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Despite the decline in food prices, the purchasing power of poor households is not improving

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Haiti
  • August 2023
Despite the decline in food prices, the purchasing power of poor households is not improving

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2024
  • Key Messages
    • With agricultural yields below the five-year average, high inflation, particularly for transportation and food, persistent insecurity, and limited employment opportunities, poor households' access to food is not improving. The majority of the country therefore remains in acute food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3) , and Cité Soleil in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
    • The spring harvest is drawing to a close. However, some regions where rains arrived later (Centre, South Coast, Nord-Ouest, Nord-Est) are preparing to harvest maize, beans, and rice (Nord-Est). This year's spring season was disrupted by a long dry spell at the beginning, which was followed by near-average rainfall from May onward. The dry spell damaged crop development, contributing to lower harvests. 
    • Spring harvests, which account for 60 percent of national agricultural production, are typically used as seeds for other seasons, particularly the summer/fall season. Due to average rainfall, soil preparation and planting activities are underway in most regions, despite the low availability of inputs, particularly seeds, which farmers must buy on the market. 
    • The gourde has appreciated by 11 percent against the US dollar since March, reaching a value of 136 gourdes to the dollar in August. Despite this appreciation and the resulting price falls, prices for basic foodstuffs remain atypically higher than the previous year (over 50 percent for most) and the five-year average (over 100 percent). 
    • Since June, acts of violence and kidnappings have increased in the capital and also in the departments of Nord-Ouest and Artibonite. The situation remains worrying, especially in Croix-des-Bouquets, Bon Repos, Tabarre, and, currently, Carrefour Feuille (south of Port-au-Prince), where armed individuals are directly attacking the civilian population. These disturbances continue to have a direct impact on the normal functioning of markets and to cause population displacements. 

    Current Situation

    Security situation: After a brief lull in April and May, violence against civilians and kidnappings for ransom by the Bwa Kalé movement have intensified in Haiti since May 2023 (Figure 1). According to the Haiti Partners Liaison and Security Office (PLSO), some 2,439 violent deaths were reported from January to July 2023, an increase of almost 12 percent compared to 2022, and a 51 percent increase compared to 2021. The encroachment of gangs establishing rights of way has played a role in the decline of security conditions along the national highways (RN 1, heading north, RN 2, heading south, and RN 3, heading toward the center). This has led to limited trade flows (including food products) in and out of the capital.

    As per the findings from the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights (CARDH), there were 389 reported kidnappings in the nation, especially in the capital, from January to March 2023, averaging about 129 per month. This represents a 72 percent increase compared to the corresponding period in 2022 and a substantial 175 percent surge compared to the same period in 2021. From April to June, some 150 kidnappings were reported (an average of 50 cases per month). However, July's figures stand at 83 kidnappings, according to CARDH. Besides the kidnappings, the recent outbreaks of violence in the lower-income neighborhoods of the capital, particularly in Carrefour Feuille, Canaan-Ona Ville, and Tabarre-Torcel, in August, are expected to exacerbate the circumstances.

    Figure 1

    Change in number of violent events and fatalities, May 2022 to July 2023
    L'évolution du nombre d'évènemnts violents et de décès de mai 2022- juillet 2023

    Source: Source : ACLED

    Rainfall conditions and agricultural season progress: After the long dry spell at the start of the spring cropping season, rainfall has been close to normal since May in some regions, notably the Nord-Ouest (Figure 2). After soil preparation, the heavy rainfall recorded during the first ten days in June allowed for the commencement of spring planting in areas that had been eagerly anticipating it. Only minor damage was reported in a few regions as a result of the heavy rainfall on June 5, and this did not have a substantial impact on the crops. Those experiencing water shortages were able to regenerate and grow normally. 

    The favorable vegetation conditions observed in different agro-ecological zones of the country during the latter half of May are evident in average to above-average Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values, indicating healthy soil moisture levels. However, the delayed rainfall this year did not provide much support for a typical spring season, alongside other challenges like the elevated expenses for agricultural inputs such as seeds and labor that farmers had to grapple with. As a result, harvests in July and August were below average. According to preliminary data from the 2023 National Food and Nutrition Security Survey (NFSS) on people's perceptions of the performance of the spring season, almost 67 percent of those surveyed believe that the harvest has been poor or very poor. More than 83 percent of people in the livelihood zones of the South Beans, Bananas, and Petty Trade), Southwestern Coast Maize, Cassava, and Bush Products, North and Central Plateau Maize and Tubers), Grand'Anse Maize and Cassava, and Bush Products, and Nippes Beans, Bananas, and Petty Tradeconsider that production is poor or very poor. Nevertheless, for 50 to almost 73 percent of respondents in zones such as Artibonite (rice-growing plains), North (tubers and horticulture), Nord-Ouest (HT01 and HT02) and Ouest (coastal dry maize and coal), spring production was relatively good or very good. 

    Corn and bean harvests are in progress in the South (particularly on the coast), the Central Plateau (Hinche, Thomonde, where bean and groundnut harvests have been observed), the North-West, and Nippes. Soil preparation and planting activities are also currently underway in most parts of the country, thanks to the current rains. However, climate forecasts point to a very active El Niño by the end of 2023. Against a backdrop of largely rain-dependent agriculture (90 percent rainfed) and low vegetation cover (less than 2 percent), and based on historical trends, this is likely to result in negative impacts to agricultural production and food security. The El Niño years of 2015 to 2016 were characterized by drought episodes affecting crops and harvests in the spring, summer, and winter seasons.

    Figure 2

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), average percentage from July 26 to August 5, 2023, compared to average 2012–2021 moyen du 26 juillet au 5 août 2023, comparée à la moyenne 2012-2021
    Indice de différence normalisée de végétation

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Markets and commodity prices: Insecurity continues to have a significant impact on economic activity in general and on market operations and trade in the capital and Artibonite in particular, leading to atypical supply levels, which are pushing up prices. Furthermore, gang control of the main transportation routes between cities has indirect effects on trade flows and market functioning. In addition, all cities are affected by the taxes imposed by gangs on transportation routes and market operations, contributing to rising prices. However, supplies are available, and shortages are not reported. 

    In July, food staples tracked by FEWS NET again showed a downward trend compared with previous months (Figure 3), following the monthly appreciation of the national currency against the USD. Prices for domestic yellow maize and dry black beans have fallen significantly again in several markets. Nationally, the respective declines are 17 percent and more than 7 percent. Imported food products, such as rice, vegetable oil, and wheat flour, also showed an almost identical downward trend compared to June. 

    Since mid-April, in fact, the gourde has appreciated against the US dollar, reaching a rate of 136 gourdes per USD in August, representing an 11 percent appreciation compared with March. However, despite this appreciation and the resulting price falls, prices for basic foodstuffs remain atypically higher than the previous year (over 50 percent for most) and the five-year average (over 100 percent). 

    Figure 3

    Evolution of the average price in gourdes of basic cereals (HTG/6 pounds), April 2019 to July 2023
    Evolution des prix miyen des céréales de base

    Source: FEWS NET

    Sources of income: Income sources of very poor households in both rural and urban areas are below average. Farming activity in most regions of the country during the summer and autumn seasons does not allow for a sustained demand for farm workers, compared with the spring season. The impact on rural incomes is all the greater given that, according to the 2023 National Food Security and Nutrition Survey (ENSSAN), almost 43 percent of survey respondents in rural areas answered that their primary source of income is the sale of their agricultural produce. In such a context, the decline in spring agricultural production has a major impact on rural household incomes.

    Income from the production and sale of charcoal is affected by road insecurity and the fact that trucks transporting charcoal must consequently take longer routes, reducing the income generated by this sector. However, small-scale trading is operating normally, apart from sporadic disruptions in certain areas, particularly in the capital. In addition, fishing activities are likely to generate near-normal revenues, notably eel fishing, which is expanding due to increased export demand, particularly in Bas Nord-Ouest. For other types of fishing, income is below average, mainly due to the insecurity that forces fishermen to sell their products on the spot or on local markets at lower prices. 

    Livestock situation: The livestock situation is relatively stable. Regular rainfall ensures the availability of fodder and water, keeping animals in good physical condition, with the exception of pigs and poultry, respectively prey to Teschen disease and Newcastle disease in the Grand 'Anse (Corail, Anse-d 'Hainaut, Dame Marie, les Irois). 

    Malnutrition: National malnutrition statistics from the SMART nutrition survey carried out in January 2023 show that national acute malnutrition levels remain within the acceptable (GAM WHZ 5-9.9 percent) or alert (GAM WHZ 10-14.9 percent) ranges. The acute malnutrition levels suggest that, while food consumption gaps occur and poor access to WASH and nutrition services and the incidence of diseases such as cholera remain a concern, the proportion of the population experiencing significant and sustained food consumption deficits leading to wasting is relatively low. 

    Emergency humanitarian aid: Food assistance remains important for preventing household kilocalorie deficits and protecting livelihoods by limiting the need for negative coping mechanisms. However, food aid distribution varied considerably from month to month, and monthly amounts distributed remained below IPC significance thresholds. According to a Food Security Cluster analysis of food aid distributions from January to July 2023, a cumulative total of 1.2 million people received emergency food aid in the form of rations or cash transfers, representing 12 percent of the population (nearly 10 million people) and 49.75 percent of the overall Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) 2023 target. During this seven-month period, the cumulative number of beneficiaries in five targeted livelihood zones reached more than 25 percent of their total population: Cité Soleil (41 percent), Croix-des-Bouquets (28 percent), Tabarre (27 percent), Nippes HT01 (29 percent), and Nord-Est HT02/03 (32 percent). Nevertheless, monthly consistency varies considerably, and rations or cash transfers generally cover less than 20 percent of a person's monthly kilocalorie requirements. 

    Current food security results: High prices, low incomes, and drought continue to have a negative impact on household purchasing power and therefore on food security. Livelihoods remain fragile and severely disrupted in most areas. In the metropolitan area, and especially in Cité Soleil, an Emergency (IPC Phase 4) situation persists. The majority of the country's zones are in Crisis (IPC 3), with households forced to resort to crisis coping strategies such as increasing charcoal and livestock sales and consuming seeds and food with low nutritional value. In irrigated and semi-humid areas, such as Plaine des Cayes in the south, part of the west (Léogane), Nord-Ouest HT02 (Saint-Louis du Nord in particular), Nippes HT01 (Miragoane, Paillant, Fond-des-Nègres), and certain communes in the north (Acul du Nord, Plaine du Nord), households are engaging in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) strategies to maintain their current consumption. Such strategies include reducing non-essential spending, intensifying food purchases on credit, consuming non-preferred foods, and reducing adult consumption in favor of children.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    calendrier saisonnier

    Source: FEWS NET

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions in the June 2023 to January 2024 Food Security Outlook report remain unchanged, with the exception of the updated assumptions below:

    • Rainfall: El Niño conditions are active, and these conditions are generally associated with below-average rainfall in Haiti; however, each El Niño behaves differently. According to forecasts by FEWS NET's scientific partners (NOAA, USGS, and Climate Hazards Center), near-average rainfall and above-average temperatures are most likely during the second rainy season (August to October/November). However, it will remain important to keep a close eye on the distribution of rainfall, as poor distribution would still pose a risk to crop development, even if total rainfall is ultimately close to average. 

    • Sociopolitical situation: Elections are highly unlikely to be held before at least 2024, given persistent high levels of gang violence, pressing economic concerns, and the manifest inability of political leaders to find common ground in ongoing negotiations. 

      • Politically motivated social unrest is likely throughout the period, but at levels well below the peaks seen in 2018 to 2021. However, an increase in insecurity-related protests can be expected over the period under review, following the growing control of gangs over the capital's residential areas and the resulting population displacements.

      • After a slightly lull during the Bwa Kalé movement in April to May, violence is set to continue rising as gang members gain and strengthen their hold on specific areas of the capital. In addition, it is expected that national roads number 1 (North) and 2 (South) leading to the capital, as well as the avenues passing through Croix-des-Bouquets, will continue to face significant access constraints throughout the scenario period, slowing down trade flows between the capital and the departments of the South, North, and Central Plateau regions.

    Projected Outlook through January 2024

    The period from August to September coincides with the end of the spring harvest, except in areas where it was late, and also with the start of the summer/fall season. Local products such as beans, maize, and rice and wild products (bananas, breadfruit, and mango) are still available on the various markets but in smaller quantities than normal. This keeps prices higher than normal, making food products less accessible to poor households. The poor performance of the spring season will negatively affect the summer/fall season in terms of seed availability and accessibility. This will also reduce the demand for labor, driving below-average incomes for farm workers. 

    Consequently, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to remainwidespread in rural Haiti. This will also be the case for the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Due to severe food and livelihood protection deficits, gang violence, and the prevalence of cholera and other problems, the commune of Cité Soleil is the most food insecure, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes likely. Food aid needs are likely to be greater there.

    The period from October to January coincides with the summer–fall harvests (corn, peas, roots, and tubers) in November in the humid mountains and also with the start of the winter season in the irrigated plains and semi-humid mountains. The end-of-year period usually gives a certain "boost" as well to non-agricultural income-generating activities such as casual labor, petty trade, and the sale of charcoal in urban areas, alongside cash transfers from abroad. Earnings from labor and the sale of seasonal agricultural produce will nevertheless remain below average due to rising input costs and insecurity, preventing farmers from planting their land and selling their produce. This will leave them with insufficient capacity to plant land normally and hire farm workers properly. At the same time, the purchasing power of total income from non-agricultural activities, even in the context of the end-of-year festivities, will be lower than normal, given high inflation. All this will force poor and very poor households to adopt crisis coping strategies, for the most part, to meet their basic food needs.

    Acute food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will continue to be observed across the country. In the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, especially in regions under the control of gangs, extended periods of food scarcity are expected among poor and very poor households. A growing number of households will be able to liquidate their productive assets but will still need to engage in negative emergency coping strategies. Cité Soleil will continue to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the period under review.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Haiti Food Security Outlook Update August 2023: Despite the decline in food prices, the purchasing power of poor households is not improving, 2023.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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