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Rising prices for staple foods are a source of concern for poor households

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Haiti
  • June 2013
Rising prices for staple foods are a source of concern for poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The delayed, irregular rainfall and rising prices for staple foods will help keep poor households in certain areas in the North, Northeastern, Western, and Southeastern departments and in the Central Plateau in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until the next harvests in August/September. 

    • Although rainfall during the second half of May has mostly encouraged planting across the country, the area planted will remain below normal, translating into a reduced spring harvest.

    • Certain areas (in Nippes, Grande’Anse, the South, the Southeast, etc.) are still reporting moisture deficits, while others (in the North, Central Plateau, and Artibonite) are receiving excess rain, which has been impeding agricultural activities such as plowing, planting, and weeding.

    Current Situation
    • The rainy season got underway in the second week of May in practically all parts of the country. The excessive amounts of rain in the Artibonite and in the upper Central Plateau actually caused flooding in the second week of June. In contrast, coastal areas of the country’s Southern and Grand’Anse departments and the Cul-de-sac Plain in the Western department are still experiencing abnormal dryness.
    • The increase in moisture accumulated spurred the main planting season in different parts of the country, which will continue through the end of June. With the start of seasonal planting activities delayed by more than a month, the current planted area for crops in the Central Plateau and in the North and Northeastern departments is between 50 and 70 percent below normal.
    • In addition to the late start of the rains, farmers are facing a shortage of seeds along with high prices as a result of last year’s poor harvest. The assistance furnished by the Ministry of Agriculture and NGOs meets less than five percent of the needs.
    • The transplanting of rice seedlings and land preparation activities in rice-growing areas in lower Artibonite and in the Northeast created a sizeable demand for agricultural labor, thereby improving the incomes of agricultural workers. However, the reported flooding in the Artibonite on June 13 and 14 submerged 40 percent of the newly established rice fields in that area and threaten 25 percent of rice seedlings (from asphyxiation), according to government food security observers in that department. Such extreme weather conditions could scale back rice harvests in the Artibonite Valley, thereby limiting employment opportunities for poor households.
    • The excessive rainfall in Artibonite, Central Plateau, and in the North and Northeastern departments is threatening bean crops currently in developmental or maturation stage. Prices for these widely-consumed crops are likely to continue to rise and could remain above 300 gourdes per six-pound sack, particularly with the growing demand for seeds in July/August for the summer season.
    • Maize and bean crop harvests are already in progress on Les Cayes Plains and in other areas where good rainfall and irrigation have contributed to their growth. Breadfruit and mango picking continues in fruit-growing areas across the country, which is helping improve food availability and household income in these areas. However, these short-lived, improved conditions will finish by the end of June. The main harvest will not begin until August/September, more than a month delayed.
    • These ongoing harvests have had an impact on the price of these crops in certain areas. In fact, black bean prices in the Jacmel and Gonaïves markets fell by 10 percent between April and the first half of June. However, prices for black beans are still up by 51 percent and 31 percent, respectively, on the Jacmel and Gonaïves markets and by nearly the same amount on all other markets.
    • The rise in the prices of rice and wheat flour between April and June seems to be due, in part, to the speculative behavior of traders in reaction to the appreciation of the U.S. dollar and its potential consequences for future purchases on the international market. This can only hurt Haitian households, whose purchasing power is being steadily eroded.
    • Humanitarian organizations providing assistance in Central Plateau, La Gonâve, the Southeast, and in the South supplied more than 200,000 beneficiaries with approximately 2,200 metric tons of food during the month of May. Even with the reduction in the amount of food supplied in June, this assistance is helping to limit the size of the food-insecure population in target areas.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has prompted the following changes in the assumptions made by FEWS NET in establishing the most likely food security scenario for the period from April through September 2013:

    • According to informal field reports, this year’s significantly below-normal rainfall has not triggered any new cholera outbreaks in the Southeast or in any other part of the country. However, the June floods in the Artibonite and in the Central Plateau could trigger an outbreak of water-borne diseases.
    • Markets will continue to be supplied with imports, though their prices are still increasing. The rise in rice and wheat flour prices between April and June could keep going up until mid August, when the next harvest comes.

    Projected Outlook through September 2013
    • There could be a slight improvement in food security conditions in June with the ongoing harvests in certain parts of the country. However, these harvests from crops planted early in February/March will be too small to help extend food stocks through July. The next round of harvests will be staggered between August and September.
    • Poor households in the Central Plateau, the Southeast, the Northeast, and in other areas will remain in Crisis at least through the month of August.
    • Areas in the West, Nippes, the South, and Grand’Anse are still experiencing abnormal dryness, which is delaying the planting of crops or causing standing crops to wither. Poor households dependent on income from agricultural labor will be facing a deteriorating food security situation. Their purchasing power will be steadily eroded by high prices. There will be more cutting down of trees for the production of charcoal, wooden stakes and planks.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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