Food Security Outlook Update

Below average production and high prices continue to constrain household food security

August 2020

August - September 2020

October 2020 - January 2021

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.

Key Messages

  • Below normal and irregular rains since March have negatively affected the yield of the spring growing season, leading to below average harvests. According to SAMEPA (CNSA, June 2020), losses will be approximately 20 per cent, reducing the supply of local products to markets and leading to above average prices.

  • Low production in spring heralds summer/fall and winter growing seasons that are also below average, since 70 to 80 per cent of inputs for subsequent growing seasons depend on the previous harvest. This is despite above average rainfall observed since July and forecast for the rest of the year.

  • In addition, storm Laura caused flooding in the Sud (Les Cayes, Roche-à-Bateaux), Artibonite (Bas Artibonite), and especially in the Sud-est (Arrondissement de Belle-Anse), where it caused lodging of maize, beans, manioc and groundnut crops, as well as loss of cattle. However, it will prove beneficial to dry areas in the Nord, Haut Artibonite, Nippes, Ouest, Bas Nord-Ouest, Haut Plateau, and other areas that have not yet begun the summer/fall growing season.

  • According to the SAMEPA survey, most households reported that their income was negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, access to food for the poorest households is impacted by the high prices of staple foods at a time when incomes are below average. Most of these households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until January 2021.

CURRENT SITUATION

The COVID-19 pandemic: From 1 July to 29 August, the number of COVID-19 cases increased by more than 37 per cent to just over 8,200, including approximately 200 deaths. However, since the peak in May, the number of cases of people affected by the pandemic has been increasing more slowly. Measures against the spread of the virus, such as the wearing of masks and social distancing, are still in force, but are being followed less strictly by the population, resulting in a swifter resumption of economic activities, particularly in urban centers.

The sociopolitical situation: The sociopolitical situation is very volatile and public panic is observed from time to time in certain areas, in particular the Metropolitan Area of Port-au-Prince. Factors such as inflation, rising prices and the imminent end to the current government’s term in office continue to fuel instability in the country.

Weather conditions: Cumulative rainfall during July was below average with irregular temporal and geographical distribution, particularly in the Artibonite, Nord, Nord-est and Centre. The NDVI vegetation index was below average until the first dekad of July and about average for the first dekad of July to the first dekad of August. The heavy rains that fell during the passage of storm Laura were above average and caused lodging of the main crops currently in the fields, including maize, beans, cassava, groundnuts and pigeon peas, particularly in the Sud-est, and especially in the Belle Anse district. They were, however, beneficial to the summer/fall growing season in normally drier areas such as the Nord (La Victoire, Ranquitte, Limonade, etc.), Haut Artibonite, Nippes, Ouest, Bas Nord-Ouest and Haut Plateau (Thomassique) and others which had not yet begun the summer/fall growing season.

Food availability: Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the domestic market remains well supplied with food products across all categories, especially imported food. No stock shortages have been observed to date. Staple food flows have been largely unaffected. However, the availability of some products that come exclusively from the Dominican Republic (such as condiments, oil, flour and other non-food goods and services) has been somewhat limited since the closure of the borders. As a result, prices have been on an upward trend during the period. The availability of local food remains below the average for this period, with the exception of some products, such as maize from the spring harvests, together with roots and tubers.

Markets and food prices: Staple food prices remain above the five-year average. Between August 2015 and August 2020, the gourde fell from US$0.018110 to US$0.00835, a loss of about 54 per cent of its value (BRH, 2020). However, even if prices remain high, the injection of approximately US$18-19 million per week (from 10 August to the end of September) into the market by the Haitian Central Bank (BRH) is beginning to have the desired impact. Indeed, the benchmark rate of 121.1593 gourdes prior to the open market operation by the BRH rose to 117.3135 gourdes on 31 August, representing an appreciation for the national currency of more than 3 per cent against the US dollar.

The prices of imported food, particularly rice, remain high. This is also the case for other imported staple foods such as vegetable oil, wheat flour, beans, sugar, etc., prices for which remain high on the local market. For local products such as maize and beans, prices are generally following the downward seasonal pattern following the spring harvest. As for local black peas, the loss of 20 to 30 per cent of the harvest led to higher prices. In addition, imports of black beans from the Dominican Republic, which generally compensate for inadequate local supply and influence prices, are drastically in decline because of the restrictions imposed by the Dominican authorities to limit the spread of COVID-19 in their territory.

Agricultural labor and other sources of income: In rural areas, demand for labor is lower than usual due to the slowdown in economic activity in previous months, which has reduced farmers’ ability to finance agricultural activities in the summer/fall growing season. In addition, the supply of agricultural labor has increased with the influx of Haitian migrants from the Dominican Republic, and a decline in other income sources because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, income from what is a major source for the poorest rural households is below average. Moreover, the borders with the Dominican Republic remain closed, and remittances are still below average.

Moreover, according to the SAMEPA survey, most households reported that their income was negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The residual effect of COVID-19 will take time to be attenuated, despite the resumption of socioeconomic activities. However, income will still remain below normal in the short to medium term.

Current food security outcomes: Food security conditions continue to be affected by inflation, low local food availability and the residual effects of COVID-19. In addition, the poor yield of the spring harvest poses a problem for the start of the summer/fall season, since 70-80 per cent of the inputs used come from the former. Demand for labor is below average, even in the run-up to the start of the summer/fall season, because farmers are struggling to finance their growing seasons. However, the supply of labor remains high, compounded by the voluntary return of almost 92,000 people from the Dominican Republic from March and up until 9 August 2020, according to the Support Group for Refugees and Returnees (GARR).

In other areas that are more vulnerable to price shocks and/or drought, such as Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, lowland communes in Nippes, some communes in Ouest, Sud-Est and along the south coast where households are poorer and rely more heavily on the market for food, households are more commonly adopting crisis strategies such as increasing the sale of charcoal and animals, and consuming seeds and foods low in nutritional value. They are therefore in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

The assumptions in the report on the outlook for food security from June 2020 to February 2021 remain, with the exception of those updated below:

  • The number of new cases related to COVID-19 will continue to increase, but at a slower rate. The lifting of the most stringent measures (closure of ports, airports, border crossings, etc.) from July will continue to facilitate the resumption of economic activities in the country. However, the adverse effects of COVID-19, such as falling incomes, will continue to negatively affect poor households in the short to medium term.
  • The sale of charcoal will be above normal following the lifting of the restrictions on movement imposed by the Government and the demand for this product, which is likely to rise due to the increase in the price of propane.
  • Following the intervention of the Central Bank of Haiti (BRH) in the foreign exchange market (a weekly injection of about US$18 million to US$19 million from 10 August to the end of the last quarter of the current fiscal year), the gourde should continue to appreciate against the US dollar until September and maintain overall stability until January. Contrary to our earlier forecasts, the depreciation of the gourde will be at the most similar to last year’s depreciation.
  • According to the BRH, diaspora remittances fell between February and March 2020, but increased between April and June 2020. Remittances will follow their seasonal upward trend between October and January, encouraging food purchases from markets.
  • The sociopolitical situation is increasingly volatile and public panic is observed from time to time in certain areas, in particular the Metropolitan Area of Port-au-Prince, preventing the movement of goods and persons.

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2021

The period from August to September coincides with the summer/fall growing season, which is already beginning to experience disturbances due to storms with lodging of crops currently in the fields, including maize plantations in major production areas (Cayes, Artibonite and especially in the Sud-Est). As a result, the yield of the summer/fall growing season will be below average, due among other reasons to the low investment capacity of farmers, which will reduce income from agricultural labor and the sales of harvests. By contrast, in urban areas the resumption of almost all formal and informal activities is likely to generate employment and lead to a limited increase in incomes, although purchasing power may be eroded by the prices of staple foods, which remain above the five-year average.

The supply of local products, in addition to high commodity prices and below-average incomes, will negatively affect access to food for poor households. The purchasing power of poor households will steadily decline as a result of high staple food prices as well as below average income due to agricultural losses. As a result, the purchasing power of the poorest households will fall, leading them to adopt crisis coping strategies such as increased charcoal sales, consumption of low-quality food and resorting to and early food consumption, as well as stress coping strategies (reducing the quantity and quality of food consumed, and purchasing on credit). In this context, most areas of the country are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

The second part of the outlook period (October to January 2021) coincides with the winter growing season and the start of the preparations for the spring 2021 growing season. It also coincides with the harvest of seasonal crops such as pigeon peas, lima beans and cowpeas. Despite fairly favorable agroclimatic conditions, these growing seasons, which represent only a small contribution to national agricultural production, will be adversely affected by losses from the spring 2020 season. As a result, households will continue to source most of their food from markets. Moreover, the effect of consecutive below average growing seasons is reflected in a reduced capacity of farmers to invest in preparations for the spring 2021 season, which begins in February 2021.

In addition, given the strong supply of agricultural labor, income-generating activities arising from the start of the spring growing season will be unable to absorb the labor surplus observed since the border closure to contain the spread of COVID-19 on both sides of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The income of the poorest households will once again be below average. In these circumstances, the poorest households will continue to use coping strategies to meet their food needs. Although there may be a reduction in the number of food-insecure households following the summer/fall growing season harvests and a resumption of economic activity in the run-up to the end-of-year celebrations, most areas of the country will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work 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 approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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