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Central America and Caribbean Key Message Update: Acute food security remains atypically high amid continued economic challenges, September 2020

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Situation Report
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Key Messages

  • Despite the start of the harvest, recovery in remittance flows, and gradual reopening of economic activity, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Central America and Haiti through at least January 2021. The impact of COVID-19 and the associated preventive measures continue to constrain the pace of recovery in the labor market and restrict household income sources. At the same time, food prices generally remain above average. Poor rural and urban households are facing difficulty purchasing their minimum food and non-food needs and must use negative livelihoods coping strategies.

  • In Haiti, the spring harvest is estimated to be 20 percent below average due to below average and erratic rainfall distribution, according to the most recent CNSA assessment. In Central America, the Primera harvest is estimated to be near average, leading to a seasonal increase in food availability for smallholder farmers and a seasonal decline in the price of maize and beans. However, food prices remain above the five-year average in both Central America and Haiti. Consequently, rural and urban households who are net purchasers still have difficulty accessing food.

  • Due to COVID-19, public transportation remains restricted in Central America, leading to higher household expenditures on alternative transportation. This is expected to limit households’ ability to access work and earn income during the peak cash crop and coffee labor season that begins in October. In Haiti, the impact of COVID-19 is affecting domestic and cross-border labor demand and cross-border trade flows, particularly given the continued closure of the Haitian-Dominican border. Combined with long-term macroeconomic issues in Haiti, such as fuel scarcity and local currency depreciation, poor households simultaneously face below-normal income, a below-average harvest, and rising food and transportation costs.

  • The upcoming Postrera harvest in Central America and the summer/fall and winter harvests in Haiti are unlikely to notably improve food security outcomes. Although an above-average rainfall forecast during the cultivation period should benefit crop development, poor households in Haiti are expected to have insufficient income to purchase seeds and inputs for planting. In Central America, the loss of labor income and persistently above-average staple food prices are expected to outweigh the seasonal benefits of the local harvests.

  • Given that poor rural and urban households will continue to have difficulty earning enough income to meet their food and non-food needs, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist in the post-harvest periods in Central America and Haiti. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in the Honduran and Guatemalan Dry Corridor, the coffee-growing livelihood zone in El Salvador, and areas in Haiti that are worst-affected by below-average crop production and high food prices. Additionally, some very poor urban households who work in the informal sector will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).