Guatemala

Guatemala: Key Message Update - High food prices at the start of the lean season signal atypically low food access, March 2021

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As the lean season starts in Guatemala, the supply of maize and black bean is expected to remain stable, due to adequate supply from national grain stocks, the last fresh harvests from the North, and formal and informal imports from Mexico. Despite normal supply, staple food prices are likely to remain roughly 10-20 percent above average due to increased fuel and transportation costs and the increased cost of international yellow maize, which may trigger higher demand for locally produced grains.

As a result of high staple food prices and below-average income, poor households are facing lower-than-normal food access at the start of the 2021 lean season. While formal and informal activities slowly recover in urban areas, driving improvements in food security among the urban poor, poor households in rural areas are experiencing an earlier than usual start of the lean season. Access to income-generating activities will remain low for rural populations, due to both seasonality and lower economic opportunities as a result of the pandemic and the hurricanes. Food access will remain lower than normal through August.

The sowing of basic grains has started in the western highlands, while land preparation for the Primera season is underway in the rest of the country. Based on the level of ongoing activities and the forecast of average April to June first season rainfall, proper establishment and development of crops is expected. The Ministry of Agriculture issued alerts for the a locust infestation in the north of the country, which currently does not represent a threat to national production, and the ashes from the Pacaya Volcano that have caused localized crop damages.

Through the peak of the lean season in August, many poor households in urban and rural areas are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to past shocks that reduced their income, and they will continue to use their savings and depend on loans to cover their food needs. Of highest concern are poor households in the Dry Corridor and in the areas affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota: due to their significant income losses, depletion of savings, and high food costs, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely among these populations. Although some food assistance deliveries are likely between April and June, food assistance needs exist currently and are likely to remain higher than programmed assistance during the lean season.