Possible Food Shortage: Central America Suffers Unusual Drought Due to El Nino
The climate in El Salvador is quite different from what we are used to in the northern MidWest. Our winter, roughly November thru April, is actually the Salvadoran summer. It is the dry and sunny season. There is almost no significant rainfall during this time of year. It is the beach-lovers paradise: tons of sun and temperatures in the mid 90s with coastal breezes.
But, for the Salvadoran farmers, it our US summers/Salvadoran winters that replenish all of the needed rain and moisture for the grain, corn, bean and vegetable sectors of the economy. Starting in May each year, the rains return to the region. By July, El Salvador usually experiences daily rains that can often turn torrential and actually threaten life and home. Although the temperatures remain in the 70s, the Salvadorans consider this rainy season to be their winter.
This year, due to the effects of El Nino, most of Central America is experiencing a severe drought. There were 3 periods where there was no rain reported for 15 days in a row. While the lack of torrential rain makes life easier for the poor whose simple huts and shacks have dirt floors that often turn to mud this time of year, the drought is having a major impact on agriculture. This is particularly threatening to the poor whose diet is primarily made up of corn tortillas and beans.
Salvadoran officials fear that this fall’s crop could be cut by half. The grains and beans that were planted in June-August are simply not growing. There is a major concern among officials that El Salvador will actually need to import beans in order to feed the population this year. However, fearing a reduced yield in Honduras, the Honduran government has begun to debate restricting sales of beans outside of Honduras. Honduran officials fear that by selling their beans to El Salvador, they will be forced to import beans for their own population. These same concerns are being echoed from Guatemala through Panama – as each Central American country begins to document the effect of this drought on domestic agricultural production. Nicaraguan officals are beginning to discuss introducing the same restrictive legislation to ensure that their crops remain within the country, as well. While there is still hope for a wet September and October, those who monitor agriculture and its impact on food prices and availability are beginning to be concerned.