The population experiencing food consumption gaps or utilizing negative coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is rising in the region, especially among poor households in northeastern Nicaragua, northern and southern Honduras, and coffee-producing areas in western El Salvador. Food access is declining during the ongoing lean season, marked by rising staple food prices and atypically low labor demand during the pandemic that is reducing household purchasing power. Food insecurity is expected to worsen through at least mid-August, when the primera harvest starts.
Rising fuel and food prices are placing pressure on households’ capacity to purchase food. Bean, vegetable, meat, and dairy prices are trending above average due to low 2020/2021 regional production and/or high transport costs. For example, the price of a five-pound bag of red beans in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was eight percent above the five-year average in April. Bean prices will likely remain above average until at least the primera harvest. However, maize prices remain near average and are likely to continue to be mitigated by imports, the release of national reserves, and national food assistance programs.
After an early start of season, irregular rainfall since late April has led to soil moisture deficits in parts of southern Honduras and northern Nicaragua. A two-week forecast of reduced rainfall raises concern for negative impacts on primera crop production prospects in these areas. Key informants report that although some farmers planted early in the Gulf of Fonseca and other parts of Honduras, most farmers are still engaged in land preparation and sowing activities are likely to begin in late May/early June. Due to high fertilizer prices, smallholder farmers are also likely to realize lower yields. Close monitoring of seasonal progress is required.
Amid a slow economic recovery, the third wave of COVID-19 in Central America is causing a sharp rise in confirmed cases and deaths and placing pressure on health facilities. Authorities in Honduras identified a new COVID-19 variant in May, which may be contributing to the local rise cases, along with other factors. The governments of Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua have not announced any significant, nationwide restrictive measures to limit the spread, and they are not expected to do so in the near term. Access to vaccines remains very low in Honduras and Nicaragua, where less than three percent of the population has received at least one dose as of late May. Conversely, El Salvador has already administered at least one dose to over 17 percent of its population due to earlier, rapid vaccine procurements.