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Uncertainty over rainfall performance for the Primera growing season raising concerns among at-risk households across the region

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • May 2015
Uncertainty over rainfall performance for the Primera growing season raising concerns among at-risk households across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Agricultural production
  • Coffee sector
  • Food security programs
  • Projected regional outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • According to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), the probability of El Niño (ENSO) conditions between June and August is up to 90 percent. The seasonal forecast for Central America for May through July 2015 by the Forty-Fifth Meeting of the Central American Climate Outlook Forum is for below-normal to normal levels of rainfall in Dry Corridor areas of the region, affecting subsistence farming activities.

    • Bean prices are stabilizing in line with normal seasonal trends for this time of year. Maize prices are rising as a result of last year’s deficit. Prices for both staples are up from last year and above the five-year average. Maize prices are expected to continue to rise until the harvest of Primera crops, while harvests of Postrera Tardía and Apante crops across the region could keep red bean prices stable through the middle of June. 

    • Poor households in southern and western Honduras, eastern and western El Salvador, and northern and northwestern Nicaragua will have difficulty meeting their food needs between June and August. Subsistence and infra-subsistence farming households, small coffee growers who have not rehabilitated their coffee farms, and poor households residing on coffee plantations will have the most difficulty coping with food insecurity.

    COUNTRY

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    REGIONAL

    Stabilization of red bean and maize prices at levels above last year and the five-year average.

     

    As of May 18th, rainfall levels across the region were at only between five and 25 percent of normal for that month, which could hinder crop planting activities.

     

    Shortages of seeds for the Primera growing season could affect crop planting activities, particularly in Honduras.

    Prices for white maize and red beans will rise in reaction to the depletion of market inventories. At present, the largest increases are in maize prices. This upward trend in prices could be exacerbated by the slowdown in regional trade flows. Bean prices will also react to the shortage of supplies on alternate regional markets.

     

    Delays in crop planting activities or damage to crops for the Primera growing season in the next three months.

     

     


    Agricultural production

    The ENSO forecast issued by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at the beginning of May puts the probability of El Niño conditions between June and August at 90 percent, which could mean below-normal levels of rainfall, producing rainfall anomalies in drought-prone areas of the region (Figure 3). Based on the predicted erratic rainfall activity over the next three months (June through August), there are three potential scenarios with respect to the outlook for basic grain crops for the Primera growing season: (a) immediate damage to newly planted crops; (b) damage or losses during the vegetative growth stage, impeding their development; or (c) damage during the reproductive stage, causing a harvest failure. These scenarios would mainly affect farmers in drought-prone areas of the Dry Corridor with the region’s most fragile livelihoods.

    HONDURAS: A survey conducted in the second week of May in selected municipalities in La Paz, Intibucá, and Lempira showed very few areas planted in crops or with land preparation work in progress due to the delayed arrival of the rainy season.

    NICARAGUA: Land preparation work for the planting of crops is already underway in certain crop-producing areas of the country. These areas include major basic grain-producing areas of the municipalities of Jalapa (Nueva Segovia) and Santa María de Fantasma (Jinotega) covering large tracts of land, with a large productive capacity. The National Farmers’ and Cattlemen’s Union (UNAG) is expecting approximately 60,000 “manzanas” of land to be planted in red beans and 200,000 “manzanas” in white maize for the Primera season.


    Coffee sector

    HONDURAS: The Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE) puts coffee exports as of April 30, 2015 at 4.24 million bags (46 kg), up 24 percent from the same time last season, for a total value of USD 691.7 million based on an average price of USD 163.19/bag.

    EL SALVADOR: The cumulative volume of coffee exports for the period from October 2014 through April 2015 was 499,415 quintals, generating USD 99.55 million in income based on an average price of USD 199.33/quintal. Based on these figures, the volume and value of coffee exports are up from the same time last year by 17.6 percent and 54 percent, respectively. According to preliminary records for the coffee harvest, 88,170 quintals of green coffee berries had been harvested as of April 30, 2015.

    In compliance with its pact with the national coffee industry, the government began its distribution of seven million rust-resistant coffee plants in the municipality of Izalco in Sonsonate department on April 28th, which should help renew the country’s coffee sector and restore its productive capacity. The cost of these distributions is USD 2.9 million. This strategy will help more than 4,200 coffee growers in the country’s six mountainous coffee-growing areas.

    NICARAGUA: The National Coffee Commission (CONACAFE) puts national coffee production for the 2014/2015 season at two million quintals, which is consistent with the estimate by MAGFOR, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. According to the Export Processing Center (CENTREX), coffee exports generated USD 348.8 million in 2013 and as much as USD 394.5 million in 2014. Trends in coffee production are positive, though weather anomalies may have reduced yields by as much as five percent. The erratic pattern of rainfall also affected the biological maturation of the coffee berries, which was delayed by as much as 20 days, causing production losses.

    See the March 2015 Special Report for more information on the region’s coffee sector. 


    Food security programs

    NICARAGUA: The World Food Program’s (WFP) Country Program for Nicaragua provides for two deliveries of food assistance to at-risk groups in the departments of Estelí and Nueva Segovia targeting children under five years of age (5,000) and pregnant and breast-feeding women (3,000).


    Projected regional outlook through September 2015

    In Honduras, the repeated losses of basic grain crops for three consecutive years and surge in food prices to levels matching if not surpassing figures for last year will translate into Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food security outcomes for the poorest households in communities in livelihood zones 7 (subsistence grains and remittances) and 5 (mountainous coffee-growing zone) through September 2015, mitigated by humanitarian assistance. However, a lack of food reserves and cash income and rises in grain prices could put small localized groups of households in the southern and western reaches of the country in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by June. In addition, anomalies in the 2015 rainy season could affect the Primera crops of subsistence farmers, swelling the ranks of the food-insecure population. 

    In El Salvador, despite the limited employment opportunities in the coffee sector, lack of reserves, and high market prices of basic grains, households of small farmers in livelihood zones 2 and 3 in the eastern and western reaches of the country are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity with the help of humanitarian programs, including food assistance from the government and international cooperation agencies. However, cutbacks in these food assistance programs, limited reserves, and rises in basic grain prices will create Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes for part of this population between May and September.

    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 reaches of the country will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes for the entire period between May and September due to the heavy losses of 2014 Primera crops, high grain prices across the country, and limited employment opportunities, particularly in coffee-growing and livestock-raising activities. The poorest households in these areas could be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity between June and September, depending on prevailing conditions affecting the availability of food reserves and the progress of the rainy season.

    Figures Rainfall anomalies (%), May 1 – 28,  2015

    Figure 1

    Rainfall anomalies (%), May 1 – 28, 2015

    Source: NOAA

    Figure 2

    Source:

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