Guatemala: White Corn Seed Import up 85%


Apr 20, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

Guatemala forecasts that Corn harvested area in 2023/2024 slightly reduces, but production will increase to 1.62 million MT as commercial farmers look positively at record prices in the domestic market. Commercial farmers will maintain the same planted area as the previous year, while the reduction in planted and harvested area comes mainly from the smallholders. On one side, several smallholders have abandoned their lands, especially those who rented the ground, after increased debt and loss resulting from the aftermath of the covid pandemic, followed by the Russia-Ukraine war and fertilizer crisis. On the other hand, massive migration combined with increased household income resulting from remittances has severely reduced labor in agriculture, favoring grain production at a larger scale that allows for mechanization, especially in the lowlands of Peten, Quiché, Alta Verapaz, and the South Coast.

Three consecutive La Niña years in Guatemala have positively impacted Corn yields. In addition, white Corn average yields increase as small farmers reduce planting areas, while commercial Corn growers maintain record highs up to 8 MT/Ha. Reduction in Corn planted areas is linked to migration and lack of labor to harvest Corn, negatively impacting small and medium-sized growers, while commercial farmers increase mechanization.

Julia Storm hit Guatemala on October 9-10, 2022, affecting 13,000 Ha of Corn, leading MAGA to supply 688 MT of locally developed certified Corn seed variety (ICTA B7) to 60,000 small farmers in Peten (275 MT), Alta Verapaz (206 MT), Izabal (115 MT), and Quiche (92 MT). Yields are forecasted to increase to 1.85 MT/Ha, compared to 1.81 MT/Ha in the past year’s harvest. As a result of an optimum rainfall distribution pattern in 2022/2023, the estimated harvest is revised to 880,000 Ha and 1.62 million MT.

Commercial farmers in the Peten region – the grain basket of the country- report record high yields of 10.4 MT/Ha, though average yields with hybrids from Pioneer (3966) and Syngenta (800) are 5.2 to 8.1 MT/Ha during the rainy season and up to 9.8 MT/Ha in the dry season when irrigation is available. The use of varieties is also highly adopted, both imported and local ones, with outputs of 3.2 to 3.9 MT/Ha. Native seeds yield 1.0 to 2.1 MT/Ha.

Direct production costs in 2022/2023 averaged $813/Ha in areas unaffected by pests or diseases. The primary pest affecting Corn production in Guatemala is the fall armyworm, usually controlled with 2-3 applications of insecticide per production cycle of 3-4 months. In the 2022/2023 harvest, farmers have had to make up to 4-6 applications. Some farmers initially spray insecticide and follow applications with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) biological control.

The primary disease affecting Corn is the fungal complex known as “mancha de asfalto” or “asphalt stain,” which characterizes bright black spots, demanding up to three fungicide applications in the production cycle. “Asphalt stain” in Corn can reduce yields by up to 40 percent. Disease control can increase direct production costs from $813/Ha to $1,160/Ha. Spraying with drones is a new service for farmers, who pay $9/Ha. With the support of USDA and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the Agricultural Institute for Science and Technology (ICTA) released an “asphalt stain” tolerant yellow Corn known as Golden ICTA.

Guatemalan Corn Import

According to AgFlow data, Guatemala imported 91,318 tons of Corn from the US in Jan-March 2023. Imports in 2023/2024 are forecast to increase slightly to 1.54 million MT of Corn, mostly yellow Corn, as Guatemala is close to self-sufficiency in white Corn. While imports of white Corn seed increased by 11 percent in 2021/2022, and in the period of July-January 2022/2023, imports have grown by 85 percent, mainly sourced from Mexico.

Other sources: USDA

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