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Central America and the Caribbean

Prices of maize and beans continued to increase in April

12/05/2020

In several countries of the subregion, prices of maize increased sharply in April with seasonal pressure exacerbated by market disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The notable exception was Guatemala, where prices levelled off, after a spike in the past month, reflecting an increase in market supplies coming from the northern producing areas and Mexico. In El Salvador, in spite of adequate domestic supplies, slow farmer selling put upward pressure on prices that increased by more than 7 percent for the second consecutive month in April but remained, nevertheless, below a year earlier. In Honduras, prices of white maize also rose sharply and were higher year on year, supported by a decline in the 2019 output. Similarly, in Nicaragua, prices increased significantly in April. In Mexico, prices of white maize continued to rise sharply in April amid concerns over a poor 2020 minor season crop, which would follow an already reduced 2019 main season crop. Further upward pressure was provided by the strong depreciation of the country’s currency and an increase in demand from the feed industry. Also for beans, prices continued to increase in April and at a steep rate, reaching levels well above those a year earlier. In Guatemala, prices of black beans rose sharply in April due to an increase in domestic demand and were 30 percent higher than a year earlier. Prices of black beans followed similar trends in Mexico, with a significant reduction in the 2019 main season output and higher prices in the international market sustaining the high level of prices. Prices of red beans surged in El Salvador in April and were more than 20 percent higher year on year. Significant increases were also recorded in Honduras and in Nicaragua, where strong export demand was the main trigger of the increase. In the Caribbean, prices of maize meal and beans in Haiti rose in March due to seasonal pressure compounded by a sudden but short-lived increase in demand following the application of confinement measures. A more stable currency contributed to keep prices of mostly imported rice relatively stable, although they remained above their year-earlier levels. An increase in prices of black beans was also recorded in the Dominican Republic.

National policy responses to limit the impact of COVID-19 on food markets - update

Costa Rica, on 25 April 2020, decreed the import of 50 012 tonnes of rice at a reduced tariff rate of 6.5 percent, rather than the 35 percent currently in force.

Honduras, on 25 April 2020, extended price ceilings on basic food items, introduced on 21 March, until 27 May.

El Salvador purchased around 50 000 tonnes of white maize, 7 000 tonnes of rice and 5 000 tonnes of beans to boost its national strategic reserves (FPMA Food Policies).

• In El Salvador and Honduras, exports of red beans were halted in late March to ensure sufficient domestic supplies. These temporary export bans will be valid until 31 December 2020 in El Salvador and until further notice in Honduras.

Guatemala, on 21 March 2020, set duty-free quotas for the import of 200 000 tonnes of white maize and 152 000 tonnes of rice valid until the end of this year, with the aim to boost domestic supplies.