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Losses of Primera crops will lead to an early start to the lean season for the region’s poorest households

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • October 2015
Losses of Primera crops will lead to an early start to the lean season for the region’s poorest households

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  • Key Messages
  • Postrera season progress
  • Regional staple food markets
  • Food-insecure population
  • Coffee sector
  • Projected regional outlook through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • In spite of the delay in the planting of Postrera crops, the rainfall during the latter stages of the 2015 season has reduced the risk of drought-induced losses. However, heavy rains have heightened the risk of crop damage due to fungal diseases and the possible proliferation of pests. Nevertheless, Postrera harvests will be better than originally expected.

    • Most poor households dependent on subsistence agriculture and households of day laborers in southwestern Honduras (in the Dry Corridor) are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between October and February, supported by employment opportunities in the recovering coffee sector and government food assistance. However, given Primera season losses of up to 100 percent, recurrent Primera losses in recent years, and expectations for a below-average Postrera harvest, the poorest households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) starting in November 2015.

    • Subsistence farming households in eastern El Salvador lost up to 100 percent of their Primera crops. However, they will receive food assistance from the government, which is expected to keep them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from October to February 2016. Losses of staple crops and limited employment opportunities are expected to push them into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in March 2016.

    • Small-scale producers of staple crops in northwestern Nicaragua suffered damages to their Primera crops, and are facing a high likelihood of losses during the Postrera season. Without food assistance, these households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) before the end of the year.






    Subsistence farmers in Dry Corridor areas of the region lost between 80 and 100 percent of their Primera crops, which is limiting food availability and food access for the poorest households.

    The planting of staple crops for the Postrera season was delayed by approximately one month, making them prone to damage.

    Excessive rainfall in central Pacific areas of the region poses a risk of damage to staple crops, particularly beans. 


    Households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in areas within the Dry Corridor.

    Forecasts call for excessive rainfall in the second half of October, which could cause heavy losses of developing maize and bean crops.

    Local prices for white maize and beans are expected to remain stable until the Postrera harvest in November-December, at which point price trends will depend on the impact of El Niño.

    Postrera season progress

    Contrary to the forecast for low cumulative rainfall totals as a result of the ongoing El Niño (which is expected to extend through at least the first quarter of 2016), satellite estimates indicate that rainfall totals for the period September 21 - October 20 in the Pacific basin of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua were between 100 and 200 percent of the average for that period. This rainfall was beneficial for areas in the Dry Corridor (Figure 3), allowing for the planting of Postrera crops beginning in the second half of September. The continuation of El Niño conditions into early 2016, during the Postrera Tardía season in Honduras and the Apante season in Nicaragua, could affect the distribution of rainfall in Atlantic areas, resulting in losses or below-normal yields, mainly for red beans.

    Although most of the Pacific basin of the region received some rainfall during the last week of October, totals were below average (Figure 4). The heavy rain in the middle of October could potentially cause damage to crops from fungal diseases and pests, particularly for beans. Furthermore, rainfall anomalies in August and September delayed the planting of Postrera crops across the region by approximately one month, posing a risk of damage to Postrera crops in the event of insufficient soil water availability during their vegetative growth stage.

    In Nicaragua, Postrera crops were planted between September 14th and 25th in most production areas, and are in different stages of growth and development. If rains are well-distributed through the beginning of November, it is expected that Postrera crops will develop normally, resulting in an average harvest. However, certain areas in the Dry Corridor did not receive rain during the third week of October.

    The government has supplied 23,000 packets of seeds for the planting of Postrera crops in Matagalpa, Estelí, León, Chinandega, Nueva Segovia, Boaco, Carazo, and Managua Departments to compensate for the losses of seeds from Primera crops sustained by many households in these areas.

    In El Salvador, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) distributed 117,400 packets of bean seeds (25 pounds) to subsistence farmers for the planting of Postrera crops.

    In Honduras, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (SAG) provided 41,000 households with short-cycle maize, bean, and sorghum seeds for the planting of Postrera crops in areas where normal rainfall is expected, in line with its staple production strategy.

    Regional staple food markets

    Honduras: Seeking to keep markets supplied with staples, the government through the Ministry of Economic Development has made agreements with vendors for the supply and distribution of red beans on major markets. Under this strategy, the government is supplying them with product to be sold at a fixed retail price of HNL 65 per five-pound bag. 

    In Nicaragua, in October of last year the average price of red beans was approximately NIO 28/pound, prompting the authorization of imports from outside the region in an attempt to stabilize prices. Currently, average red bean prices are approximately NIO 17/pound on markets in Managua, and are lower in major production areas. This price behavior can be attributed to stocks from the Apante harvest, Primera season production, and reserves held by traders. The government is strengthening collection and storage operations and reviving its subsidized sales program for beans and maize to prevent price speculation on markets in order to keep prices stable.

    Food-insecure population

    Honduras: In August 2015, the government and international cooperation agencies conducted a joint Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) in 19 drought-affected municipalities in the Dry Corridor. The assessment identified 1.4 million people as food insecure, of which 253,000 people were classified as severely food insecure and 1.1 million as moderately food insecure.

    The government has dedicated HNL 100 million (USD 4.44 million) for its Drought Action Plan for 2015. These funds will be used to provide food assistance acquired through the National Staple Food Supply Company (BANASUPRO) to 57,000 households. As of September, there were ongoing deliveries of food rations to 12,000 households.

    The government is working with international cooperation agencies to promote various fund-raising programs in support of households who lost their Primera crops, including the "Adopt a Family" initiative designed to help drought-affected households.

    El Salvador: The government will provide food assistance to 38,334 drought-affected households who "could enter into crisis" due to lack of food. This food assistance will be provided in two or three deliveries, providing these households with a supply of fortified cereals high in micronutrients, oil, sugar, beans, rice, and maize. The target populations are in 18 municipalities in eight drought-affected departments.

    Nicaragua: The government has deployed health brigades to drought-affected municipalities, mainly to vulnerable communities within the Dry Corridor, to assess the nutritional status of children under five years of age as a basis for the development of response strategies. To date, 33,000 food packages (containing 4.5 kg of rice, 4.5 kg of beans, 2 kg of sugar, 2 kg of maize, one liter of oil, 1 kg of salt, and cereals) have been distributed to poor households in drought-affected areas of Matagalpa, Estelí, Madriz, Nueva Segovia, Chinandega, León, Chontales, Boaco, and Managua Departments.

    Coffee sector

    HONDURAS: According to the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE), coffee exports for the 2014/2015 season as of September 18, 2015 were 6.53 million 46 kg bags, up 20 percent from export figures for the same month of the 2013/2014 season. According to Early Warning Bulletin No. 3 by the Coffee Rust Early Warning System, there has been a rising incidence of coffee rust disease since the second half of July, most likely fueled by the rainfall in certain areas. Ground data from the third round of coffee rust monitoring indicated that the average incidence of coffee rust on susceptible varieties of coffee plants was 9.9 percent nationwide. The highest incidence levels (28-36 percent, red alert) were in certain municipalities in Copán Department. However, based on preliminary production data, the country is expected to produce 7.5 million bags of coffee for the 2015/2016 season, matching the production figure for 2011/2012 (7.4 million bags), the season before the outbreak of coffee rust disease. 

    EL SALVADOR: According to the Salvadoran Coffee Council, as of August 31, 2015, the country had exported 761,436 quintals of coffee, 19 percent more than at the same time last season, with a total value of USD 152.06 million based on an average price of USD 199.71/quintal.

    NICARAGUA: The National Coffee Council (CONACAFE) credits the pattern of rainfall with helping to hold down the incidence of coffee rust disease. However, the low rainfall will also have adverse effects, which will be reflected in the final production figures. The Nicaraguan Association of Coffee Exporters is estimating the volume of the upcoming coffee harvest beginning in October at two million quintals. According to monitoring data, the coffee-growing areas hardest hit by the drought are in Carazo and low-elevation areas of Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia. 

    Projected regional outlook through March 2016

    The rainfall anomalies during the Primera growing season (May through August) affected mainly staple crops. Subsistence farmers in areas within the Dry Corridor lost 80 to as much as 100 percent of their crops. The Primera season in these areas is devoted mostly to growing maize, which means that these farmers will not have sufficient stocks with which to meet their food needs this coming year. The poor distribution of rainfall during that season also affected other farming and livestock-raising activities (peanut, sugar cane, bananas, citrus fruits, and cattle), which will limit employment opportunities in the region.

    Nevertheless, there are other important factors to consider: (a) rainfall was near-average in the second half of September, which allowed for the planting of Postrera crops. To date, these crops are developing normally. Contrary to previous forecasts, there was an increase in rainfall in the second half of October, which could mean damage to crops from excessive rain; (b) The rehabilitation of coffee-growing areas of the region continues, which means increased employment opportunities, primarily during the harvest season (between November and March); (c) Staple food prices have come down since last year and are stable; (d) As of October, all three governments have implemented food assistance programs for drought-affected populations at risk of acute food insecurity. 

    In the projected scenario, the poorest households in Dry Corridor areas of southern and western Honduras dependent on production of staples and coffee, as well as wage income from casual farm labor, will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as of November 2015. The number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will begin to increase in March 2016 due to the losses incurred in staple production during the 2015 Primera season, as well as the impact of successive losses to Primera crops on normal livelihoods during the last three years and the limited employment opportunities in drought-affected production areas. These same factors are affecting the poorest households in eastern El Salvador and northwestern Nicaragua, who could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the first quarter of 2016. The number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the region is likely to increase during the first quarter of 2016.

    Figures Rainfall anomaly for the period from September 21 through October 20, 2015 (%)

    Figure 1

    Rainfall anomaly for the period from September 21 through October 20, 2015 (%)


    Rainfall anomaly for the period October 23 – 29, 2015 (%)

    Figure 2

    Rainfall anomaly for the period October 23 – 29, 2015 (%)


    Figure 3

    Change in staple prices in regional markets


    Areas affected by drought in the 2015 Primera season (May/August)

    Figure 4

    Areas affected by drought in the 2015 Primera season (May/August)


    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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