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Irregular onset of the rainy season will affect planting of cereal grains

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • June 2014
Irregular onset of the rainy season will affect planting of cereal grains

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  • Key Messages
  • Crop Production
  • Markets and Trade
  • Status of Coffee Production
  • Projected Regional Outlook through September 2014
  • Key Messages
    • Rainfall irregularities recorded at the beginning of the first rainy season have caused damage to crops planted in April and May, particularly in specific production areas of southern Honduras. At the same time, planting of Primera crops has been delayed in a significant portion of productive areas in both Honduras and Nicaragua. Due to abnormal rainfall behavior in some of these areas, maize planting will not be possible at all.
    • Within the region, the prices of red beans continue their upward trend. This increase is expected to remain in effect until the harvesting of Primera crops, and prices could reach even higher levels as a result of losses suffered by both Primera and Postrera crops beginning in September.
    • Predictions made by the International Research Institute’s ENSO model in mid-June call for a 65% likelihood that the El Niño phenomenon will occur in the period between July and September. This will lead to prolonged periods of drought, which will in turn exacerbate damages affecting the planting of both Primera and Postrera basic grain crops, as well as coffee- and livestock-related activities.
    • In El Salvador, due to the absence of employment opportunities for the coffee harvest, combined with the lack of food, Stressed food security (IPC Phase 2) is expected from July to September for day workers and small producers in El Salvador’s coffee-growing mountainous areas. Beginning with the completion of the harvesting of Primera and Postrera crops, there will be Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).
    • In Honduras, the reduction of income and the lack of food reserves will result in Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) for day workers and small coffee producers in the western and southern regions of the country from July to September.
    • In Nicaragua, food insecurity will be Minimum (IPC Phase 1) from July to September due to the availability of grain reserves and access to alternative sources of income. However, in the event of Primera and Postrera season crop losses as a result of potential El Niño impacts, the poorest households headed by small farmers and seasonal migrant workers will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2).





    Increases in prices of red beans, with the trend exhibiting levels above the average for the last five years until the next harvests are brought in.


    Geographically focused damages to Primera crops in the region due to irregularities in the onset of rainfall.


    Limited access to basic grains (maize and beans) as a source of food for the region’s most vulnerable households due to income limitations and price increases.


    In the event that the prolonged periods of drought were to continue until June, the extension of damages geographically will be imminent, primarily as regards basic grains planted in the Primera season, as well as coffee- and livestock-related activities.


    Restrictions on exports of beans in order to avoid shortages at the national level.

    Increase in coffee-growing areas damaged by coffee rust due to the failure to apply appropriate rust control and prevention measures (renovation, stump pruning (recepa), application of fungicides) will lead to employment displacement beginning in October.


    Damage to Primera season crops due to the lack of rainfall (southern region).



    Primera season crop losses resulting from the effects of El Niño, plus damages to coffee production and livestock activities.


    Losses incurred to basic grain crops and inability to plant due to prolonged dry spells.


    Damages affecting the flowering and fruit-bearing stages of coffee production due to the lack of rainfall and high temperatures.

    Depletion of national supplies of red beans as a result of increased demand from countries of the region.



    Expansion of the geographic area affected by damage caused by drought conditions.


    Crop Production

    Estimates of total rainfall and the start of the rainfall season in the second half of June 2014 provide evidence of production areas affected by prolonged lack of rainfall, plus other areas in which planting has not only not yet taken place but where there exists a risk that planting will not take place at all, as well as coffee production areas where the flowering stage could be affected.

    In Honduras, estimates prepared at the end of production for the 2013-2014 season point to damages affecting approximately 118,800 manzanas (mz) of beans, accounting for 1.4 million quintales of grain, with total losses reported for some 10,000 mz (equivalent to 133,000 quintales of grain). The government encourages the planting of Primera crops by distributing 57,000 bonos agrícolas, or crop coupons (40,000 for beans and 17,000 for maize), which provide for seed and pesticides for small producers in the departments of Copán, Lempira, El Paraíso, and Olancho.

    In the northeastern production areas of Honduras (Olancho, El Paraíso), the onset of the rainy season has lagged, with rainfall not occurring until the first week of June. No damages have been recorded, however, since planting takes place in this area beginning in the second half of June. In the southern region (Valle, Choluteca, La Paz, Intibucá and El Paraíso), planting began in the last week of April.  Prolonged drought conditions have forced farmers in some areas to replant both maize and beans; in other areas, crops have been recovered following a period of stress while in still others complete losses have been recorded.

    In El Salvador, the rainy season began within typical parameters and to date precipitation has exhibited normal behavior, as a result of which the likelihood of damage during the first 20 days following the planting of Primera crops, which occurred in mid-May, has been ruled out.

    Among the countries of the region, Nicaragua is expected to experience the greatest number of periods without rainfall, primarily in the dry corridor along the border with Honduras (Estelí, Madriz and Nueva Segovia), where deficit rainfall levels were recorded for May and no significant precipitation occurring through June 10. As a result, planting has not taken place and, in the event that this lack of rainfall continues through the end of the month, planting will not be possible at all.  This will have a negative impact on the poorest households by eliminating their primary source of food for September 2014.

    The Nicaraguan government has expressed concern regarding predictions of the El Niño phenomenon and the effects that it will have on national production, and has launched a process of consultation with agro-livestock producers designed to inform that the 2014-2015 Agro-Livestock Plan will include interventions that respond adequately to current weather conditions.

    Markets and Trade

    Red bean prices have maintained their upward trend in all countries of the region, as a result of the production deficit caused by the reduction in area planted and losses, as well as the effects of commercial practices.

    Nicaragua has kept in effect its policy of unrestricted exports of beans to the countries of the region, despite the upward trend in prices resulting from the manipulation of product flow by commercial agents, who store the product and regulate its availability to the market. Total bean exports increased by 29 per cent from January to May 2014 over the same period last year. In an initiative designed to make grains available to the neediest households, the government is expanding coverage of its program to distribute beans in capital city barrios and departments of the interior, using National Supply Enterprise (Empresa Nacional de Abastos – ENEBAS) mobile units, at a sales price of 15 Córdobas per pound, compared to the market price of 26 Córdobas.

    In Honduras, to offset bean prices the government promotes bean imports to supply the market through its National Basic Commodities Supplier (Suplidora Nacional de Productos Básicos – BANASUPRO) during the period between May and September, but taking steps to avoid saturating the market and preventing prices paid to producers from dropping below production costs during the Postrera crop harvest period (October-November), which accounts for 65 per cent of national production. As a complementary measure, the government has proposed a freeze, within specific ranges, on prices charged in markets and grocery stores. This step will be taken if actions designed to prevent stockpiling are ineffective, a situation that is already evident in the form of price stabilization.

    In El Salvador, red bean prices continue their upward trend, with a 95 percent increase between January and May 2014, and a 100 percent increase compared to the average for May 2013, surpassing by 18% the average variance for the last five years.

    El Salvador has suspended exports of beans for the period between May 15 and August 15, 2014, in order to ensure a stable supply. In addition, it has temporarily suspended the issuance of sanitary certificates for red bean exports until August 15, 2014, and is carrying out simultaneous monitoring of production, consumption, prices and trading.

    National demand for beans in Costa Rica is estimated at 49,000 MT, of which national production accounts for 14,000 MT while the remaining 35,000 MT must be imported. Last year, most bean imports were from China. However, this shortfall is currently being compensated for at the regional level, primarily by Nicaragua, one of several factors contributing to region-wide price increases.

    Status of Coffee Production

    From May 19-26, Honduras’ Coffee Rust Early Warning System identified a national coffee rust incidence rate of 8.46 percent (green alert/low risk). The country’s coffee-producing regions most affected by rust infestation are located in San Francisco de La Paz in the Department of Olancho, and in Corquín, in the Department of Copán, as well as in surrounding communities where, respectively, red and orange levels of alert are in effect. Nationally, coffee plantations are currently at the 66th day of the primary flowering phase, with field surveys providing evidence of good flowering, which augurs well for excellent production. This could be negated, however, by mismanagement of coffee rust control and prevention measures, as well as by prolonged periods of drought conditions.

    Information from the field indicates that the coffee-producing region of Nueva Segovia department (Ocotal, Macuelizo), in northwestern Nicaragua, is experiencing deficit levels of rainfall, which puts production at risk, since flowering has been irregular and coffee trees show evidence of withering, a situation that could worsen in early July. At the same time, there exists a risk of accelerated proliferation of the rust disease, with concomitant socioeconomic damage for the entire region.

    According to Coffee Rust Prevention Recommendations (ICAFE/CICAFE), the proliferation of this disease involves three growth phases – Slow, Accelerated and Maximum or Final. These phases are closely linked to the health of the plant and weather-related variables (rainfall, temperature, relative humidity and sunshine). Coffee producers harbor concerns as to which specific behavior these variables might exhibit under conditions created by the El Niño phenomenon, along with its impact and the particular regions of each country that will be most vulnerable.

    Projected Regional Outlook through September 2014

    IRI’s ENSO model of weather forecasts for mid-June projects that, during the July-September period, the likelihood of an El Niño occurrence stands at 65 per cent. This could lead to lower than normal rainfall, primarily in the region’s dry corridor, generating Primera season crop losses, which would likely extend to larger geographic areas, as a result of the prolongation of the dry periods and crop development phase. Such a phenomenon could have an impact on the propagation of coffee rust, and could also affect production due to the lack of rainfall during the fruit-producing phase of plant development.

    In those areas of the countries of the region with populations that are more vulnerable to food insecurity and which typically depend on subsistence farming and migration to seek temporary employment-generating activities during the coffee harvest, affected households have experienced an ongoing series of shocks (two consecutive years of partial damage or total losses caused by drought conditions in the dry corridor, a decrease in income due to the impact of coffee rust infestation, increase in prices of basic grains).  Based on expectations for an El Niño phenomenon for the current season, it is highly likely that drought conditions will again cause negative impacts, and this time more severely.


    Figure 1


    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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