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Damages to staple and coffee crops present challenges for very poor households across the region

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • January 2015
Damages to staple and coffee crops present challenges for very poor households across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Agricultural production
  • Coffee sector
  • Staple food markets
  • Projected regional outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • In Honduras, losses of 2014 Primera crops, rises in staple food prices, and the continuation of reduced employment opportunities in the coffee sector will lead to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes from January to March 2015 for very poor households in the southwest who are dependent on day labor and subsistence farming activities. Those households most affected by these factors will enter into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in March. 

    • In Nicaragua, very poor subsistence farming households and households of day laborers and small coffee growers in the northern and northwestern parts of the country will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes from January until at least June 2015, due to the failure of 2014 Primera crops, rising prices, and limited employment opportunities.

    • In El Salvador, poor households of day laborers and small coffee growers in the eastern and western reaches of the country who are affected by the high price of basic grains and limited income options due to reduced labor demand associated with the coffee rust outbreak are currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity, with the help of humanitarian assistance. These households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) beginning in May.





    Maize prices on major markets are stabilizing at high levels, reflecting the limited supply of grain from crop-producing areas. 

    Tightening supplies could trigger rises in maize and bean prices before the end of the first quarter.

    Risk of damage to Postrera Tardía crops from rainfall anomalies, particularly to bean crops.


    Delays in the planting of Apante crops in the Atlantic region and increases in red bean prices in the early part of January.

    Damage to coffee production from problems with irregular maturation and the coffee rust outbreak.

    Risk of damage to Apante crops from rainfall anomalies in the Atlantic region.

    Fewer jobs in the coffee harvest, with the delayed and irregular maturation of the coffee cherries and surge in the incidence of coffee rust disease, shortening the period of demand for coffee harvesters.


    A return to increases in prices for red beans.

    Further damage to the coffee sector from rainfall anomalies and the continued impact of the coffee rust outbreak.

    Rise in staple food prices before the end of the first quarter.

    Economic losses and reduction in medium-term employment in coffee-growing areas as a result of the damage caused by rainfall anomalies and the continued impact of the coffee rust outbreak.


    Agricultural production

    There were below-normal levels of rainfall between the first half of December 2014 and the second half of January 2015, mainly in the Atlantic region of Nicaragua and Honduras, delaying crop planting activities in certain areas (Figure 3). However, Apante crops across the region are making normal progress, profiting from carry-over residual soil moisture from the rainfall received between September and November. According to the climate outlook for Central America for December 2014 through March 2015 from the XLV meeting of the Central American Climate Outlook Forum, normal to above-normal levels of rainfall are expected in the Atlantic regions of Honduras and North Atlantic region of Nicaragua. However, a continuation of recent below-normal rainfall could affect Postrera Tardía crops in Honduras and Apante crops in Nicaragua, reducing yields and creating further production deficits, impacting the regional market.     

    HONDURAS: The last remaining fields of Postrera bean crops are being harvested in Olancho, with harvests in El Paraíso, Santa Bárbara, Lempira, Copán, and Ocotepeque departments already fully completed. Postrera Tardía crops in the Valle del Aguán area are in the vegetative growth stage.

    The bean harvest for the Postrera season is expected to produce an estimated 1.2 million quintals of beans, approximately 200,000 quintals more than last year’s harvest. There should also be a good harvest of Postrera Tardía crops in February, yielding approximately 200,000 quintals of beans.

    Maize crops for the Postrera Tardía season are in the developmental stage in Olancho department and in the Ocotepeque and Valle del Aguán areas. The harvests are beginning on the Atlantic Coast, while crops in Santa Bárbara department are in different stages of the growing cycle (ranging from the vegetative growth to the cob formation stage) and should be ready for harvesting sometime in April. There will be shortfalls in maize production for the 2014/2015 season due to the damage to Primera crops, which is estimated at approximately 15 percent of total production. These crops account for approximately 80 percent of national yields.

    NICARAGUA: According to information from the field, harvests of Postrera crops are still in progress. Approximately 50 percent of fields planted in Postrera crops had been harvested as of the beginning of January due to the delays caused by rainfall anomalies and the limited availability of suitable seeds for the planting of these crops. However, in general, crops across the country are making normal progress and harvests could continue into the first week of February. Certain municipalities in Estelí and Jinotega have reported crop losses from the golden mosaic virus.

    The first red bean crops for the Apante season, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of national production, were planted at the end of December. Crop planting activities extended into the second week of January 2015 in certain areas. Preliminary estimates put the area planted in Apante crops at the country level at approximately 150,000 manzanas (1 manzana = 0.7 hectare).

    EL SALVADOR: Government estimates put the size of the 2014 bean harvest at 2.7 million quintals, which meets nationwide demand, estimated at 2.4 million quintals. Thus, price rises are most likely due to speculation by traders, which is prompting the Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República) to coordinate efforts to formally prosecute persons charged with illegal hoarding or other abuses involving the buying and selling of beans.
    Government projects for 2015 will focus on technical capacity-building and increasing assistance for farmers, with a continued priority on food production, revitalizing the coffee sector, establishing dairy facilities for the livestock sector, and strengthening production capacity in the aquaculture sector. A total of 2,300 manzanas of wetlands have been planted in beans for the current summer season, from which approximately 40,000 quintals of red silk beans are expected to be placed on the market.

    Coffee sector

    EL SALVADOR: Production forecasts have been revised sharply downwards. Back in November, the government was projecting yields for the 2014/2015 season at 1,160,000 quintals of green coffee cherries, putting production up by 65 percent from the 2013/2014 season, with an estimated incidence of coffee rust disease at less than 10 percent. However, estimates as of January 2015 put production up by less than 38 percent from last season, with the damage to crops from the protracted drought in July 2014 and heavy rainfall in the month of October, primarily affecting the eastern part of the country. According to farmers’ organizations, the incidence of coffee rust in coffee plantations is comparable to 2012 infestation levels, affecting approximately 70 percent of the area planted in coffee.

    NICARAGUA: Variations in weather have been preventing coffee cherries from fully ripening in some areas and from maturing normally in other areas, causing coffee plants to mature early in some areas and late in others. In addition, the shortened maturation period in certain areas necessitated a higher concentration of labor, creating a shortage of harvest workers which, in turn, caused the cherries to fall from coffee plants in certain areas and was responsible for the harvesting of under-ripe coffee cherries in other areas. This resulted in larger losses for coffee growers and, thus, is expected to reduce the size of the national harvest, which had previously been estimated at approximately 2.3 million quintals. As of the beginning of January, some coffee growers’ organizations were expecting the 2014-2015 coffee harvest to be smaller than last season due to the higher incidence of coffee rust disease and the impact of weather variations. 

    Staple food markets

    Average prices for red beans in all three countries came down in December 2014 with trade flows from the harvest of Postrera crops, which is the most important harvest in El Salvador and Honduras in terms of volume and accounts for approximately 35 percent of national production in Nicaragua. As for trends in white maize prices, the decline in prices has leveled off and prices are, once again, starting to rise with the slowdown in grain flows from high-production areas (see Table 1).

    NICARAGUA: Bean prices on domestic markets have been on the decline and could continue to come down between now and February with the ongoing harvests of Postrera crops throughout the month of January and the good vegetative growth and development of Apante crops. This could help extend the downward trend in prices, keeping them stable until the start of the second quarter, provided these crops are not affected by rainfall anomalies during this period. According to the National Farmers’ and Cattlemen’s Union (UNAG), market conditions should stabilize with the harvest of Apante crops from the final sub-cycle of the season (considered the largest in terms of its volume), which should take place between February and March.

    HONDURAS: The stabilization of maize prices in December points to a new short-term rise in prices. There has been a sustained decline in bean prices, which are down by 23 to 32 percent from last month on reference markets. Prices for both crops are up from last year and above the five-year average.

    As a countermeasure against country-wide price speculation, the Honduran government is moving ahead with the implementation of its new Basic Grain Reserve Strategy specifically for the establishment of maize and bean reserves through the approval of a HNL 78 million (USD 3.64 million) appropriation for the Honduran Institute of Agricultural Marketing (Instituto Hondureño de Mercadeo Agrícola, IHMA), for direct purchases of crops from farmers. The IHMA reserve currently consists of 150,000 quintals of maize. Efforts to establish the bean reserve are underway, with crops from recent harvests being purchased at a support price of HNL 1,000 per quintal of beans.

    Projected regional outlook through June 2015

    In Honduras, the repeated losses of basic grain crops, the steady rise in staple food prices for more than a year, and reduced employment opportunities in the coffee sector will lead to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes for vulnerable households in livelihood zones 7 (subsistence grains and remittances) and 5 (mountainous coffee-growing zone) between January and March. Seasonal rises in prices, which are expected to be steeper than last year, will keep these households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the three-month period from April through June. These households affected by recurrent droughts, which make them vulnerable to food insecurity, have been targeted by the government for assistance under its Food Security Program for Drought Victims (Programa de Seguridad Alimentaria por Sequía).

    In Nicaragua, very poor subsistence farming households and households of day laborers and small coffee growers in livelihood zones 3 and 12 in the northern and northwestern parts of the country will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes throughout the period from January through June due to the failure of 2014 Primera grain crops, rising prices, and limited employment prospects. A limited number of highly vulnerable households in these areas could enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in May, due to the failure of Primera and Postrera crops and further damage from the coffee rust fungus.

    In El Salvador, households of small farmers in livelihood zones 2 and 4 in eastern and western areas of the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity between January and March, mitigated by food assistance necessitated by limited employment prospects, crop losses, and the rising price of staple foods. However, with their limited reserves and the rising prices of staples, these households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes beginning in May, in the absence of assistance.

    Figures Rainfall as percentage of average, December 1, 2014 - January 25, 2015

    Figure 1

    Rainfall as percentage of average, December 1, 2014 - January 25, 2015

    Source: NOAA/FEWS NET

    Changes in regional grain prices, December 2014 versus November 2014

    Figure 2

    Changes in regional grain prices, December 2014 versus November 2014


    Figure 3


    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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