Food Security Outlook

Fragile food security in an uncertain macroeconomic context

February 2019 to September 2019

February - May 2019

La plupart du pays est en phase 2, sauf une partie du sud-est, sud-ouest et nord qui sont en phase 3

June - September 2019

La plupart du pays est en phase 2, sauf une partie du sud-est, sud-ouest et nord qui sont en phase 3

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.
Partners: 
CNSA

Key Messages

  • While markets are well supplied with seasonal local products, their prices remain high, and prices for imported rice and maize are on the rise as a result of the socio-political conditions and the rise of the US dollar against the gourde.

  • Livelihoods in areas such as Nord-Est and Plateau-Central are affected by drought, which is impacting almost all agricultural and livestock activities. Thus, much of the area is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while the other regions, including Grand-Anse and Côte Sud, are either Stressed or Minimal (IPC Phases 1 and 2).

  • The rains from January to February improved agricultural activities in other parts of the country, including in Grand Sud and the wet mountain areas of Ouest and Sud-Est. 

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Current situation

Socio-political disruptions: During January and February, a number of events disrupted the country’s socio-political climate. The exchange rate in 2018 led to continued increases in the price of imported goods, which make up a significant proportion of the products that Haitians commonly consume. This situation led to some rice importers and distributors threatening to temporarily suspend any rice imports until an exchange rate supporting more balanced commercial transactions had been re-established. This marked the beginning of negotiations between the sector and the Government, which resulted in subsidies being proposed for a number of basic necessities, particularly rice.

However, the severe strain on household budgets and the prospect of the cost of living escalating further, coupled with political demands, led to almost two weeks of demonstrations throughout the country. There were some violent hotspots and economic activities almost ground to a halt. Markets slowed down and in some cases even closed and supplies to community stores were interrupted. Household’s sources of income were also affected.

Many households had to consume their stocks and resorted to various strategies to meet their minimum consumption needs, including traveling to markets further away from home, sharing meals or reducing portion sizes. The most affected areas were urban areas where economic activities were most affected by demonstrations, including Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien, Gonaïves and Les Cayes.

At the time of this report’s publication, the situation appears to have calmed down and the impact on food security could be short-lived. The assumptions set out here will be revised if the situation changes in the near future.

Climatic conditions and outlook: Current weather conditions are characterized by drought in various areas of the country, caused by low rainfall. Nevertheless, close-to-normal rainfall is observed in Grand-Anse, Sud, Sud-Est, Ouest, Artibonite, Nord (with the exception of the communes of Bahon, Ranquit and Victoire) and the lower Nord-Ouest.

The vegetation index (NDVI) shows very close-to-average conditions (figures 1 and 2), especially in regions with average rainfall. In drought-prone areas, the negative vegetation difference is evident, especially in Plateau-Central and the lower Nord-Est areas.

Impact on seasonal crop production: Precipitation has proven to be very favorable to the winter crops that were sown in November. Harvesting began in January and is continuing in most of these regions, and preparations for the next growing season have begun with soil preparations and sowing activities. Apart from the Nord-Est plains and the communes of Haut-Plateau, these rainfall conditions have favored the cultivation of beans, particularly in Côte Sud and Grand-Anse. The same is true for bananas, root vegetables and tubers (e.g. yams and sweet potatoes), groundnuts, citrus and certain fruits such as corossol or papaya. In addition, the agricultural situation has been good in other regions, such as Sud-Est (particularly in mountain areas), Nord-Ouest, Artibonite and some Ouest municipalities.

In the rice-growing areas (Artibonite and Les Cayes plain), rains have improved water flow through irrigation channels. This has resulted in harvests and also helped plant nurseries prepare for transplanting, particularly in Sud (Torbeck), where Taiwanese technicians help rice growers with seed preparation. In addition, soil preparation activities and bean, maize and millet seedlings were sown with the rains recorded in February.

However, in areas affected by drought (Nippes, Nord), the situation hampered agricultural activities and farmers were unable to plant winter crops. There were therefore no agricultural activities. Despite these setbacks, farmers are working toward the spring growing season, even if they do not yet have adequate economic resources.

Food availability: Locally, the food available is mostly bananas, roots and  tubers, pigeon peas, vegetables, wild produce such as breadfruit, and some fruits (citrus, corossol). On the whole, the markets are well supplied, though mostly through imports.

Price trends: Food commodity prices rose significantly in January and February, exacerbated mainly by the political situation and the upward fluctuations of the United States dollar. The price of local grain maize increased by more than 11 percent, from 89.3 gourdes/6 lb marmite to over 100 gourdes. The increase is most significant in the markets of Les Cayes (almost 36 percent), Cap Haïtien (over 22 percent), Fond-des-Nègres and Jérémie (over 18 percent). The price of black beans shows a moderate increase (3 percent), from 281 gourdes/6 lb marmite to almost 289 gourdes. The increase is very significant in Les Cayes market (over 36 percent) and, consequently, in Fond-des-Nègres (14.1 percent). However, it has fallen in the markets of Port-de-Paix (-9.5 percent), Jacmel (-5 percent) and Jérémie (about -4 percent), due to the harvest in December, which is still available in these markets.

At the national level, the price of imported rice has shown an upward trend. The 6 lb marmite price rose from 207.63 gourdes to more than 218 gourdes in January: an increase of about 5 percent on average. Owing to threats from importers and distributors to close their shops as a result of the deepening socio-economic and political crisis throughout the country, and during the February disturbances, the price of all varieties of imported rice increased significantly. For example, an increase of more than 50 percent was observed in the Port-au-Prince market (Figure 3) and this market has a significant impact on rice prices in other parts of the country.

Animal production: The current situation is not good due to drought, with the exception of departments with near-regular rains in the last two months.

Supply and demand for agricultural labor: In February, agricultural activities were dominated by winter harvests in areas where rainfall conditions had been favorable, and preparations for the spring growing season in areas where the growing season begins earlier. Labor demand is relatively low due to the dry period in the rest of the country. However, the pattern is different in some areas, particularly in Sud where workers are hired on vetiver plantations and paid 100 gourdes a day. This sector is very active in Sud, as this crop is important in the production of Haitian essential oils that are in high demand on the international market. It is reported that land formerly allocated to traditional crops is now being used for vetiver cultivation, which is considered more cost-effective by some farmers.

In addition, many households in border areas make income from other sources, including urban and foreign migration. Low demand for labor has an impact only on households that have difficulties accessing other sources of income or migrating.

Other sources of income: Poor households are also engaged in subsistence activities such as small-scale trade, especially the sale of charcoal, which gradually intensifies in the Stressed and then Crisis phases. In border areas, in addition to charcoal, migration continues to be an attractive alternative to the deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country, given the more competitive working conditions in the Dominican Republic.

With regard to the movement of migrant workers, the growth rate shows an increase of about 10 percent from October to December 2018 compared with the previous year. It should be stressed, however, that this did not really reduce pressure on the dollar/gourde exchange rate, which depreciated significantly, i.e. more than 83 gourdes to one US dollar in the first half of February.

Food consumption and changes in current livelihoods: The poorest people, who largely depend on market purchases for their food consumption, have seen their purchasing power diminish as a result of a significant decline in income-generating agricultural activities and high food commodity prices, with the February riots exacerbating this situation. Repeated shocks and their lasting impact are therefore key elements that affect the stocks and savings of the poorest people. In rural areas in particular, intensifying the manufacture and sale of charcoal, in addition to other small-scale trade, still offers an alternative to the situation created by these shocks.

Assumptions

The most likely scenario for February to September 2019 is based on the following assumptions:

  • Seasonal forecast. El Niño conditions could affect the beginning of the spring season for 2019, particularly in semi-arid and dry areas.
  • Winter harvesting activities and the start of the Spring growing season will generate substantial income. However, the purchasing power of the poorest is expected to remain low, given the rising prices of both domestic and imported products.
  • The Summer growing season, which depends on the performance of the Spring growing season and regular rainfall during the second season (July–September), is expected to yield near-average results.
  • The demand for agricultural labor is expected to increase in March and April with the official start of the spring growing season. Harvesting activities, starting in April for certain regions (Grand-Anse and Sud) and in July for others, as well as the start of the summer growing season, will also further increase demand for agricultural workers. Supply may be limited because of the many workers who choose to migrate for more attractive working conditions elsewhere.
  • Prices for imported and locally grown foodstuffs. Rising food commodity prices could be exacerbated by the current socio-political and economic crisis and the lean season. The price of imported food, particularly rice, will also remain stable but with downward rigidity due to the gourde’s depreciation against the dollar, which is already above 80 gourdes. However, rice prices are expected to return to normal, following a recent subsidy from the Haitian Government, which aims to reduce rice prices by 30 percent.
  • General inflation. Annual general inflation currently stands at more than 15 percent, reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the business climate and the Haitian Government’s changing financial situation.
  • Private migrant remittances. Remittances from the Haitian diaspora might stagnate during the first four months of the outlook period, and then increase when classes restart in September. Although this will not directly benefit very poor households in general, its possible impact on the availability and circulation of the United States currency in Haiti could help reduce pressure on the gourde/dollar exchange rate and, consequently, make imported food more affordable.
  • Trends in the exchange rate. Haiti’s currency is continuing to lose value against the United States dollar and the Dominican peso. This will have a significant impact on imported food commodity prices. Consequently, access to food could be very limited, especially for products such as rice, vegetable oils, wheat flour or maize.

Most likely food security outcomes

From February to May, in the northeast of the country, particularly in the lower regions, the communes of Haut-Plateau, some communes in Nippes (Petit Trou, Grand Boukan, etc.), some communes in Grand-Anse such as Pestel and Corail, and others in Ouest and Sud-Est that are already facing major structural problems, it is expected that the economic situation will force many households to increasingly use certain strategies in an unusual way to access food and non-food items, leading to these areas being in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

In the rest of Haiti, winter harvests should ensure that food is available, including beans and other seasonal crops, such as pigeon peas and especially root vegetables, tubers, bananas, breadfruit and fruit, particularly mango. It seems that these crops should be fairly available locally until the lean season (March–May). Moreover, income generated through the sale of their labor and crops will allow the very poor to gain access – albeit limited – to the market, as food prices are unlikely to fall. Thus, most regions will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

 

From June to September which is the period coinciding with the Spring harvests and with the start of the second agricultural season (summer), consumption is expected to return to normal levels. This is partly because of the harvest but also because of the seasonal increase in agricultural income. Moreover, the sale of labor and other income should enable households to access local and imported products whose prices could fall or remain stable. The whole country will therefore remain in IPC Phase 1 or 2, while some of the areas currently in Crisis may become Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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