El Salvador Grain Production Plummets to 7 year Low

Photo of author

By LatAm Reports Editor

In the 2023-2024 cycle, the country produced 17.2 million quintals, insufficient to feed its entire population. Experts predict that production will go down in the coming years due to the lack of incentives to work the land.

In El Salvador, the aspiration to achieve food sovereignty is further a year. That is what it emerges when reviewing the data on the production of basic grains from the 2017-2018 cycle to the current one. In 2023-2024, farmers in the country produced about 17.2 million quintals of corn, beans, maicillo and rice, according to data collected by the Salvadoran Chamber of Small and Medium Agricultural Producers Association (CAMPO).

Far has already been a cycle of success on the subject such as 2021-2022, when the hands of Salvadorans and national lands were able to deliver 28.65 million quintals, almost four million more than necessary. History changed as early as the following year, when, instead of a surplus, there was a deficit of more than 5 million quintals.

For Danilo Pérez, of the Center for Consumer Defense (CDC), multiple factors influenced the country’s way of living this reality. The first was the supply chain-related impacts of the war between Russia and Ukraine, which triggered, for example, the prices of agricultural inputs. Hence, rampant inflation, which in El Salvador closed, in 2022, above 7 %, with higher food values. Luckily, in that year there was normal weather in the winter, with enough rain to feed the grain.

But fortune did not accompany the last year, which recorded the return of El Niño and its droughts. However, contrary to forecasts, there were not as many dry days as in 2018, when, for example, a period of more than 40 days without precipitation occurred. Even so, in that year there was a production of 19 million quintals, almost 2 million more than in 2023-2024.

The differences have to do with the number of apples being worked, which for the present cycle fell to 298,000, 29% less when compared to what was recorded two years ago, in the successful 2021-2022 cycle.

For Pérez, of the CDC, these conditions do not constitute all the explanation of such a bad year for the Salvadoran agriculture. Much of the responsibility lies with the State, which has an obligation to assist its citizens when, precisely, external factors affect them.

This is evidence that there is no commitment to agriculture from the government, in the area of public policies. It is one thing to say that he is betting and the other is to do the concrete actions in which this bet translates, Pérez says.

In this tune, it is necessary to ask, if the Government already knows that climate change is hitting hard, is there any kind of improved seed that the State is providing to deal with the difficulties?

The answer is no. And this is a situation that is due to the courtesy of eyes. At least in maize, the most important basic grain in volume, the data indicate that the east of El Salvador is much more vulnerable than other sectors of the country, since in 2023 it brought together up to 75 percent of the losses, as previously revealed by El Diario de Hoy. A public policy would be precisely to differentiate support to increase the resilience of these departments, especially Usulután and San Miguel.

Another factor that has influenced disincentivity in the production is the increase in the cost of the land, especially its rent, which, according to estimates of Luis Treminio, president of CAMPO, is 100 %. I mean, now a person pays double.

But if this is already known, where is the financial support, what soft credits are being given to the producer to cope with this increase? How is it being regulated? From the government they owe us all these answers, says Danilo Pérez of the CDC.

Usulutan, May 9, 2023 Marcos Ismael Rivera, 40, is confident that the dry and warm panorama of his plot will change for the next few weeks, as sowing corn and beans means his family’s food. 

Forecasts are still down

Luis Treminio, president of the Salvadoran Chamber Association of Small and Medium Agricultural Producers (CAMPO), is one of the people who knows the most about the agricultural production sector in the country. His organization brings together hundreds of thousands of producers nationwide.

That’s why it’s an authoritative voice to give an opinion on what’s moving in the area.

According to his assessment, in El Salvador the production of the next agricultural cycle (2024-2025) will be even lower than the present, especially since the appearance of a more intense variant of the El Niño phenomenon, which will cause even more droughts, is predicted.

Imagine what we had this year with a normal child. What people tell me is that they are much more afraid to sow. And how isn’t it going to be? Nothing assures them they won’t lose again. Quite the opposite, says Treminio.

For Héctor Aldana, leader of the National Association of Agricultural Workers (ANTA), this is understandable because those who work the land faces a multitude of obstacles, such as expensive inputs and the non-existence of resistant seeds, which at least give a little more hope in the face of a rainless sky.

When there is a deficit in production, the alternative is import. What makes up a vicious circle for Aldana: the Salvadoran farmer has to compete, then, against foreign producers, who usually have their harvest subsidized in important percentages. Thus, many locals are taken off the market.

Therefore, from their association, they propose that the central government make efforts to provide a much more suitable seed for the current reality in the case of maize. Aldana argues that the bet should be made on Creole varieties, which provide a much more nutritious grain and can yield between 70 and 80 quintals per apple. But faith in institutions is little.

Treminio points to another reason why the production of basic grains will continue to decline in El Salvador: the zero opportunities to get out of the poverty offered by work on earth.

Who can blame a young man who has seen his father and grandfather sow for years and years and who never get out of poverty? It’s more appetizing to move to the city or another country. That tells us that the future is to make work in the countryside something sustainable. Something, in essence, worthy, Treminus says.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in El Salvador