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Central America and Caribbean Food Security Outlook, February to September 2021

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Food insecurity rises amid an early lean season in Central America and socio-political crisis in Haiti

KEY MESSAGES

• Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely to persist across the region through September, primarily driven by the impacts of hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America, the macroeconomic and socio-political crises in Haiti, the COVID-19 pandemic, and prior years of drought. Food assistance needs are expected to rise until the start of the spring harvest in Haiti in June/July and the primera harvest in Central America in August/September.

• In Central America, areas of concern include hurricaneaffected areas, the Dry Corridor, coffee-producing areas in El Salvador, and urban centers. In Haiti, areas of concern include rural areas affected by below-average crop production and rural and urban areas with chronically high poverty rates and poor market access.

• The economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to constrain food access for poor households across the region. Despite a second wave of COVID-19 cases that peaked in January, there are few restrictions in place. In the absence of restrictions, employment rates and household income are gradually recovering, especially in urban areas, but remain below normal levels. Based on limited access to vaccines at the country level, vaccinations are unlikely to be available to the general public during the projection period.

• In Central America, below-average food availability from the postrera and apante harvests, below-normal income, and high food prices have led to an early start of the lean season.
Although market access is normal, maize and bean prices are projected to be above the five-year average in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua through September. Below-normal income and high food prices will limit purchasing power and food access, especially among the poorest households.

• In Haiti, food availability and access are constrained by macroeconomic and socio-political challenges as well as below-average harvests. Although market supply is stable, food prices are near- to above the five-year average due to below-average fall and winter harvests and an upward trend in imported food products, despite marginal appreciation of the HTG against the USD. Winter crops, including beans and corn, were unable to recover from poor rainfall in late 2020 despite above-average rainfall amounts in January. Meanwhile, the socio-political crisis has led to a reduction in employment opportunities, translating to reduced income for poor urban households. Consequently, household purchasing power is below normal levels.

• Across the region, poor rural households are expected to increasingly rely on purchasing food during the lean season. At the same time, above-average food prices, a seasonal decline in rural employment, and slow recovery in urban employment will drive low purchasing power. Many rural and urban poor households will likely turn to loans and credit or sales of productive assets in order to buy food, resort to atypical migration strategies, or have food consumption gaps.