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Central America and Caribbean Key Message Update: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) persists despite recent harvests and seasonally high labor demand, October 2020

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Key Messages

Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in the region through at least January 2021. Although recent harvests, re-opening of international borders, and increase in economic activity have led to marginal improvement in household food availability and access, most rural and urban households still face difficulty earning enough income to afford both their food and non-food needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated among the poorest urban households who work in the informal sector and among rural households in the Honduran and Guatemalan Dry Corridor and the Salvadoran coffee zone.

In Haiti, improved rainfall performance since August has supported an improvement in cropping conditions for the summer and fall harvests, especially for rice. However, rising insecurity in September led to the closure of some businesses and roadblocks in Port aux Prince. Disruptions are likely to intensify due to the uncertainty surrounding national elections in 2021, which poses multiple risks to food availability and access, particularly market supply and prices. Despite a 72 percent appreciation of the HTG from August to September, staple food prices remain higher than normal.

In Central America, the average primera harvest is driving a relative decline in staple food prices while the easing of COVID-19 movement restrictions has extended market operating hours. As a result, household purchasing power in both urban and rural areas has slightly improved. However, household income remains lower than normal while household expenditure on public and private transportation is higher than normal, which continues to constrain household food access at the peak of the cash crop and coffee labor season.

In Guatemala, government assistance programs disbursed a second round of cash assistance of 1,000 GTQ (128 USD) in August, reaching 2.6 million beneficiaries in primarily urban areas. The third payment, which is scheduled in October, will be lower in value. Meanwhile, an in-kind food support program that is reaching 1 million poor urban and rural households will conclude in November. In the rest of region, future food assistance delivery is uncertain.

Prevailing La Niña conditions are forecast to bring above-average rainfall to the region through November, which is likely to support average yields in the postrera harvest in Central America in November and the summer and fall harvests in Haiti from September to January. However, poor households in Haiti have insufficient income to purchase seeds and inputs for planting which may limit total production. As a result of constraints to production and the impact of movement restrictions and insecurity on market supply flows, staple food prices are projected to remain slightly above average through January.