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Average precipitations favor the Primera agricultural campaign in Central America

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • June 2018
Average precipitations favor the Primera agricultural campaign in Central America

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  • Key Messages
  • Weather outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Regular rainfall to the end of June has permitted the planting of Primera basic grains and there are currently no phenological issues in the various growing regions. Harvests are likely to be within normal ranges throughout the region. 

    • Basic grain prices are currently rising, especially for corn in Honduras and Nicaragua, with continuous increases since the end of last year. The price trend for the current seasonal period exceeds the average for the last five years, reducing the purchasing power of the poorest families.

    • Food reserves are exhausted in the poorest households, especially in areas subject to repeated droughts. There are minimal sources of work and no access to wild food in rural areas during this period. Rising basic grain prices mean more households will face problems in meeting their food needs.

    • The forecasts of the official El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) probability model by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) from the start of June highlight the probability of El Niño conditions toward the end of the year. No significant impact is envisaged on crop yields, although there may be localized problems in areas with limited rainfall, mainly for the planting of basic grains in the Postrera agricultural campaogn and also for the production and optimal ripening of coffee.

    • Households of small-scale basic grain producers in communities mainly located in the south and west of Honduras, the east and west of El Salvador and the center and north of Nicaragua, whose basic grain crops have been repeatedly affected by irregular rainfall, plagues and crop disease and that are also unemployed and without food reserves, are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between June and September, improving to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) after the basic grain harvest.

    Weather outlook

    Precipitation records for the last month show above-average rainfall, except in the south of El Salvador. These conditions mean basic grains will be planted as normal in the Primera season, in line with their phenology in the various regions of each country due to a favorable temporal and spatial distribution of rain (Figure 1).

    According to the Nicaraguan Institute for Agriculture Technology (INTA) Meteorological Bulletin, the rainy period started between the second and third dekad (10-day period) in May, with cumulated values for this month above the average, primarily in the west.

    In line with the forecast bulletins issued by the Climate Prediction Center/National Centers for Environmental                                                                        Protection/National Weather Service (CPC/NCEP/NWS) and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI/CPC), the majority of the IRI/CPC models forecast ENSO-neutral conditions to continue throughout summer 2018 in the northern hemisphere, with the likelihood of El Niño to follow. The consensus among the forecasts is for El Niño in the fall, continuing through the winter, with the possibility of El Niño conditions increasing to 50 percent for fall and 65 percent for winter 2018.


    The region is currently in the second of the four months with lowest production throughout the year (May to August). However, planting for the Primera season has taken place (corn and beans), which are in different phenological stages.

    The population will depend on the market for family consumption until the end of August, with higher demand and lower supply during this period causing prices to rise. In markets in Honduras and Nicaragua, rises in corn prices have been unusually high since the end of last year. The effects of sociopolitical conflicts must also be taken into account in this scenario period, particularly the conflict that began in April in Nicaragua, which will directly impact price stability and future flows of supplies in the region.

    Honduras: According to agroclimatic forecasts by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, the production zones

    expected to have normal precipitation patterns that favor basic grain production in the Primera season for 2018 are Copán, Santa Bárbara, Cortés, Yoro, Atlántida, Colón, the center and north of the departments of Lempira, Intibucá and Comayagua, the north of Ocotepeque and Francisco Morazán, the east of El Paraíso and all of Olancho, except the southwest.

    El Salvador: According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, basic grain production will reach production targets for the third year running, with estimated production of over 25 million quintals. The ministry also notes that market assessments show a sufficient supply of beans that will guarantee price stability.

    According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, 412,775 farming packages were planned for this growing season, with 388,563 (94.13 percent) distributed by the second half of June. These packs mainly contain certified corn seed, which has been planted by small-scale farmers.

    Nicaragua: In the municipalities of Sébaco and San Isidro in the Matagalpa department, irrigated rice harvesting began in the

    first week of June. Due to cumulative precipitation between 15 and 25 mm, it was reported that grains had split, so farmers rushed to harvest crops to prevent further damage. However, wet yields remain between 140 and 175 quintals/mz, the most common varieties being INTA Dorado and Palo II.

    At the national level, basic grain producers began Primera planting in the second and third week of May, although in some regions the planting continued until the second week of June. In Estelí, basic grains were planted in the second week of May. In Nueva Segovia, planting began in the second half of May and ended at the start of June, while in Madriz, planting took place at the end of May.

    According to information from rural contacts, in Madriz, Nueva Segovia and Estelí, corn and bean harvests for the 2017–2018 cycle were very good, allowing producers to build up sufficient reserves to last until August–September. However, in Jinotega, corn was heavily affected by excess rainfall during the previous harvest.

    Regional situation of basic grain prices: The month-on-month corn price remained stable in the markets analyzed in Honduras and El Salvador. In Nicaragua, the price has increased by 14 percent with respect to the previous month. The trend of irregular price increases in Nicaragua began at the end of last year and is caused by a number of factors, including the cost of fuel and planting supplies, in addition to some localized losses.

    The red bean price remained stable in Honduras and El Salvador, with an increase at the Managua market in Nicaragua. This is unusual, since the late-season harvest (Apante) took place recently in April/May. This short-term change could be due to seasonality and the sociopolitical situation in the country. Prices could increase further, and the trend could outlast the seasonal nature of production, even resulting in rises in other countries in the region, particularly El Salvador and Honduras, which have similar consumption patterns, mainly for red beans.

    Rice has remained in stable month-on-month ranges, supported by the stability of international prices, primarily in the United States. However, there have been small but constant increases in the medium term, mainly in Honduras and Nicaragua. These increases are believed to be the result of prices changes by agribusiness to reflect higher internal production costs.


    Regional production has been recovering from the effects of leaf rust in 2012, with the recovery of employment in poorer districts. However, profitability for producers has not followed this trend, since international prices remain depressed, which acts as a disincentive to investment.

    The International Coffee Organization Coffee Market Report for May 2018 reports that the composite indicator increased by 0.7 percent, ending three months of declines and reaching an average of 113.34 US cents/lb.

    As of April 2018, global coffee exports totaled 10.18 million bags, compared with 9.5 million in April 2017, driven by a 14.1 percent increase in Robusta exports and a 6.8 percent increase in smooth Colombian varieties. Global production for 2017/2018 is estimated to be 1.2 percent higher than the previous season, totaling 159.66 million bags. Production is also forecast to increase in eight of the ten largest coffee producers. Honduras remains the fifth-largest producer in the world.

    El Salvador: According to the Salvadoran Coffee Council, coffee production has gradually increased by 8 to 6 percent in the last two seasons, with 900,000 quintals of green coffee berries in the last season.

    Honduras: According to statistics from the Honduran Institute of Coffee (IHCAFE) as of June 11, 2018, exports totaled 7.01 million 46-kg bags, a fall of 1 percent from the volume exported by the same date in the previous season (7.2 million). However, the exported coffee was valued at USD 862 million, which is 14 percent below the USD 1,009 million recorded for the previous year (2016/2017). The average export price is currently USD 122.99, which is 15 percent lower than the average export price for the previous season of USD 143.66. The majority of exports from Honduras are currently destined for Germany (27 percent), Belgium (23 percent) and the United States (15 percent). The export forecast for the 2017/2018 season is 10,190,000 quintals, 7,010,250 of which have been exported so far (69 percent of the forecast).

    According to the leaf rust monitoring bulletin (N.5-018, May/2018), climate conditions in April meant that varieties susceptible to leaf rust saw a national incidence of around 3.05 percent in May, equivalent to a minimal level of risk. Resistant varieties are also facing minimal risk, or blue alert, with an average national incidence of 1.26 percent. The IHCAFE 90 variety and Catimor lines showed higher levels of leaf rust, which are outside the acceptable range for strains I and II. These higher percentages are attributed to the infection of new strains of leaf rust. The IHCAFE 90 variety has shown a 20 percent susceptibility to these infections so far and certain Catimor lines have even higher incidences.

    Among susceptible varieties, most departments saw a decline in the average incidence, with minimal risks or blue alerts. However, incidence levels were 5 percent higher in Santa Bárbara, Yoro and Cortés, equivalent to green alert. Resistant varieties in all departments had 5 percent lower incidences.

    Nicaragua: National leaf rust monitoring in May reported an average of 3.16 percent, down from 5 percent in April. The departments of Estelí and Managua had the highest infestation levels, with 6.7 and 6.2 percent, respectively. The fall is due to unfavorable conditions for fungal growth and the natural defoliation process of the plant. There was a 1.57 percent increase with respect to the same period last year. As the rains begin, there will be an increase in infestation levels over the coming months as a result of the favorable weather conditions. According to the Export Processing Center (CETREX), 1,324,924 bags of coffee (60 kg) had been exported for the 2017–2018 cycle between October 2017 and April 2018, equivalent to USD 250,489,282. 



    El Salvador: According to the central bank of El Salvador, residents in the country had received USD 2,227.6 million in family remittances as of May 2018, USD 182.9 million (8.9 percent) more than for the same period the previous year. In May alone, the country received USD 493.7 million, with a year-on-year growth of 7.1 percent. In 2018, 93.4 percent of remittances came from the United States.

    Honduras: As of 1 March 2018, remittances of USD 716.9 million had been recorded, an increase on the figure of USD 655.6 million as of 1 March 2017. Nominal year-on-year growth was 9.4 percent.

    Nicaragua: According to a report by the central bank of Nicaragua, the total value of remittances received by the country during the first quarter of 2018 was USD 353.4 million, continuing the positive trend observed since 2010 with a 9.3 percent increase on the same period in 2017 (USD 323.3 million). These transfers represent a significant source of foreign currency income and make up 10 percent of estimated gross domestic product (GDP) for the first quarter, helping offset the country’s current account balance of payments.

    Due to the sociopolitical crisis in Nicaragua, thousands of Nicaraguans are applying to migrate to neighboring countries in Central America. The critical situation has seen a rise in harassment by armed groups that have created terror, primarily in the neighborhoods and streets of Managua but also in León, Masaya and other nearby towns. 

    According to migration management, there has been an increase in the number of people applying to move to Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador, most with children. The majority are young people preparing to migrate or seek asylum in Costa Rica, which has been the main destination for Nicaraguans since the country’s last civil war in the 1980s.

    According to the available information, Costa Rica’s representation in Nicaragua has reported a “slight increase” in the flow of migrants from Nicaragua, although the government is prepared for a large influx of Nicaraguan refugees. Another group of young people with better financial circumstances has begun to migrate to the United States. 


    The most vulnerable households in the region are families of subsistence farmers and agricultural workers who live off income from their labor in the south and southwest of Honduras, the east and west of El Salvador and the central, north-Atlantic and north-Pacific regions of Nicaragua. From June to September 2018, these groups are facing Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1). However, households whose livelihoods have deteriorated as a result of crop damage caused by irregular rainfall and the repeated effects of pests and diseases in the last five years, compounded by the lack of employment or temporary work with lower salaries, largely from coffee growing and other agricultural activities, will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the Primera harvests.

    The outlook for these households will improve after the Primera harvests and during the second analysis period (October 2018 to January 2019). Most will be facing Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) from September, provided the rainfalls favor growing at the end of the first rainy period, since harvests should then increase the availability of food in these households until the start of next year. During this period, the poorest households are also employed in coffee harvesting and the Postrera harvests, although this is conditional on a normal winter.

    The potential damage and loss of production from the summer dry spell (canícula) during the current season cannot be ruled out. This could affect regions facing repeated droughts, as well as other regions, changing the food security scenario. A continuation of the current sociopolitical conflict may also increase the prices of basic grains due to speculation and transport difficulties.

    Figures Total de anomalía de lluvia (mm), 30 días, en el Periodo: 19 de mayo al 17 de junio 2018

    Figure 1

    Total de anomalía de lluvia (mm), 30 días, en el Periodo: 19 de mayo al 17 de junio 2018

    Source: NOAA

    Comportamiento de los precios de granos básicos en la región

    Figure 2

    Comportamiento de los precios de granos básicos en la región

    Source: SIMPAH (HN), MAG (SV), SIMPHA (NI)

    Precios de maíz en la región, y precios proyectados para 2018

    Figure 3

    Precios de maíz en la región, y precios proyectados para 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Precios de frijol en la región, y precios proyectados para 2018

    Figure 4

    Precios de frijol en la región, y precios proyectados para 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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