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Drought leaves up to 2.81 mln hungry in Central America -U.N.

Source: Reuters - Fri, 29 Aug 2014 23:55 GMT
Author: Reuters
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A woman holds a child in her arms during a distribution of food aid, donated by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) food reserves, to families affected by the drought in the village of Orocuina, August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera
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By Gustavo Palencia

OROCUINA, Honduras, Aug 29 (Reuters) - A severe drought has ravaged crops in Central America and as many as 2.81 million people are struggling to feed themselves, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday, though the region's coffee crop has been largely unscathed.

The drought, which is also affecting South America, has been particularly hard on the so-called "dry corridor" of Central America, which includes southern Guatemala, northern Honduras and western El Salvador.

"The drought has killed us. We lost all our corn and beans," said Olman Funez, a 22-year-old farmer who lives in Orocuina, a rural town in southern Honduras.

Funez earns $4.74 per diem as a day laborer, and says he and his wife are rationing what food they have.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega recently allowed 40,000 tonnes of red beans and 73,500 tonnes of white corn to be imported to help lower prices.

Guatemala declared a state of emergency after 256,000 families lost their crop.

"I am 60 years old, and this is the first time I have seen a crisis like this," said Jesus Samayoa, a farmer in Jutiapa, about 160 km (99 miles) from Guatemala City.

Pea, green bean and broccoli farmers estimate losses of 30 to 40 percent of their crop.

Guatemala's national coffee association Anacafe said earlier this month that a preliminary survey of two of the country's coffee-growing regions, Santa Rosa and Jutiapa, revealed that drought will cause output to fall next season by 3 percent, or about 9,600 60-kg bags.

However, none of Central America's four other major coffee producers - Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua - have revised their output forecasts for the coming season due to the drought. (Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu in Jutiapa, Ivan Castro en Managua, Nelson Renteria in San Salvador and David Alire Garcia in Mexico City; Writing by Alexandra Alper and Anahi Rama; Editing by Simon Gardner and Ken Wills)

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