Lean season to begin in February due to localized crop losses and low household income
In general, staple harvests for the Postrera season and for the single season in the Western Highlands (altiplano) were better than in 2015, which has improved availability of staple foods in markets and in producing households. However, due to erratic rainfall during the second part of the rainy season, localized crop losses were reported in lower elevation areas of the strip known as the Dry Corridor, leading to below-normal household stocks. For producers of black beans, these damages also mean lower income, since these producers typically sell part of their harvests.
Throughout the country, maize prices have remained below the five-year average since February 2016. With maize imports from Mexico, which complement domestic production, maize prices are expected to remain below average throughout the period of analysis. However, wholesale prices for beans in Guatemala City have registered an atypical spike since March 2016, with prices in December 2016 nearly 28 percent above average. Bean prices are expected to remain above average at least through the period of analysis, in part due to the impact of climate conditions on production during the past two years.
As there are no recent representative surveys available, the current prevalence of acute malnutrition in areas of greatest concern for food insecurity is unknown. However, the number of cases of acute malnutrition reported by the Ministry of Health in municipalities of San Marcos, Totonicapán, and Huehuetenango during the final months of 2016 remained stable. This generates concern for nutritional outcomes in these areas, since typically the number of reported cases of acute malnutrition decreases during these months.
Many households who were affected by damages to their staple crops in 2016 and suffered significant losses due to drought in 2015 are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with some populations in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The majority of these households are located in lower elevation areas of the Dry Corridor. The number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is expected to gradually increase until the end of the lean season in August/September 2017, with areas of the Dry Corridor in both the west and east in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the period.
With expectations for a transition from La Niña to ENSO neutral conditions in February 2017, and in the absence of other climate drivers with clear impact on the region during the period, the most likely scenario in staple-producing areas in the north of the country is for above-average to average rainfall, which is favorable for production. For the beginning of the rainy season in the rest of the country (April/May), forecasts indicate normal probabilities for cumulative rainfall, with a continuation of positive anomalies in near-surface air temperatures.