Some 40,000 families have been affected by the drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon in Guatemala, Agriculture, Ranching and Food Minister Elmer Lopez said Tuesday, citing preliminary figures.

The lack of rain has damaged corn crops in some 28 cities in eight provinces located in the so-called Dry Corridor in the country's east and north, the minister said.

Although experts are still evaluating the situation in those regions, the National Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology Institute, or Insivumeh, says it has not rained there since July 9, Lopez told reporters.

Preliminary estimates are that some 40,000 families have been affected in Santa Rosa, Jutiapa, Jalapa, El Progreso, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Alta and Baja Verapaz provinces, Lopez said.

The lack of rainfall due to El Niño could result in the loss of about 40 percent of the corn production in those regions. Lopez said.

The Agriculture, Ranching and Food Ministry is prepared with more than 5,000 tons of food, as well as 140,000 rations of food to assist families that suffer hardship due to the weather phenomenon, Lopez said.

Estimated corn production in Guatemala for 2014 is between 38 and 40 million 100-kilogram sacks, the minister said.

Cool air coming from the east has brought rain to some regions of eastern Guatemala, including the capital, but the Dry Corridor could remain without any precipitation until next week, Insivumeh said. EFE