The Lobo Sosa government seems to exist only between the emergencies. First there was the agricultural emergency in which the government, two weeks before the end of planting season, realized it needed 12,000 more acres of beans to be grown this year to avoid shortages, and allocated money and seed to farmers to encourage planting of beans.
Then there were the many emergency decrees resulting from the natural disasters like tropical storms Agatha and Matthew, where roads, bridges, and hillsides have collapsed, been destroyed or otherwise become useless, with significant impacts on industries such as coffee that need to ship their products to market.
Another emergency decree called for the construction of jails. Honduran jails are terrible, with prisoners having all kinds of contraband, including weapons, cell phones, and drugs. The facilities are run down, even by Honduran standards, and in recent years over 100 prisoners were killed when an electrical fire swept through a prison near La Ceiba. A new maximum security prison is under construction near Choloma, and there's one near Tegucigalpa, but Security Minister Alvarez wants more because he plans to arrest more criminals. This emergency decree allows for private investment in prisons, as we do in the US.
Another emergency decree was against dengue, a mosquito borne fever that has killed over 70 Hondurans this year. The coup in 2009 brought a halt to the mosquito eradication programs that had been successful in keeping mosquito populations, and therefore dengue infections, at a low level.
There have been emergency decrees because of the high violent crime rate in Honduras as well. This has brought us the unified police and military patrols that confound best practices for either group. The military aren't trained to maintain civilian order. They don't know the law and so repeatedly violate civilians' rights; but then, so do the police.
Now it's the emergency foretold, a bean shortage. Yesterday in the council of Ministers, yet another emergency decree, for the purchase of ten million lempiras worth of beans on the international market. This is made necessary by the loss of nearly 60 percent of the annual crop this year because of rain and flooding. These beans will be stored by the government in its own grain silos and distributed through the BANASUPRO stores that sell government subsidized food.
At the beginning of July, beans sold on the open market for about 28-30 ($1.47 - $1.58) lempiras for a five pound measure. By the end of August, that price had risen an average of 16 lempiras ($0.80) to 45 lempiras for a five pound bag of beans. By October 4, the end-of-August price had more than doubled to 100 lempiras ($1.05 per pound), or more than three times what beans cost in July.
A bean shortage due to losses from heavy rains, this time in October, also happened in 2008. However, then, the price never exceeded $0.72 a pound in pulperias. In 2009 the Zelaya government put in place a strategic reserve to prevent the recurrence of this shortage. The de facto Micheletti regime sold the strategic reserves to raise cash for itself in 2009.
Honduras is facing a similar situation to El Salvador, where just this week beans rose from $0.55 to $0.95 per pound, and to Nicaragua, where in the same time period, bean prices rose from $0.64 to $0.97 per pound. Nicaragua will allow its commodity brokers to import a large quantity of beans from elsewhere duty-free. The government of El Salvador will buy beans directly for sale, as will Honduras. All three Central American governments have promised they will closely supervise their commodity brokers to see that there is no hoarding or speculation.
Beans are an essential protein source in the average Honduran's diet. Meat and eggs are luxuries but beans are eaten at every meal. These price increases mean that some Honduran families will go without necessary food this year. The newspapers already have stories about entire communities on the edge of starvation with no government help in sight. The Lobo Sosa government's emergency decrees will not help there.