FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
• Planting operations of 2021 main season maize crop ongoing
• Cereal production in 2020 estimated close to average level
• Cereal import requirements anticipated at high levels in 2020/21 marketing year
• Prices of white maize and black beans increased seasonally in March
• Food insecurity situation worsened in late 2020 following livelihood losses caused by hurricanes
Planting operations of 2021 main season maize crop ongoing
Planting the 2021 main season maize crop is ongoing, following a timely onset of seasonal rains in April. The seasonal outlook is favourable as weather forecasts point to average precipitation amounts in the May-July period, which coincides with the critical crop development and flowering stages. The Ministry of Agriculture is distributing bio-fortified maize seeds to 51 000 smallholder producers in 13 departments in order to improve farmers’ access to agricultural inputs.
Cereal production in 2020 estimated close to average level
The 2020 cereal production, mostly maize, is estimated at about 2 million tonnes, near the previous five-year average. In the main maize season, an above-average output was obtained due to excellent yields, reflecting favourable weather conditions.
However, some localized crop losses occurred during the minor season in maize producing departments of Izabal, Alta Verapaz, Petén, Santa Rosa and Quiché, due to the passage of two hurricanes in November 2020. According to official estimates, the affected area was reported to be about 50 000 hectares, about 5 percent of the annual sowings. The aggregate maize output in 2020 is estimated at a near-average level of 1.9 million tonnes.
Heavy rains brought by the November hurricanes and consequent flooding, severely affected the main season bean crops.
Cereal import requirements anticipated at high levels in 2020/21 marketing year
Cereal import requirements in the 2020/21 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at an above-average level of 2.3 million tonnes, with maize imports accounting for two-thirds. The requirements are anticipated to decline year on year, reflecting large carryover stocks. Cereal import requirements have been increasing steadily over the last decade due to the strong demand for yellow maize by the feed industry, combined with the sustained demand of wheat-based food products.
Prices of white maize and black beans increased seasonally in March
Prices of white maize and black beans increased in March 2021 following seasonal trends. While maize prices were about 5 percent lower year on year due to abundant supplies from the 2020 near-average harvests, prices of beans were 20 percent higher than those a year earlier. The high price level of beans reflects an upsurge in demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the adverse impact of the November hurricanes on the main season bean crops. Prices of rice remained stable for the fifth consecutive month in March 2021 and are near their year-earlier levels, reflecting adequate supplies mostly from imports.
Food insecurity situation worsened in late 2020 following livelihood losses caused by hurricanes
According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, the estimated population in acute food insecurity (classified under IPC Phase 3: “Crisis” or above) is estimated at 3.73 million between November 2020 and March 2021. This is an increase of nearly 1 million people from the projection for the same period, made before the November hurricanes. The worsening of food security conditions is mainly due to crop and livelihood losses caused by the passage of hurricanes in November 2020. Job and income losses as well as low remittances amid the COVID-19 pandemic have also exacerbated the already fragile food security situation of the country. Under the Programme of Food Support (Programa de Apoyo Alimentario), the Government distributed free staple foods (maize, beans, rice, cooking oil, salt and sugar, etc.) to 319 000 urban families and 265 000 rural families between April and December 2020.