FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices



Honduras is one of the poorest and least developed nations in the Western hemisphere. Traditionally, the country has been heavily reliant on exports of bananas and coffee, but the impoverished population sees little benefit from these. Honduras is also vulnerable to swings in their prices on international commodity markets.

In addition, Honduras is dependent on the outside world for its fuel and food needs. The main staple, yellow maize, is 100 percent imported, while the country also imports 85 percent of its rice. Beans, produced locally, are the second most important food for consumption, but massive floods in October 2008 are expected to reduce those harvests.

Some 35 000 hectares of agricultural lands have been destroyed as well as 31 500 hectares of crops that were about to be harvested.

The country is mountainous and has limited transport and communications. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 set the country’s development back by years, with damages to infrastructure, agriculture and homes estimated at US$3.8 billion.

The price of rice in the capital Tegucigalpa in mid-November was 64 percent higher than in November 2007. Maize was up more than 35 percent in the northern city San Pedro Sula over the same period.

FAO Response

European Union Food Facility

With €5.4 million from the European Union, FAO launched an 18-month project in January 2010 to help poor farmers in Honduras’ drought-affected southern region grow more food, thereby reducing their dependence on external food aid.

Funds are being used to provide 11 000 vulnerable farming households – approximately 60 500 people – with high-yielding maize, bean, sorghum and vegetable seeds and fertilizers in time for the Primera (May-August) and Postrera (September-November) 2010 cropping seasons.

Around 1 500 families are slated to receive silos so they can store their grains properly, while some 400 families will receive hens and feed to help jumpstart poultry farming.

Given the country’s high rate of malnutrition, the project supports the setting up of 800 household vegetable gardens so that families can diversify their diets. Three hundred of these gardens will be equipped with rainwater harvesting and irrigation facilities.

The project seeks to train farmers in natural resource management and agricultural practices and technologies best suited to dry conditions, helping them to be better placed to deal with drought in the future.

FAO is working closely with the Honduran government and local partners to implement the project, which is linked with other ongoing FAO and national programmes, including the Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS).

Two assessments on food security in drought-affected communities will be carried out within the Coalition for Food Security among the UN system and project’s allies and counterparts.

Other FAO Activities

In response to the global food price crisis, the government of Honduras launched a National Plan for Production of Basic Grains. FAO is supporting the government in insuring the provision of improved seed, fertilizers and other farming supplies to more than 8800 vulnerable smallholder farmers and their families.

The government has announced an additional support program to replant beans in light of the October floods disaster.

The TCP programme there provided bean seed during the immediate summer planting season. Beans are the second most important food stuff in the country, and beans have now been harvested.

Most importantly, FAO is now boosting the government’s capacity to process bean seed of locally adapted varieties for the coming seasons. FAO is procuring an advanced seed dryer for the government so that seed can be produced in sufficiency in the country.

The European Commission has also supported an FAO rapid assessment of the soaring food prices situation in the country.

In July, FAO undertook a regional assessment in Central America to measure the capacities of the region's countries to produce seed locally. The resulting proposal, now being finalized, aims to rebuild seed production systems so countries are once again self-sufficient in their regional market. Presently, seed is often purchased from overseas.

Hurricane Mitch wiped out 70 percent of agricultural production