Food Security Outlook

August/September harvests will bring relief to food-insecure households

July 2013 to December 2013

IPC 2.0 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 2.0 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 2.0 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

  • Prodution from spring harvests will be 20 to 30 percent less than usual due to a shortage of seeds, together with the late start of the rains and the string of dry spells. 

  • Ongoing harvests in areas with normal rainfall have brought down food prices in these parts of the country. However, prices in most areas are still 15 percent above those of July of last year. 

  • With the poor 2012 harvest, this year’s lean season began unusually early and extended beyond the end of June in many areas, which is unusual. Mediocre crop performance and poor climatic conditions sharply reduced demand for agricultural labor, the source of approximately 30 percent of the annual income of poor households.

  • According to the national IPC food security analysis in June, conditions in most departments are classified as Stressed (Phase 2, IPC), with certain areas particularly affected by climatic shocks and high prices in Crisis (Phase 3, IPC).

National Overview

Current situation

The month of July is generally the harvesting period for grain crops in all parts of the country with the exception of agropastoral areas of the Central Plateau, where harvests of spring crops normally get underway in August. This time of year is usually marked by an improvement in food security conditions for rural households in particular. There is increasingly good food availability, allowing households and wholesalers to rebuild their stocks. These harvests account for over half of all national crop production.

This year, however, most parts of the country are in a somewhat different situation. The delay in the planting of crops due to poor agro-climatic conditions has delayed the start of the harvesting period by more than a month.

There are localized harvests already underway in areas where the first rains began in April and ensuing normal rainfall activity helped spur crop growth and development. Such areas include certain municipalities in the Southeast such as Cayes-Jacmel and Marigot, the Les Cayes Plain area in the South, and a few municipalities in Nippes and Grand’Anse departments. These areas all have an abundance of maize, beans, vegetables, bananas, and breadfruits, which are helping to diversify and increase local food supplies. However, their impact is localized and does not help improve overall food security conditions.

Rainfall is one of the main contributing factors to the success or failure of the spring growing season across the country. The late start of the rainy season and poor distribution of rainfall between April and June seriously disrupted the crop calendar. Rainfall levels on the Southern Peninsula and in the West are below the four-year average. According to the food monitors in the Southeast, rainfall levels in the Southeast department, for example, are under the four-year average by 38 percent (Figure 4).

The delay in the planting of crops will affect output in certain areas. In many cases, environmental conditions have been conducive to the proliferation of crop pests. According to the food monitors in the Artibonite, for example, there were severe caterpillar infestations of maize crops in certain parts of this department. These infestations will sharply reduce maize production, which is one of the main sources of food and income for farmers in the upper Artibonite. The succession of dry spells, the delays in the planting of crops, and the infestations of crop pests will all undermine crop production. The CNSA and its partners are in the process of conducting a crop assessment for the spring growing season. However, many field-level technicians are already estimating drought-induced losses at approximately 30 percent below normal.

Other rainfall-induced effects. One of the positive effects of the May and June rains in major crop-producing areas of the country is the improvement in the supply of pasture and the levels of surface water sources. In general, livestock have been rapidly putting on weight, which has visibly improved their market value. Households selling livestock in August and September could get better prices for their animals compared with the prices from June of this year.

The recent rains were accompanied by resurgence in cholera cases in certain municipalities, with both Verrettes and Maissade reporting new cases of the disease. However, this is still a far from the severe cholera outbreaks claiming thousands of victims back in 2011 and 2012. The efforts deployed by interested agencies and organizations (the Haitian government, international organizations, and NGOs) through the broadcasting of awareness-raising messages went a long way towards helping to contain the outbreak. The current impact of this disease on food security conditions across the country is negligible compared with the situation in 2011. However, a new cholera outbreak fueled by rainy season conditions between August and November is still a possibility in remote areas without proper health and sanitation infrastructure. The authorities will need to step up their surveillance efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. U.N. OCHA is predicting 100,000 new cases of cholera during the rainy season.

Agricultural labor. There was a lower than usual demand for agricultural labor in July with the interruption in the rainy season delaying the beginning of the harvest and land preparation activities for the planting of crops in humid mountain and semi-humid agropastoral areas in August. Poor households dependent on this source of income faced shortfalls in their earnings throughout the month of July. Certain cash-for-work projects mounted by the Ministry of Agriculture or by NGOs have ended. However, as usual, rice-growing activities in the Artibonite Valley and on the Torbeck and Maribaroux Plains between June and October should provide jobs for large numbers of agricultural laborers.

Price trends. Staple food prices are soaring, surpassing figures for the same time last year, as well as the five-year average. Nevertheless, the small ongoing harvests in certain parts of the country have stabilized prices for locally grown crops in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, for example. Other municipalities such as Hinche, Jacmel, and Cap-Haitien reported sharp drops of 20, eight, and six percent, respectively, in the price of black beans, the main source of protein for most poor households, between May and June. This trend could reverse itself in August as the planting of bean crops in humid mountain areas fuels demand, driving prices back up. Moreover, according to field technicians, the reduced bean harvest will only serve to speed up the rise in bean prices.

Maize prices have stabilized in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien, but dropped by 11, 22, and 31 percent, respectively, in Hinche, Cayes, and Jérémie between May and June with the ongoing harvests in irrigated farming areas and areas getting adequate amounts of rain. Prices for maize crops across the country are expected to continue to fall through the month of October, until the end of the harvesting period, by which time they should be close to prices in July of last year.

In contrast, prices for imported foods, such as rice and flour, rose by as much as 11 and 20 percent, respectively, between May and June of this year. This trend is partially attributable to the speculative reaction of importers to the rise in the value of the U.S. dollar against the Haitian gourde and its potential effects on future purchases on the international market. The lower selling price of the Vietnamese rice imported by the Haitian government has not yet had any effect on the price of rice imported from the U.S. or grown locally. However, the current and upcoming harvests in August and September are still expected to cause prices for imported rice, wheat flour, and imported maize to edge downwards. Moreover, banana trees, breadfruit trees, and other fruit trees severely damaged by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac in 2012 are starting to bear fruit, though harvests are still smaller than usual. These crops are helping to improve food supplies and drive down prices in areas with ongoing harvests. However, with the poor harvest of spring crops, the current downward trend in the prices will be short-lived for certain foods.

Humanitarian assistance. Households in certain parts of the upper Central Plateau, southern Gonaïves, and Terre Neuve, and certain municipalities in the Southeast received humanitarian assistance throughout the month of July. However, donor funding by humanitarian organizations active in other parts of the country such as the far western reaches of the Northwestern department has ended. School meal programs were suspended for the entire month of July with students on vacation until the end of August. The Multi-Year Assistance Program (MYAP) serving tens of thousands of at-risk individuals in the Southeast, in the South, and in the Central Plateau is scheduled to end in August. The government will extend its own humanitarian assistance program, including cash payments and the operation of community meal centers, but this program, in itself, cannot make up for the lack of other assistance programs.

Assumptions

The following general assumptions are based on the findings outlined above:

  • Prodution from spring harvests will be 20 to 30 percent smaller than usual.
  • The August and September harvests and land preparation activities for the planting of summer crops will heighten demand for farm labor, which will still be approximately 10 percent lower than usual. Poor harvests and the depletion of assets for farmers are undermining their ability to invest in agricultural activities.
  • Prices for locally grown food crops in all parts of the country will decrease between August and September, but will start to rebound towards the beginning of October.
  • The steady depreciation of the Haitian gourde vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar will fuel speculation on the part of importers.
  • The rice-growing season in the Artibonite and the bean-growing season in humid mountain areas between July and December will provide agricultural employment opportunities for poor households.
  • Forecasts by the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CARICOF) predict above-normal rainfall activity between September and November (Figure 4). Harvests of crops such as sorghum and pigeon peas should be better than last year. The ECMWF model paints a less positive picture, with below-normal levels of rainfall, but the CARICOF model has a higher confidence level (Figure 5).
  • August, September, and October floods in the West, the South, the Artibonite, and the North will trigger a new cholera outbreak and damage crops and farm infrastructure.
  • As usual, migrant remittances to family members back home in Haiti will increase by approximately 10 percent in September, just before the beginning of the new school year, and again in December for the holiday season.
Most likely food security outcomes

Crop losses by Haiti’s farming industry from last year’s numerous agro-climatic shocks were estimated at over 40 percent. The limited supply of seeds from last year’s poor harvests for the planting of crops had spin-off effects on this year’s spring growing season. In fact, none of the usual sources of seeds for farmers across the country were able to meet their needs. Stocks were depleted, market prices were up by 30 percent, and the usual volume of seed assistance was down by more than 50 percent. According to field technicians, this reduced the area planted, normally for crops in the spring growing season, by approximately 10 percent and led to the use of seeds of questionable origin. Moreover, the series of dry spells between March and June delayed the planting of crops or caused crops to wither in many parts of the country. The combined effects of all these factors reduced the demand for agricultural labor, cutting the incomes of poor households by approximately 15 percent according to local farmers. Moreover, these poor households are finding their purchasing power diminished by the rising price of food. The IPC food security analysis conducted by the CNSA and its partners in June of this year classified conditions in most departments across the country as Stressed (Phase 2, IPC).

Households in certain municipalities like Thomassique and Bombardopolis, for example, whose 2012 harvests were extremely poor and whose subsequent foraging efforts have produced only small amounts of wild plant foods are virtually entirely dependent on local markets for their food supplies. These areas were also especially affected by agro-climatic shocks. The incomes of poor households have gone down by as much as approximately 15 percent, while staple food prices increased from last year by more than 30 percent. Thus, food consumption by poor households in these municipalities is borderline adequate. These households will be in Crisis (Phase 3, IPC) through the month of August. Their situation will start to improve as of September, translating into Stressed food security outcomes (Phase 2, IPC) between September and December. The above-normal rainfall activity predicted for the period between September and November could create conducive conditions for good harvests of crops like sorghum, pigeon peas, and sweet potatoes, which should improve the food access of poor households.

In addition to the factors discussed above, the impact of this year’s hurricane season, which began on June 1, could have serious consequences for food security conditions in Haiti. In fact, with the rapid rate of environmental degradation, a heavy downpour would suffice to damage crops and destroy agriculture infrastructure. Forecasts by Colorado State University are predicting an extremely active hurricane season, with 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes. 

Areas of Concern

Livelihood Zone 6 (Dry Farming and Fishing Areas): Paillant, Petite-Rivière de Nippes, Anse-à-Veau, Pestel, Corail, Roseau, and Jérémie

Current situation

The start of the spring season, which is the main growing season in this livelihood zone, was delayed by more than a month and interrupted by protracted dry spells in April and May. The progress of maize and other crops currently in the vegetative stage is behind schedule, which will sharply reduce output.

Demand for labor is down by 10 to 15 percent due to the slowdown in agricultural activities which, in turn, are dependent on rainfall conditions. With the July harvests delayed by more than a month, the main sources of income for poor households are currently charcoal production and small commerce. Poor households along the coast are engaged in fishing activities. The increase in rainfall activity in June improved pasture quality, which helped strengthen the physical condition of livestock.

The extended lean season and high cost of seeds forced many poor households to sell more animals than usual between March and July. As their situation continues to be difficult, they will be obligated to sell another goat or another few chickens between July and August in order to feed the family and cover education costs for their children, though many households have already sold off most of their animals.

Staple commodities are selling for 25 to 30 percent more than last year (Figure 6). However, ongoing harvests in near-by humid mountain areas are starting to bring down prices for certain locally grown crops like beans. After rising sharply in June, prices for imported foods such as rice and wheat flour appear to have stabilized, though above the five-year average.

Last year’s poor harvests prolonged this year’s lean season. The mango harvest in June brought some relief. Food stocks are virtually depleted and local markets are the sole source of supply. With the delay in the planting of crops, the maize harvest, which is generally the main source of food for the month of July, will not take place until August/September.

With little if any change in charcoal prices or demand for charcoal, charcoal production, the new main source of household income, cannot make up for the lack of maize. This has sharply eroded household purchasing power.

Thus, food consumption by the poorest households in these areas is borderline adequate. Most poor households will be in Crisis (Phase 3, IPC) throughout the month of July, until the upcoming August/September harvests.

Assumptions
  • As a major source of household income, poor households will be forced to increase the sale of charcoal between July and October. Their earnings from these increased sales will help narrow food consumption gaps and pay their children’s tuition fees.
  • In the face of a food crisis in a particular area, local youths are the first to head out to look for work in the city or in irrigated farming areas. This year, larger than usual numbers of youths will be heading to Miragôane, Jérémie, or Port-au-Prince between July and September in search of gainful employment to help support the rest of the household.
  • Given the high price of rice, which is one of the most widely consumed grains, the government initiative to import Vietnamese rice and resell it at extremely competitive prices should temporarily help make it more affordable for the poor.
  • There will be a maize harvest in August and September and a second harvest in November and December, at the same time as the harvest of sweet potatoes, sorghum, and pigeon peas. Though considerably poorer than usual, food availability from these harvests will still help improve food access for poor households.
Most likely food security outcomes

The erratic pattern of rainfall and the shortage of seeds due to last year’s poor harvests are hurting the incomes and diets of poor households in this livelihood zone. First, with the delay in the planting of crops for the first growing season, the usual July harvest will not take place until the end of August/September. Furthermore, the harvest will be a poor one due to the string of dry spells. Secondly, the sharp reduction in demand for farm labor, the source of over 30 percent of the income of poor households, is limiting their income-earning potential. At the same time, to make up for the depletion of their food stocks after last year’s crop failures and with this year’s extended lean season, these households have been selling off livestock since April, which are a form of household savings. Moreover, the steady rise in food prices since August of last year is inhibiting access for poor households to local markets, which are the source of close to 60 percent of household food supplies. Prices have increased by an average of 16 percent since July of last year, eroding the purchasing power of poor households. Furthermore, if, as predicted by the ECMWF, conditions during the second rainy season are much poorer than usual, there will be large shortfalls in upcoming harvests of pigeon pea and sorghum crops between October and December, which are important sources of food and income for poor households. However, according to the CARICOF forecast, which is considered more reliable, there should be normal year-end harvests.

Thus, with the combined effects of all these variables, poor households in this livelihood zone will most likely be facing a large food gap until the upcoming August/September harvests. There could be irreversible effects on their livelihoods from destructive coping strategies such as accelerated soil erosion from the felling of trees, for example.

The food security situation will be extremely difficult between July and August with the delay in the harvesting of maize given it is the main food crop grown in this area, the depletion of food stocks, the low demand for labor, and the high level of food prices. The entire area will be in Crisis (Phase 3, IPC) in July and August. On the other hand, there should be a slight improvement in the food security situation between September and December with the harvesting of maize, sweet potato, pigeon pea, sorghum, and peanut crops, shifting into Stressed food security outcomes (Phase 2, IPC).

Livelihood Zone 3 (Humid Mountain Areas): Ranquitte, Bahon, and Port-Magot

Current situation

With a string of protracted dry spells delaying the planting of maize, bean, and cowpea crops by approximately six weeks, the usual July harvest will not take place. Crops are currently in the vegetative stage (Figure 7) and look promising for a good harvest, subject to rainfall activity for the month of July, which is oftentimes rather light.

Household stocks and market supplies of locally grown crops are limited, which is causing prices to rise and eroding household purchasing power. The price of a sack of locally produced ground corn, for example, is up 33 percent from the same time last year and 12 percent above the five-year average. Likewise, the price of imported rice is 22 percent higher than last year and 17 percent above the five-year average.

Households had virtually no food stocks whatsoever for the entire month of July, which is unusual. For the most part, they will be forced to continue purchasing their food supplies on local markets, where food prices are steadily rising. Unlike the case in other parts of the country, there is no food assistance available in this area to help improve household food availability. Poor households are having difficulty meeting their food needs.

Demand for agricultural labor, one of the main sources of income for poor households in this area, is decreasing. To make up for the scarcity of employment opportunities in this area, poor households are engaging in activities with irreversible effects on basic resources, such as the felling of trees for charcoal production and the fabrication of wooden planks, and other activities which are depleting their livelihood assets, such as the sale of small animals.

Households in this livelihood zone remain in Crisis (Phase 3, IPC). The late start of the rains and the erratic distribution of rainfall during the spring growing season have created shortages of water, which will sharply reduce output. In addition, the high price and shortage of seeds on local markets reduced the size of the area normally planted for spring crops. These anomalies will negatively affect local harvests, which will probably be somewhere between 20 and 30 percent smaller than usual.

Assumptions
  • Food prices will stay high throughout July and a good part of the month of August, before starting to come down in late August/September. Maize prices, for example, should drop by as much as 10 to 15 percent before rebounding as of October/November.
  • Very poor and poor households in this livelihood zone have had limited food access since March/April of this year due, in large part, to last year’s and this year’s poor harvests. They will continue to have difficulty maintaining their food access until the end of August or the beginning of September, when the next round of harvests should get underway. These households will step up their charcoal production and the fabrication of wooden planks to meet their food needs until the upcoming harvest.
  • With the lack of May and July harvests due to the drought conditions in this area, many poor households will engage in labor migration between July and August.
Most likely food security outcomes

The combined effects of the earlier than usual start of the lean season and the delay in the planting of spring crops depleted local food stocks. While local markets stocked with a variety of foods are an important source for food consumption, prices are unusually high, which is sharply inhibiting market access for poor households.

Poor households have diversified sources of income, but their earnings from wage labor and crop sales, which account for a large share of their income, have been sharply reduced by climate-induced effects on local crops. Moreover, with this year’s protracted lean season and exhausting available food stocks, poor households were obligated to sell their two or so remaining head of livestock, forcing them to deplete their assets. Their usual coping strategies such as charcoal production and labor migration will be ineffective in offsetting these shock-induced losses.

Most poor households are feeling the effects of the deterioration in their food access. Their situation will not change until the upcoming August/September harvests.

Thus, poor households will be in Crisis (Phase 3, IPC) until the next round of harvests in August/September. Maize, sweet potato, bean, and coffee crop harvests will improve their food security situation between September and December, shifting into Stressed (Phase 2, IPC) outcomes.

Events that Might Change the Outlook

Area

Event

Impact on food security conditions

Haiti

Hurricane (direct hit)

Destruction of crops and infrastructure, disrupting the flow of commodities and services within local communities. This will hurt the ability of poor households to maintain a stable source of food and income.

Haiti

Rise in the cost of fuel and the value of the U.S. dollar against the gourde

This would increase transportation costs and, eventually drive up food prices.

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 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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