(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply situation conditions give rise to concern)

DATE: 6 November 1998


Between 26 October and 1 November, hurricane "Mitch" swept across several Central American countries, with torrential rains, and high winds causing widespread flooding. Thousands of people have perished and millions more have been left homeless and without potable water. The damage to housing, infrastructure and agriculture is on an unprecedented scale. Honduras and Nicaragua have been the hardest hit. Guatemala and El Salvador have also been severely affected, and, to a lesser extent, Costa Rica, some south-western parts of Mexico and Jamaica.

A satisfactory outcome to the 1998 first season cereal crop raised hopes of a recovery in output, after the poor El Niño-affected crop last year. These hopes have vanished as fields under foodcrops, mostly cultivated by small farmers, have been washed away in every country. Banana, coffee and sugar plantations, which are vital sources of foreign exchange, have been devastated in several countries, as have non-traditional export crops such as melons, fruits and vegetables. The banana growing areas of Guatemala and Honduras, which together account for over 10 percent of world supplies, were heavily affected, with reported losses ranging from 60 to 90 percent.

A large-scale emergency relief assistance has been launched by the international community. Preliminary damage assessments are underway in the affected countries. FAO plans to field a mission to the most affected countries to assess the implications for food security in the coming year and to prepare a plan for the rehabilitation of agricultural production.

The situation in the most affected countries is summarised below:


Torrential rains, flooding, landslides and winds of different intensities affected the country for the full week extending between 26 – 30 October. "Mitch" started as a hurricane off the Caribbean coast and swept through the country as a tropical storm before moving north-west into the neighbouring country of Guatemala by 30 October. As of 3 November, between 6 000 and 10 000 persons were reported to have lost their life in Honduras. Up to 1.5 million people were displaced and homeless with a large number of them isolated in the flooded areas. Disastrous flooding have swept away over 25 small villages in the northern parts of the country, and important cities such as industrial San Pedro Sula and Progreso, in the north, and the capital of Tegucigalpa were cut off by the flooded rivers. Every important coffee producing area in the country, an important sector in the economy of the nation, including Copán, Olancho, Comayagua, Francisco Morazán and La Paz, has been affected, and large warehouses and coffee store rooms of main exporters inundated.

Preliminary estimates put the coffee losses at 650 000 bags or over 20 percent of expected production this year. Planting of the country’s 1998 main season cereal crops including about 80 percent of annual maize production was underway when the hurricane struck. No detailed assessment of damage has yet been made but enormous losses are reported. The bean crop (about 65 percent of annual output), another important staple in the population’s diet, as well as bananas, oil palms, citrus and other fruit crops have been seriously affected. Severe damage has also been inflicted to tourist resorts. The losses incurred represent a significant blow to the economy of Honduras, which is one of the poorest country in Latin America. Relief assistance is being provided by the international community.


The hurricane caused a very large number of casualties. By 3 November, 1 350 persons had been confirmed dead, but various other sources indicate that the number of victims could be much higher. Almost half a million people have been left homeless. Most of the damage has been inflicted in the north-central and north-west of the country, where a huge landslide caused by the torrential rains in the north-west swept away a group of small villages. Many populated and cropped areas on the Atlantic coast have been water-logged as a consequence of the high tides and flooded rivers. Damage to housing and infrastructure is reportedly immense. Many small villages have remained inaccessible because of damage to roads and bridges. In the capital of Managua alone, tens of thousands of people in the poorest parts of the town have lost their homes. About one-third of the 6 million people in the country are reported to have been directly affected. Losses inflicted on the agricultural and livestock sectors are reported to be very large but a detailed assessment of damage has not been made yet. Preliminary indications are that 30 percent of the coffee crop has been lost. As regards foodcrops, the country had obtained excellent results from the first season, but the losses sustained have ended all hopes of a recovery from last year’s severely drought-affected crops. Second season maize, currently being planted, represents about 15 to 20 percent of annual production. The crop of beans and sorghum, important food staples currently in the ground, represent about 50 percent and 80 percent of the total annual production respectively. All of these crops are reported to have been seriously affected by the floods. Emergency relief is being provided by the international community.


The country has been severely hit by a week of intensive rains and flooding. It is estimated that about 600 000 people in the extreme north-eastern parts of the country, such as Petén, Alta y Baja Verapaz, and Izabal, and some 350 000 in the south have been directly affected by the hurricane. The number of dead was put at 157 as of 3 November. Various zones are reported to be isolated, and some of the main connecting roads are closed. There has been severe damage to housing. Preliminary official assessments confirm extensive damage to coffee, tobacco and banana plantations, melons and other fruit and garden vegetables. About 15 percent of the coffee crop has been reportedly lost. The important paddy growing zones in the north-east of the country have also been affected. Fortunately, some 70 percent of the paddy crop as well as a good part of the staple bean crop had already been collected. But harvesting of the important first season maize crop, which was still underway, and planting of the second season crop, were severely affected by the floods. Increases in consumer prices for these important staples are reported. Relief assistance is being provided by the international community and plans for the rehabilitation of agricultural activities in the affected areas are being considered.


The hurricane left behind over 200 people dead and thousands homeless and dispersed. Damage to housing and infrastructure is reported to be enormous. The agricultural sector is also reported to be severely affected. The departments of Usulután, Morazán and the southern parts of the department of San Miguel have been particularly hit. Some villages on the Pacific coast were also seriously affected by the floods. Harvesting of the 1998 first season cereal crops was well advanced when the hurricane struck and some planting of the second crop had been initiated. No detailed assessment of damage has yet been made, but extensive damage is reported to fields of standing crops in the aforementioned areas which are some of the most economically depressed zones in the country. Early estimates indicate that possibly as much as 80 percent of maize crop grown in these areas has been lost. Other important crops for the affected population, such as sorghum and beans, are also reported to have been seriously damaged. Important coffee plantations, a vital foreign exchange earner, have been also seriously affected. Considerable damage is reported to the important sugar cane crop. Emergency relief assistance is being provided and a detailed assessment of damage is in the process of being initiated for the rehabilitation of the agricultural activities in the affected areas.


This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

The Special Alerts/Reports can also be received automatically by E-mail as soon as these are published, subscribing to the GIEWS/Alerts report ListServ. To do so, please send an E-mail to the FAO-Mail-Server at the following address:, leaving the subject blank, with the following message:

subscribe GIEWSAlerts-L

To be deleted from the list, send the message:

unsubscribe GIEWSAlerts-L


TOC Return to menu