The food insecure population continues to rise as the lean season progresses, driven by the impacts of hurricanes Eta and Iota, the COVID-19 pandemic, prior years of drought, and the macroeconomic and sociopolitical crises in Haiti. Food insecure households face low food availability and access because of below-average crop production, high staple food prices, below-normal income, and reduced purchasing power. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to persist through September in areas of concern, including the Dry Corridor in Guatemala, parts of northern and southern Honduras, parts of northern Nicaragua, parts of western El Salvador, and numerous parts of Haiti. Additionally, many poor households in urban and rural areas will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
Access to vaccines against COVID-19 remain very limited in Central America, apart from El Salvador where just over 10 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine as of late April. Another spike in confirmed cases is observed in April, but only the government of Guatemala reinstated some movement restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19, which expire on April 30th. In the absence of stringent restrictions, formal and informal economic activity and employment are expected to continue to slowly recover but will remain below normal levels, especially in urban areas.
In February, maize prices in Central America decreased seasonally with the availability of postrera stocks, except in Guatemala where maize prices remained high. Rice and bean prices were stable, except in Honduras where bean prices rose. However, staple food prices are expected to rise further due to higher-than-anticipated fuel prices. Although imported food commodities may mitigate the impact, Nicaragua is expected to be the worst affected as local fuel prices are already the highest in the region.
In Haiti, rising insecurity in Port-au-Prince has been marked by kidnappings and increasingly violent protests, with related periodic closures of businesses and schools, limited market functioning, and disruptions to income-earning opportunities for poor urban households. While most local markets were still well supplied in March, the Croix-des-Bossales market has experienced disruptions in supply. Meanwhile, fluctuations on the informal exchange rate continue to drive high staple food prices, including imported rice, maize, and beans.
The start of the first rainfall season, which begins in March in Haiti and April/May in Central America, has prompted farmers to begin land preparation and planting for spring crop production season in Haiti and Guatemala. Despite a favorable rainfall forecast, crop production in Haiti is most likely to be negatively affected by low seed availability and access following the below average winter harvests, which could lead to limited planting.