Remote Monitoring Report

Good staple grain harvests and available job opportunities in coffee-growing activities facilitate food access

February 2018

February - May 2018

June - September 2018

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Most poor households affected by poor staple grain production and a shortage of job opportunities for the past several years, particularly between 2014 and 2016, are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity owing to the good staple grain harvests in 2017 and better job opportunities in the farming sector, even in coffee-growing activities. The majority of these households are expected to remain in the Minimal (IPC Phase 1) phase of food insecurity through September 2018.

  • Localized groups of small-scale staple grain farmers in areas with few crops or limited harvests for this past growing season, mainly in southern and western Honduras, eastern and western El Salvador, and central and northern Nicaragua, will move up into the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity as of May with the depletion of their food reserves and the seasonal decline in the availability of work for casual laborers.

  • The reported above-average rainfall in the first quarter of 2018 in Atlantic Basin areas helped precipitate the ripening and falling of coffee beans in the coffee-growing areas of Santa Bárbara, Santa Rosa de Copán, Comayagua, Francisco Morazán, and Cortez in Honduras and of Jinotega, Matagalpa, and Nueva Segovia in Nicaragua. There is a real risk that this could affect crops in the flowering stage and the incidence of coffee rust disease.

  • The above-normal rainfall activity in January and February 2018 poses a risk of damage to maize and bean crops for the Apante/Postrera Tardía growing season in Nicaragua and Honduras, promoting the spread of funguses with the potential to impair grain quality.

COUNTRY

CURRENT ANOMALIES

PROJECTED ANOMALIES

Regional

 

  • Rains in higher-elevation coffee-growing areas (900 – 1400 meters above sea level) precipitate the ripening and falling of coffee beans.
  • Prices for red beans and white maize in Nicaragua and Honduras are expected to stay above figures for last year through at least September 2018, with red bean prices near the five-year average.
  • Above-normal levels of rainfall in the month of May could trigger a higher incidence of coffee rust disease and cause damage to coffee crops across the region in the flowering stage.

Climate outlook

Atlantic Basin, Apante/Postrera Tardía growing season: The end of the 2017/2018 rainy season was marked by above-normal rainfall activity in most parts of Central America, with semi-stationary cold fronts producing heavy rains in many crop-growing areas, particularly at the end of January. These events created positive cumulative rainfall anomalies in Atlantic Basin areas (Figures 1 and 2), affecting staple grain farmers in certain northern and Atlantic Coast areas of Honduras and Nicaragua in the process of harvesting Postrera crops and of planting crops for the Apante/Postrera Tardía growing season. They also affected coffee-growing areas where the unusual rainfall activity between November and January precipitated the ripening and harvesting of coffee crops.

The current La Niña conditions will ease back into ENSO-neutral conditions around springtime in the northern hemisphere, with ENSO-neutral conditions considered the most likely scenario for March, April, and May based on the CPC/IRI forecast. Thus, the most likely scenario for the 2018 spring season (from April/May through July) calls for normal levels of cumulative rainfall and a normal distribution of rainfall. However, there is a certain amount of uncertainty in this outlook, which makes it important to continue to monitor the rainy season and trends in sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Pacific.

Staple grain production and marketing in the region

 

Honduras: The Ministry of Agriculture expects total staple grain production (maize, beans, rice, and sorghum) for the next (2018/2019) growing season to be close to production figures for the 2017/2018 season, at 19 million quintals, including 14 million quintals of maize, 3 million quintals of beans, 1.8 million quintals of rice, and 600,000 quintals of sorghum.

According to the agro–meteorological report by the Ministry of Agriculture containing information on crop production for the Postrera Tardía season, maize crops in Olancho department are showing signs of good vegetative growth with the good climatic conditions for farming activities in that area. Harvests in highland areas of El Paraíso are expected to take place in March and April. Crops in Santa Bárbara are in the maturation stage, with their stalks beginning to bend, and are expected to produce adequate yields. Maize crops for the Postrera Tardía growing season in the western part of the country (Lempira, Ocotepeque, and Copán) are in the flowering, kernel development, and maturation stages and making good progress. Postrera Tardía crops planted in January and the beginning of February in the Valle del Aguán area (Yoro and Colón) are currently in the growth stage.

El Salvador: The Ministry of Agriculture puts staple grain production for the 2016/2017 season at 26.2 million quintals, up by 25.5 percent from the figure of 20.9 million quintals for the previous season. The production target for the 2017/2018 season, namely 26.5 million quintals, has presumably been exceeded, although there are no official production figures.

Nicaragua: According to ground reports, bean production for the Postrera growing season in Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Matagalpa suffices to meet domestic demand. However, traders serving as forwarding agents are pouring into crop-producing areas offering good prices for these crops (NIO 1300-1350/quintal), which is limiting the flow of trade to markets in municipal capitals and the nation’s capital, preventing the expected normal seasonal decline in prices. It is not clear where these traders are from, although there is some speculation that they are Salvadoran or domestic investors looking to stockpile crops with the intention of speculating with their prices just before the harvest of Apante crops.

There is a risk that the rainfall in the first two weeks of February could affect the quality of bean production by promoting the spread of funguses causing damage to bean crops, particularly in farming areas with bean plants in the physiological maturation stage. Continuing rainfall through the month of February would also put crops at risk in highland areas of Matagalpa, Nueva Guinea, and Estelí, where they were planted late and are not scheduled to be harvested until the end of March and the first two weeks of April.

Regional trends in staple grain prices: Trends in wholesale prices for maize and red beans in major marketplaces across the region are mixed. Red bean prices in marketplaces in the capitals of all three countries show little movement from last month, while a comparison with figures for last year in Nicaragua puts current prices up by 19 percent, which is being attributed to market speculation.

Trends in maize prices vary from one part of the region to another. Prices on markets in San Salvador and Tegucigalpa are stable, which is attributed to the good market supplies from remaining inventories and shipments of Primera and Postrera crops from crop-growing areas. In contrast, the Managua market is reporting the steepest rise in maize prices pending the upcoming harvests of Apante crops beginning at the end of March, which are still very close to prices at the beginning of 2017.

Any upward movement in maize and bean prices in the month of March could be reversed by the harvests of Apante and Postrera Tardía crops expected to get underway by the middle of March, provided the above-normal rainfall activity does not affect yields of these standing crops.  

Coffee sector

El Salvador: Official preliminary estimates at the beginning of the 2017/2018 harvest put coffee production for this season at 1.033 million quintals, up by approximately 20 percent from the production figure for the 2016/2017 season.

Honduras: Coffee exports for the 2017/2018 season are projected at 10.19 million quintals, which would put them seven percent above the figure for the 2016/2017 season (9.509 million quintals). IHCAFE statistics put total coffee exports as of February 14, 2018 at 2.96 million 46 kg bags, up by 16 percent from the 2.54 million bags of exports at the same point in the 2016/2017 season. However, the value of these exports, at USD 365.9 million, is down by one percent from the USD 370.7 million worth of exports at the same time in 2016/2017. The average selling price of coffee exports to date is USD 123.45, 15 percent less than the average of USD 145.57 for the 2016/2017 season.

The latest rust monitoring bulletin put the nationwide incidence of coffee rust disease in susceptible coffee varieties at 4.90 percent as of October. The departments with the highest incidence rates were Cortez, Comayagua, Yoro, and Santa Bárbara. The nationwide incidence rate in rust-resistant varieties was 1.45 percent.

The high levels of rainfall in Santa Bárbara, Cortez, and Yoro between January and February have affected current harvests by precipitating the ripening of coffee beans. These rains could also affect the flowering and bean filling stages of the next round of crops for the 2018/2019 harvest.

Nicaragua: The agro-meteorological bulletin for January 2018 reported a 3.35 percent rise in the incidence of coffee rust disease in January 2018 compared with the previous year. Masaya, Carazo, Granada, Rivas, and Estelí departments reportedly have the highest incidence rates, where most areas grow Caturra coffee and are at low elevations (less than 800 meters above sea level). Infestation rates in all other departments have stayed below the 10 percent warning level. The dispersal of the fungus by coffee pickers at harvest time and the conducive rainfall conditions and temperatures were other contributing factors to the spread of the disease. Infestation rates are expected to rise in the month of February.

According to the Nicaraguan coffee growers association, last season (2016/2017), the failure to harvest coffee crops on time caused the loss of approximately 200,000 quintals of coffee beans. The situation this season (2017/2018) will be the same if not worse based on reported crop losses due to a lack coffee pickers. This information was confirmed by the National Alliance of Coffee Growers, which indicated that, while some areas have more of a problem with continuing labor shortages than others, it is a region-wide problem in that it is difficult to find workers due to their migration to urban areas or other countries (to work in other farming or business activities or in construction). The remittances sent home by migrant workers and the job opportunities created by companies in free trade areas are also contributing to the problem. This labor issue was also identified by a PROMECAFE commission as a problem directly affecting medium and large-scale coffee growers, in that small growers use family labor to harvest their crops. There are many reasons for the labor shortage, but it is due mainly to the premature ripening of the coffee beans triggered by the rainfall activity between November and January, creating a larger demand for labor for shorter periods of time in many areas. Coffee-growers in Nicaragua have also been affected by the decision of many coffee pickers to seek work elsewhere, attracted by the better employment opportunities afforded by coffee-growing and other farming and livestock-raising activities in Costa Rica.

The high rates of rainfall in January and February in Jinotega and Matagalpa have affected the ongoing harvest in these areas, in similar fashion to the situation in parts of Honduras, with the same risk of affecting the flowering and bean filling stages of the next round of crops.

Employment and migration

 

Honduras: There has reportedly been more demand for foreign labor for the current coffee harvest, particularly for Guatemalan workers migrating to coffee-growing areas of Honduras. This is due to the larger area planted in coffee and larger overall volume of production, as well as to the prevailing climatic conditions at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, which precipitated the ripening of the coffee beans and, thus, caused them to start falling earlier than usual. This required the hiring of more workers, creating a larger demand for labor. This hiring will continue through the middle of March, mainly in higher-elevation coffee-growing areas still in production.

Nicaragua: Labor market statistics compiled by the Central Bank of Nicaragua put the number of workers enrolled with the national social security administration as of November at 921,328, which is five percent above the figure for the same month of the previous year. In inter-annual terms, the fastest-growing economic activities were agriculture, forestry, hunting, and fishing (10.8 percent), electric power, gas, and water supply services (10.2 percent), trade, hotels, and restaurants (6.8 percent), and transportation, storage, and communications services (4.4 percent). The nominal average monthly wage of covered workers was NIO 9,909.8, representing an inter-annual increase of 6.1 percent.

Projected regional outlook through September 2018

Many of the poorest households in southern and southwestern Honduras, eastern and western El Salvador, and northern and central Nicaragua suffered damage to their livelihoods for five consecutive years caused mainly by rainfall anomalies and the spread of coffee rust disease. However, with their alternative employment options in other farming and livestock-raising activities and the good 2017 harvests, households in these areas are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. However, small-scale staple grain farmers (growing maize, beans, and sorghum) in these areas with few crops or small harvests for the last growing season and limited food reserves will likely move up into the Stressed (IPC Phase 2) phase of food insecurity by March with the depletion of their food reserves and the limited casual employment opportunities.

About Remote Monitoring

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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