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Rainfall deficits across the region are damaging agricultural production

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • July 2014
Rainfall deficits across the region are damaging agricultural production

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Progress
  • Agropastoral production
  • Grain market behavior
  • Projected regional outlook through December 2014
  • Key Messages
    • ENSO forecasts released by the IRI (International Research Institute) in mid-July show a 60 percent likelihood of the development of El Niño conditions between August and October. In addition, the Central American Climate Outlook Forum is predicting below-normal rainfall across the region for that same period, likely causing losses of Primera and Postrera crops.

    • In El Salvador, reduced employment in the coffee sector, limited food reserves, and high prices for staple grains will create Stressed food security conditions (IPC Phase 2) for day laborers and small subsistence farmers growing coffee and staple grain crops between July and September. Crop losses for the 2014 Primera growing season and the high market prices of grain crops will keep their food security situation Stressed between October and December.

    • In Honduras, day laborers and small farmers growing coffee and staple grain crops in the country’s Western and Southern zones will face Stressed levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) between July and September due to reduced employment in the coffee sector, the lack of food reserves, and high food prices. With the damage to Primera crops and the high likelihood of damage to Postrera crops as well, the food security situation of these households will remain Stressed between October and December.

    • In Nicaragua, subsistence farmers and households of migrant laborers in the dry corridor will experience Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) between July and September due to grain reserves and access to alternative sources of income. However, these households will face Stressed food security conditions between October and December with the losses of staple grain crops for the Primera growing season, the high likelihood of Postrera losses, and high staple grain prices.

    • Rainfall deficits between May and July in Honduras and Nicaragua triggered delays in the planting of crops and losses of crops and cattle.

    ZONE

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    REGIONAL

    High red bean prices ranging from 25 to 133 percent above the five-year average.

     

    Localized damage to Primera crops in the region’s dry corridor due to below-average rainfall.

    Limited access to staple grains (maize and beans) as a source of food for the region’s most vulnerable households due to low incomes and the upward trend in prices as of October.

     

    Expected below-average rainfall between August and October will cause damage to Primera and Postrera crops and impact coffee-growing and livestock-raising activities. Reduced harvests will drive up prices on regional markets. 

    El SALVADOR

    Water stress in localized staple grain-producing areas in the eastern and western areas of the country during the flowering and fruit-bearing stages of the growing cycle of crops due to low rainfall.

     

    Steady rises in red bean prices.

    Damage to grain crops for the Primera and Postrera growing seasons, high staple grain prices, and reduced employment in the coffee sector as a result of the coffee rust outbreak.

    HONDURAS

    Damage to Primera crops, mainly in the Dry Corridor.

     

    High red bean prices:  in June, 132 percent above last year’s prices and 68 percent above the five-year average.

    Losses of Primera crops in the southern part of the country likely to extend into other areas of the country and high staple grain prices

    NICARAGUA

    Planting delays and losses of staple grain crops, losses of cattle, and steady rises in bean prices (to 168 percent above last year’s June prices).

     

    Depletion of the food reserves of populations vulnerable to food insecurity. Production losses, losses of jobs due to poor staple grain and livestock production, and high staple grain prices.

     


    Seasonal Progress

    According to satellite imagery of precipitation anomalies for the last 30 days (Figure 1) in areas within the region’s dry corridor, rainfall activity has been 25 to 50 percent below average, causing localized production losses.

    The longest periods without rain in Nicaragua were at the beginning of the rainy season (May/June). Rainfall conditions stabilized as of the second week of June with the arrival of tropical waves, which delayed the planting of Primera crops and improved the supply of drinking water for livestock, particularly in the central and northern reaches of the country. 

    The Forty-Fourth Central American Climate Outlook Forum is predicting below-normal levels of rainfall in the following areas of Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador between August and October: the Pacific, Northern, and Central regions of Nicaragua; Francisco Morazán, Yoro, Comayagua, Santa Bárbara, Copán, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Intibucá, La Paz, Valle, Choluteca, Olancho, Paraíso, Cortés, and Atlántida departments in Honduras; and inland valley areas near the northern border and most of the Eastern zone of El Salvador.

    Maize crops in most parts of Honduras were planted at different times, with crops in the region at different stages of development and conditions in some areas precluding the planting of any crops. There are reports of damage to crops, with crops in the country’s southern zone suffering the heaviest damage.

    Parts of El Salvador’s eastern region are at risk for rainfall deficits. Crops in the rest of the country are progressing normally. El Salvador has the best prospects within the region of achieving average yields from staple grain crops for the Primera growing season.

    The areas of Nicaragua suffering the most damage from rainfall anomalies lie mainly in parts of the dry corridor close to the Honduran border (Estelí, Madriz, and Nueva Segovia), where rainfall activity in mid-June allowed for the planting of crops. However, there are continuing rainfall deficits, with a high likelihood of crop losses and the possibility of rainfall anomalies and associated damage extending into the central part of the country.


    Agropastoral production

    Growing parts of the region are highly impacted by rainfall deficits as the growing cycle for Primera crops continues (Figure 2).  

    The late start of the rains and rainfall anomalies in staple grain-producing areas of Nicaragua’s dry corridor (Madriz, Estelí, and Nueva Segovia) have triggered crop losses, prompting many farmers to choose not to plant maize and wait until July to plant larger areas in beans. Vulnerable populations are left with no food reserves or seeds and bean prices have nearly doubled since last year. These populations are resorting to survival strategies used in times of crisis, such as reducing the number and size of their meals and selling animals in order to purchase food.

    According to the Nicaraguan Federation of Cattlemen’s Organizations (FAGANIC), 2,500 head of cattle died between May and July 2014 due to lack of pasture and water, with Madriz, Nueva Segovia, Estelí, Boaco, Chontales, and Managua departments reporting the highest animal mortality rates.

    There are concerns that imports of beans from Ethiopia could be infested with Khapra beetles (Trogoderma granarium E.), the pest reportedly responsible for the most global losses of grain crops and seeds, although the Americas have been free of this pest. 


    Grain market behavior

    The Nicaraguan government has authorized imports of approximately 20,000 metric tons of beans and 73,000 metric tons of maize by the Ministry of Development, Industry, and Commerce (MIFIC) to meet domestic needs. As of the beginning of July, part of the authorized volume of bean imports had already been made and was in ENEBRAS (National Supply Company) warehouses.  

    The government of El Salvador has authorized 9,000 metric tons of duty-free bean imports to meet domestic market needs, of which 250 metric tons have come in from Ethiopia.

    The Honduran government is in the process of procuring 40,000 quintals of red beans from Ethiopia, though none of the announced partial imports have actually been made.


    Projected regional outlook through December 2014

    ENSO forecasts released by the IRI (International Research Institute) on July 17th show a 60 percent likelihood of the development of El Niño conditions between August and October, producing below-normal levels of rainfall, primarily in the region’s dry corridor, and causing losses of Primera crops, which could extend into larger geographic areas of each country and subsequent growing seasons (the Postrera and Apante seasons). The erratic pattern of rainfall will affect coffee production, with rainfall deficits in the flowering and fruit-formation stages of the growing cycle and excessive rainfall in the maturation phase, causing the berries to fall. Moreover, the climatic conditions created by rainfall anomalies could trigger a new outbreak of coffee rust in those parts of the three countries in which proper plant health control plans have not been implemented, negatively affecting the migrant population.  

    The Forty-Fourth Central American Climate Outlook Forum is predicting below-normal rainfall in the region’s dry corridor between August and October, which puts its poorest populations at high risk, particularly subsistence farmers growing crops on hillsides, migrant populations working in other farming activities, and poor populations in general, whose diet consists mainly of staple grains.

    Rainfall anomalies have already caused losses of Primera crops and rainfall forecasts are calling for negative conditions for Postrera crops as well, threatening the food security of very poor subsistence farming households and households of seasonal migrant workers currently facing Stressed levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 2).

    Figures Figure 1.  Precipitation anomaly percentages for the last 30 days

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Precipitation anomaly percentages for the last 30 days

    Source: FEWS NET / NOAA

    Figure 2. Soil Water Index, July 14

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Soil Water Index, July 14

    Source: FEWS NET / USGS

    Figure 3

    Source:

    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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