The South American drought that has resulted in lower than expected soyabean production in Argentina is threatening food security in Central America, a risk that is now made worse by a looming El Niño.

According to a 24 August report by the United Nations agencies Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras had lost roughly 280,000ha of beans and corn due to this summer’s severe drought, reported World Grain on 29 August.

The crop losses had increased food prices for the entire population and affected the food security of more than 2M people, FAO and WFP found.

In Honduras, the government declared a state of emergency in August after approximately 82% of soyabean and corn crops in the “Dry Corridor” running through the three countries were lost, while El Salvador declared a red alert in the country in July.

To make matters worse, the UN agencies said the El Niño weather phenomenon could strike the countries between September and December and could significantly impact the second crop cycle in the region.

Julio Berdegué, regional representative of the FAO, said it was urgent to improve the climate resilience of the people living in Central America.

“We are particularly concerned about the effect of this new drought on migration, in an international context that restricts the movement of thousands of people who, in their localities, will have great difficulty in securing the livelihood of their families,” he said.

The FAO and WFP were working with the region’s governments to analyse the impact of the 2018 agricultural cycles on the price of staple foods and support the governments in setting up systems to monitor the situation of agricultural production and food security.

The drought in Central and South America has also impacted the production of oilseeds in major producing countries, with soyabean production in Argentina, for example, expected to fall by 16 M tonnes due to unfavourable weather conditions.