (Consejo Salvadoreño del Café), 699,200 quintals of coffee had been harvested as of February 13th, which is equivalent to 89 percent of the harvest for last season. Based on this production data, this season’s harvest could be the same as or smaller than the harvest for last season, which could be a reflection of the effects of strategies for reviving the country’s coffee industry, which are expected to produce results by next season with crop yields from rehabilitated areas. However, coffee growers are put off by deterrents to coffee production such as their limited recovery capacity in the wake of the new outbreak of rust disease during the 2012/2013 season, the low price of coffee, and rising production costs.

    Labor market

    The assessment of the quantitative benefits of the increase in this year’s minimum wage by the government-sponsored forum on the impact of the minimum wage hike found that it would benefit 561,000 salaried workers, or 367,863 households representing 19.9 percent of all Salvadoran households. An estimated 258,298 Salvadoran households could be lifted out of abject poverty by the boost in their household income from the recent minimum wage adjustment, though this would require the simultaneous implementation of cross-cutting development programs.

    Food security outlook

    The more favorable climatic conditions in this country in 2016 helped both Primera and Postrera crops, providing subsistence farming households with average harvests. In addition, there have been regular supplies of maize and beans on domestic markets, which are helping to give vulnerable low-income populations economic access to staple foods. Moreover, there are more accessible local employment opportunities in the coffee, trade, and industrial sectors which, together with the availability of better health care services, are enabling these households to better meet their needs compared with the situation in other countries of the region.

    Most at-risk households in livelihood zones 2, 3, and 4 will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity during the current outlook period. However, the repeated damage to their crops from rainfall anomalies and the limited recovery of coffee production could create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions for the poorest households in these areas between April and July 2017 with the depletion of their staple grain reserves and the end of employment opportunities in the coffee harvest. Very poor households in especially dry areas in the eastern and western reaches of the country could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) even earlier, precipitated by the very localized crop losses in San Miguel, la Unión, and Morazán in the East and in Ahuachapán and Santa Ana in the West, the depletion of their food and financial reserves, and the deterioration in their livelihoods from more than three consecutive years of poor crop yields. However, since these households will not meet the 20 percent threshold requirement for classifying any given area, the country area classification is estimated to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity for the entire outlook period.



    Staple production

    The reduced supply of black beans imported from China on the regional market has created an opportunity for Nicaraguan black bean producers, but the limited availability of seeds for the planting of Primera and Postrera crops operated as a constraint on production for 2016. However, the harvest of Postrera crops produced seeds for the planting of Apante crops, which encouraged the expansion of areas planted in black beans to meet demand from neighboring countries and provide supplies for the Dominican Republic. However, the expansion of black bean production to take advantage of this market opportunity could throw off the balance between areas planted in black beans and those devoted to red bean crops, which are the most widely consumed crops at both the country and regional level, triggering price increases, as was the case in the 2013/2014 season.

    Coffee sector

    Records from the Export Processing Center (CETREX) indicate that coffee exports for the period from October 2016 to January 2017 were 379,535 quintals, up by 24 percent from the same period of last season and equivalent to 15 percent of the estimated volume of production for the 2016/2017 season, or approximately 2.5 million quintals. However, the average price of coffee exports is six percent lower than last season, which means less foreign exchange income per quintal sold.

    Food security outlook

    In Nicaragua, very poor subsistence farming households and households of day laborers and small coffee growers in the country’s Northern Pacific and Northwestern regions in livelihood zones 3 and 12 will continue to have limited food reserves as a result of the meager harvests for the Primera growing season in crop-producing areas with especially degraded soils and affected by rainfall anomalies, the poor bean harvests for the Postrera growing season, and the loss of sorghum or millet crops damaged by yellow aphid infestations. This will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions for the poorest households between February and June. Certain populations in more arid areas without access to employment opportunities couldsubsequently be propelled into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Figures NMME three-category precipitation probabilistic forecast

    Figure 1

    NMME three-category precipitation probabilistic forecast

    Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC)

    Wholesale prices in the region

    Figure 2

    Wholesale prices in the region

    Source: FEWS NET, based on market information system data from each country

    Average producer price of coffee, Honduras

    Figure 3

    Average producer price of coffee, Honduras

    Source: International Coffee Organization

    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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