FAO/GIEWS - Foodcrops & Shortages No.5, November 2001

CENTRAL AMERICA (including the Caribbean)

BELIZE (4 November)

Hurricane ‘Iris’ hit the southern part of the country in early October, with sustained winds of up to 145mph that destroyed agricultural crops, fishing equipment and tourism and housing infrastructure. Up to 90 percent of the banana crop of southern Belize was flattened by the category 4 hurricane winds, which also destroyed maize, paddy, citrus and cacao crops. The Government has appealed for international assistance, and the international community is providing emergency relief to the affected population.

COSTA RICA (4 November)

Harvesting of first season crops is underway and planting of second season crops has started in various parts of the country. The first season crop was affected by a dry spell in its early stages of growth, and the second season crop is developing normally. Maize production in 2001 is forecast at 17 000 tonnes, slightly lower than last year and about 32 percent lower than the average level of the last five years. Harvesting of first season and planting of second season paddy crops is underway, and an abundant crop, similar to the one obtained last year, is anticipated.

Import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 (July/June) are forecast at 35 000 tonnes of white maize and 525 000 tonnes of yellow maize. CNP (National Board of Production) estimates that Costa Rica may not need to import rice in marketing year 2002 (Jan/Dec).

CUBA (1 November)

The agricultural sector is recovering from last year’s severe drought. Moderate rains in July and August, and above-average rains in September and October have favoured the development of first season coarse grain and sugar cane crops. Maize production is forecast to increase by 15 percent from last year’s drought affected crop. It is reported that water reservoirs levels in October have significantly improved from last year. The outlook is favourable for the important irrigated spring/summer paddy crop planted from April to June and to be harvested from November. A category 4 hurricane (‘Michelle’) hit the Isla de la Juventud, La Habana and Matanzas on 4 November. As a precaution the Government had evacuated half a million people from the areas at risk. The hurricane damaged maturing sugar cane, citrus, maize and paddy crops and WFP is collaborating with the government in assisting 30 000 people for three months.

Wheat import requirements for marketing year 2001/02 (July/June) are forecast at 950 000 tonnes, while rice imports in marketing year 2001 (Jan./Dec.) are expected to reach 440 000 tonnes.


Harvesting of coarse grain crops is underway and expected to continue until early next year. Aggregate cereal production in 2001 is forecast to increase slightly from last year following increased plantings and favourable weather conditions. A bumper paddy crop of approximately 600 000 tonnes is forecast for 2001, representing a 4 percent increase from the good level of last year. A slight increase in the production of plantain and beans, important food crops for the Dominicans, is also reported.

Wheat import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 (July/June) are estimated at 320 000 tonnes, while yellow maize import requirements (used as feed) are unchanged from last year at some 700 000 tonnes.

EL SALVADOR (1 November)

Harvesting of first season crops is completed and planting of second season crops is well advanced. The output of first season crops is estimated to be 18 percent lower than average due to the drought. The area planted to second season crops is anticipated to be higher than last year, and prospects are favourable following adequate weather conditions for crop development. The output of white maize in 2001 is currently forecast to be similar to last year’s below average level.

Wheat import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 (July/June) are unchanged from last year at around 190 000 tonnes. Although the food situation in rural areas is improving, the WFP estimates that some 50 000 people are in need of food assistance until December. Meanwhile, the Government, civil society organizations and the international community are collaborating on the recovery of the country from the damaging effects of earthquakes in January and February and a dry spell that damaged first season crops in their early stages of growth.

GUATEMALA (1 November)

Rains in June were 60 percent lower than normal and some 8 percent of the area planted to first season maize and bean crops was lost in central and eastern departments of the country. About 12 000 subsistence farms reportedly suffered at least 80 percent losses of first season crops and are being assisted with food aid. Although the arrival of first season crops on the market has stabilized food prices, an increase in the demand for maize and beans from neighbouring El Salvador and Costa Rica could result in price increases before the end of the year. Planting of second season crops is complete and the crop looks in good conditions following above-average rains in September and October. The National Farmers’ Union (UNC) forecasts an abundant crop of beans following increased plantings.

The closing of commercial coffee plantations due to the low international coffee prices has limited the coping mechanisms of drought affected farmers. ANACAFE (Coffee National Association) estimates that 100 000 jobs were lost so far this year, compromising the food security of some 600 000 people. The Ministry of Agriculture also reported that a further 43 000 jobs are presently at risk. Traditionally, coffee has been a major export commodity and foreign exchange earner, but due to the combined effects of low international prices and the fall in production, ANACAFE estimates that export revenues this year will be just over US$200 million compared to US$570 million last year.

HAITI* (1 November)

A good first season crop was obtained following abundant rains during the wet season, and prospects are favourable for the irrigated second season paddy crop, planted in September and due to be harvested from December. The food situation is stabilizing from last year’s drought that damaged staple crops in southern and northern provinces of the country. Nevertheless, assistance from the government, local NGOs and the international community continues to be provided to vulnerable groups, mainly in the poorest provinces of Nord and Nord-Est. Food pledges amount to 100 000 tonnes.

HONDURAS (6 November)

Following the mid-season dry spell (canícula), the wet season has resumed with normal to abundant rains throughout the country, and prospects are favourable for the important second season (apante) crops planted in September and due to be harvested from mid-November. A dry spell in June adversely affected first season crops during the early stages of development. Some 26 000 farmers living in central and southern areas of the country lost an estimated 40 000 hectares of maize, 20 000 hectares of sorghum and 8 000 hectares of beans. A tight food situation is forecast to continue until December for the affected population.

The Government requested assistance from the international community after tropical storm ‘Michelle’ caused localized floods in the Caribbean coast of Honduras and forced the evacuation of 22 000 people at the end of October. Much of the land occupied by ‘Misquito’ Indians is inaccessible by road and there is concern about the food security of an estimated 35 000 people. No assessment of the damages to the agricultural sector is yet available.

There is also concern about the effects of the coffee crisis on the food security of the poor rural population. Jobs are being lost and salaries are being lowered following low international coffee prices and low yields. Last year temporary employment during coffee harvesting (November-April) provided an estimated 400 000 people with US$ 3.5 per day to purchase food for their families. However, an estimated 50 000 jobs have been lost so far this year and the salaries have dropped to US$ 2 per day.

MEXICO (2 November)

Harvesting of the important 2001 rain-fed summer maize crops is underway and is due to continue until January. Crop development was constrained in the early stages of growth by lower than average rains, but more recently hurricanes ‘Chantal’, ‘Juliette’ and ‘Iris’ in August, September and October have relieved some of the water deficit and improved the outlook for harvests. Provided favourable weather conditions continue, maize production in 2001 is forecast at 20 million tonnes, some 11 percent higher than the average of the last five years. Sorghum production, mainly for feed, is forecast at 6.1 million tonnes, similar to the average of the last five years. The outlook is favourable for rain-fed bean crops, cultivated by an estimated half a million subsistence and small scale commercial farmers.

Cereal import requirements in marketing year 2001/02 (July/June) are estimated at 3 million tonnes of wheat, 5.6 million tonnes of maize and 5 million tonnes of sorghum. Rice import in marketing year 2001 (Jan/Dec) are estimated at 350 000 tonnes.

NICARAGUA (2 November)

Harvesting of first season crops was completed in September. First season crops planted in western parts of Nicaragua were affected by drought during their early stages of growth, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAGFOR) estimates that some 50 000 farmers lost approximately 73 000 hectares of maize, beans, paddy and sorghum, representing 20 percent of the total area planted to first season crops. The tight food situation of the affected families is expected to continue until November, when second season crops are due to be harvested. FAO collaborated with the Government of Nicaragua in the provision of agricultural inputs for planting 7 000 hectares of second season crops in the departments of León and Chinandega. Prospects are favourable for the estimated 160 000 hectares of crops planted in August and September following normal rains during September and October. In the Caribbean coast of the country, tropical storm ‘Michelle’ caused localized floods and damaged second season crops after four days of heavy rains. First season crops in this area were also affected by localized floods in June.

PANAMA (3 November)

Planting of second season coarse grain and paddy crops is well advanced. The water deficit due to erratic and unevenly distributed rains since June affected crop and pasture growth in the peninsula of Azuero and the province of Coclé. Plantain production was affected by drought in the western province of Chiriquí, but the Government estimates that the supply of plantains should be enough to satisfy the domestic demand at normal prices in the coming months.

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