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Both the rising incidence of coffee rust during the 2012/2013 growing season and the decline in international coffee prices between 2011 and the end of 2013 contributed to a decline in coffee production in Central America. Coffee production in El Salvador, the most affected country, dropped by 70 percent between the 2010/2011 and 2013/2014 seasons. Coffee production in Honduras, which had reached a record high in volume in 2011/2012, declined by 23 percent in 2012/2013. In Guatemala, production dropped by 18 percent between 2011/2012 and 2013/2014, while Nicaragua, the country least affected in terms of its aggregate volume of production, saw an 11 percent decline in coffee production between 2011/2012 and 2013/2014.
The volume of coffee production in each of these four countries has fluctuated over the past ten years. In spite of the continuing rust infestation, coffee production by the Central American region as a whole has been gradually rebounding beginning with the 2013/2014 harvest, compared with production figures for the 2012/2013 harvest, especially in the case of Honduras and Guatemala. However, there are areas throughout the region still affected by the rust outbreak, particularly in eastern Guatemala, western El Salvador and Honduras, and northwestern Nicaragua.
While the coffee sector in all four countries is recovering in terms of aggregate volume of coffee production, small coffee growers and day laborers in certain areas are still severely impacted. In addition, the international price of coffee fell by 24 percent between December 2014 and December 2015. Even with the slight rise in prices in the first quarter of 2016, the low price of coffee has affected the earned incomes of coffee growers and day laborers during the 2015/2016 harvest. In some cases, production costs are greater than revenues from sales.
The combined effects of climatic factors such as the El Niño phenomenon and of the problems in the coffee sector, including the rust outbreak and the decline in prices, has limited food availability and food access for many very poor and poor households in the Central American region. Areas of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua have been classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) since May and will remain so at least until staple harvests in August/September.
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