MEXICO CITY Tropical Storm Matthew formed over the western Caribbean on Thursday and was expected to hit Central America as early as Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, could disrupt the coffee harvest due to begin early next month in major regional exporters Honduras and Guatemala.
Nicaragua has already slashed its estimate for the 2010/11 season after months of heavy rains battered crops and roads.
Models of the storm, which could become a hurricane this weekend, suggest it might reach the Gulf of Mexico, where most of Mexico's oil wells are located. Forecasts also show that the storm could turn north toward the Yucatan Peninsula.
"The center of Matthew is expected to be near the Nicaragua/Honduras border late Friday or early Saturday morning," the center said in a statement.
Matthew, the 13th named storm of the Atlantic season, is located about 435 miles east of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
Mexico is still recovering from Hurricane Karl, which dumped heavy rains in the Gulf state of Veracruz over the past weekend, damaging sugar crops.
On the other side of the Atlantic, another system, Lisa, regained tropical storm strength around 320 miles west north west of the Cape Verde Islands, but was moving slowly and posed no threat to land or energy assets.