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Ongoing harvests help improve the food security of poor households

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Haiti
  • November 2011
Ongoing harvests help improve the food security of poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through March 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Food security conditions are steadily improving with ongoing harvests staggered over a longer-than-usual span of time due to the late start of the rains and the lag in the planting of crops. Households in most parts of the country are currently in IPC Phase 1 (with minimal acute food insecurity).

    • The growing season already occupying farmers in irrigated plain areas is slowly getting underway in the Artibonite Valley, where not all farm infrastructure and equipment is in working order. If this problem is allowed to continue, fewer areas of the Valley will be planted in crops, limiting rice and vegetable production in this part of the country, which accounts for close to 80 percent of the nationwide rice harvest.  

    • Though much higher than in October of last year, food prices are relatively stable, particularly prices for locally-grown food crops. However, rising demand with the year-end holiday season, the expected strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the gourde, and higher oil prices could reverse this trend. 

    Updated food security outlook through March 2012

    Harvests are currently in progress and, in many livelihood zones, are expected to continue until sometime in or around March of next year.  The reported anomalies in the pattern of rainfall are one of the main contributing factors to this situation. Ongoing harvests of rice crops normally brought in sometime in June/July in the North and Northeast, for example, are improving food availability in these regions and reducing the number of people facing food insecurity. In fact, farm workers from poor households are being hired to bring in these harvests. They have also been finding employment in irrigated plain areas, where land preparation activities for the planting of vegetables, beans, and rice continued throughout the entire month of November and into part of December.

    The outlook for harvests of pigeon pea and sorghum crops beginning in December is good. The light to moderate October rains helped spur the flowering of pigeon pea plants and the growth and development of sorghum crops. With the exception of the Gonaïves region, which is in the early stages of a drought, most farming areas appear to be getting enough rainfall to sustain local crops for the next few weeks. According to the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, there was an equal probability of below, above, and near-normal rainfall, with the rainy season scheduled to end sometime in November.

    The growing season in irrigated plain areas, which normally kicks off with land preparation activities in November, is entirely dependent on irrigation. The cost of farm inputs and the condition of irrigation infrastructure are the main limiting factors in its successful outcome. The cost of farm inputs is generally extremely high, which explains the subsidies provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and its main partners. However, though the Ministry is prepared to finance the cost of chemical fertilizer, funding has been cut by 50 percent from last year. And while certain partners operating in the upper Artibonite and the Southeast have already procured necessary supplies of seeds for the bean crops of farmers benefiting from their technical assistance services, there do not appear to be any such subsidies for other parts of the country. Farming activities in the Artibonite Valley, a major vegetable and rice-producing area, are threatened by all types of problems. Most tractors are not in working order and, thus, cannot be of much help in plowing the land and irrigation and drainage ditches have not yet been cleaned.  The combined effects of all these factors will reduce the size of the area normally planted in crops for this growing season. Farming activities will be less mechanized and more labor-intensive, driving up production costs. However, according to the agricultural experts assisting farmers in the Artibonite Valley, there is still time to turn things around by clearing ditches and providing access to appropriate farm inputs and equipment, which could produce a harvest close to that of 2009, which was considered larger than average.  

    The crops being grown in irrigated plain areas during the cool season should reach maturity in February/March. Land preparation and maintenance work for these crops is creating jobs for members of poor households, who make up the labor pool in these areas. This should improve their food access in November and December.

    Markets are relatively well stocked with local produce from ongoing harvests, which are expected to continue through March of next year. This is helping to stabilize and, in some cases, drive down prices for locally grown crops. For example, the price of locally grown rice in the municipality of Férié, in the Northeast, dropped from 154 gourdes per 6-pound sack in September/October to 105 gourdes in November and, in the Artibonite Valley, the TCS-10 variety of rice is currently selling for 85 gourdes, down from 110 gourdes in September.  The price of corn is up in the Les Cayes Plains area in the wake of the October floods in that area, which wrecked havoc on local crops. However, corn prices in this area are expected to come down after the harvest at the end of November. Bean prices have dipped slightly from previous months on almost all markets, but are still extremely high compared with figures for October of last year. Prices for virtually all imported foodstuffs (such as rice, sugar, and cooking oil) are rising on markets all across the country (Figure 3).

    The downward trend in prices for locally-grown crops could continue through December, particularly for corn, beans, and rice, whose harvests will be over by that time.  As of January, prices for all types of crops will likely begin to rise, as was the case in January of 2010 and 2011, but could drop again in February/March with the upcoming bean and sorghum harvests.

    Ongoing harvests, preparations for the growing season in irrigated plain areas, small-scale cash and food-for-work projects in the upper Artibonite, and distributions of food aid to at-risk populations in certain municipalities in the Southeastern, Southern, and Central departments have helped improve the food security situation of poor households in these areas. Most poor households are in IPC Phase 1 (minimal acute food insecurity), except in certain municipalities in the Artibonite, Central Plateau, Northwestern, and Southeastern areas and in remote locations scattered across all departments, where the poor are expected to remain in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) for the entire outlook period due, mainly, to poor local harvests and a lack of basic services. However, poor households in shantytowns and IDP camps in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan areas could be facing a crisis (IPC Phase 3), particularly with the rise in prices for imported foodstuffs, higher oil prices, and the expected strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the gourde.

    Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Area (shantytowns and IDP camps)

    Health conditions for residents of IDP camps, which had been deteriorating over the last few months, have stabilized. With the rainy season coming to an end, a slight improvement in conditions is expected. Prevalence rates for cholera, which spreads much more easily in rainy weather, should begin to come down in December, but could rebound with the March rains. Prices for imported foodstuffs are stable or inching upwards and are higher than they were in October of last year. Trends in prices for locally grown crops are mixed, with prices for certain crops like black beans dipping slightly and other prices holding steady. This precarious price stability could continue through the end of December, but will eventually be shattered by rising demand with the year-end holiday season and the expected strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the gourde. The food security situation of poor households in IDP camps and shantytown areas entirely dependent on market buying for their food supplies will deteriorate between January and March, in line with the rise in prices. Most of these households will be in IPC Phase 3 during this period.

    Northwest Peninsula

    The growing season on the Northwest Peninsula profited from good rainfall conditions, producing adequate harvests in September and October. The situation of poor households normally in a state of crisis due to recurring crop failures has improved since September. However, their shortage of capital and severely eroded land limited their ability to take advantage of this beneficial rainfall. They should stay in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) through the month of March, thanks specifically to pigeon pea and sorghum harvests between December and February and on-farm employment opportunities.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Timeline of Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Trends in staple food prices between August 2010 and October 2011 (in HTG)

    Figure 2

    Figure 3. Trends in staple food prices between August 2010 and October 2011 (in HTG)

    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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