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The persistence of El Niño will delay the next spring season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • December 2018
The persistence of El Niño will delay the next spring season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Rainfall has improved, with the exception of Nippes and the Nord-Ouest, promoting crop growth, except in the Nord-Est, where excessive humidity impacts planting. Depending on the region, there are summer/fall harvests, ploughing for the winter season, and rice harvests and transplanting. 

    • Most of the poorest households are engaged in subsistence activities such as small trade and the sale of charcoal. In border areas, migration continues to be an alternative to the deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country. 

    • Nationwide, prices of imported rice and local maize rose slightly between September and October and black bean prices fell slightly. However, basic foodstuff prices remain above their five-year average, limiting food access for the poorest households.

    • Most regions would currently be in Stressed (IPC, Phase 2). A limited number of households in drought-affected or particularly vulnerable areas may be in Crisis (IPC, phase 3). This number is expected to increase continuously until the next harvest in June/July, leading some areas to change phase gradually.


    Current situation

    Climate assessment and outlook: Weather conditions improved in October while remaining close to normal in terms of rainfall. According to forecasts for the November-January period, rainfall is expected to be above normal, particularly for the southern peninsula. However, there was a slight slowdown in rainfall in November, with rainfall below average in the first twenty days.

    Impact on seasonal agricultural production: Apart from those areas still suffering from drought, rainfall has contributed to the growth of current crops such as pigeon peas, roots and tubers, as well as summer/fall crops (beans, groundnuts, maize, etc.), banana and breadfruit harvesting, etc., and ploughing and planting of beans for the winter season, particularly in low altitude areas.

    In the rice-growing areas (Artibonite and Plaine des Cayes), harvests continue simultaneously with transplanting activities. In central areas, groundnuts and pigeon peas have been harvested since October, while in the Nord-Est, excessive humidity has compromised bean planting, except for pigeon pea crops. It should be noted that in the mountain areas of this department, soil preparation activities are underway for winter planting.

    The situation is more complicated in Nippes, with the exception of Baradères, irrigated plains and wet mountainous areas. There are very few crops, except sugar cane and pigeon peas, because farmers are investing almost nothing in agriculture due to the variability of the rainy season in recent years.

    Food availability: At present, there are bean harvests from the mountains of Nord, Sud-Est, Sud, Grand’Anse and the Plateau Central. Maize is also being harvested, especially in Grand’Anse, Sud and the central region, but to a lesser extent than usual. The most readily available foodstuffs are bananas, roots and tubers, pigeon peas, market garden products and wild products (breadfruit, especially in Grand’Anse). Markets are generally still well supplied, though mostly through imports.

    Price trends: Nationwide, with the exception of black beans, the price of local food is rising, as most agro-ecological areas are beginning sowing operations for the winter season, thanks to rainfall in October and November.

    Between October and November, the national average price of local maize rose by more than 7 per cent, from 82 to almost 88 gourdes/marmite (six pounds). This is the result of price movements in six of the monitored markets, including very atypical behavior in the case of Cap-Haïtien, where an increase of almost 57 per cent was observed due to the depletion of stocks and the lack of harvests in these areas.

    For its part, the price of black beans fell by more than 4 per cent compared to the previous month at national level, from 297 to 285 gourdes/marmite. Significant declines were observed, particularly in the markets of Les Cayes (over 20 per cent), Cap-Haïtien (15 per cent), Jacmel (9.5 per cent) and Jérémie (over 4 per cent).

    The price of imported rice was relatively stable (less than 1 per cent) compared to the trend in the first quarter of 2018. One marmite is being sold at 207.63 gourdes in November, compared with 208.25 gourdes in October. This remains dependent on the fall in prices observed in Jérémie (almost 6 per cent) and on the stability on six of the markets monitored, while it increased in Fond-des-Nègres (3.5 per cent). While remaining stable overall, the price of imported rice is above its five-year average and the average over the last year (figure 2).

    Animal production: Rainfall during October and November facilitated the growth of fodder to enable livestock farmers to feed and water their animals properly. The livestock situation is therefore normal, although Teschen disease continues to affect pig populations.

    Demand and supply of agricultural labor: At this time of the year, agricultural activities are dominated by the summer/fall harvests and preparations for the winter season. Labor demand is relatively low owing to the low investment capacity of farmers following a mediocre spring season, but also because the winter season usually generates a relatively low volume of work. However, labor supply is also limited, as many households obtain income from other sources, including urban and foreign migration. Low demand for labor has an impact only on those households that have difficulty accessing other sources of income.

    Other sources of income: Poor households are also engaged in subsistence activities such as small trade and the sale of charcoal. In border areas, migration continues to represent an alternative to the deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country.

    The growth rate for Haitian migrant remittances is 21.4% higher than the previous year. According to the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH), the amount transferred was US$ 1.6 billion. It should be emphasized, however, that this has not really reduced the pressure on the gourde/dollar exchange rate, the depreciation of which has reached a significant level in less than a year (more than 75 gourdes to one US dollar).

    The results of the National Food Security and Nutrition Survey: Following the drought in the country, particularly in the Nord, Nord-Est, Grand’Anse, Sud-Est and Ouest, the National Food Security Coordination Unit (CNSA), in collaboration with its partners (including the WFP and FAO), conducted a national food security and nutrition survey in October 2018. The results indicate a deterioration in food security at the national level.

    According to the results of the survey, over 55 per cent of households used crisis and emergency strategies to address the deterioration of their livelihoods. At the same time, almost 52 per cent have a limited or poor food consumption score, while over 32 per cent have a poor dietary diversity score.

    In addition, almost half the areas analyzed at the IPC workshop in October and December 2018 have serious global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates (10-14.9 per cent), while the Nord-Ouest HT02 and Gonâve Island HT01 areas have critical GAM thresholds (15-29.9 per cent). The HT07 and HT08 Grand’Anse areas have acceptable rates (< 5 per cent).


    The most likely scenario from December 2018 to May 2019 is based on the following assumptions:

    • Seasonal forecasts: According to the USGS and other meteorological institutes, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum, from November to January 2019, rainfall above normal levels is expected, especially in the southern peninsula, although there will be a dry period until March. However, weather forecasts indicate the persistence of the El Niño phenomenon until March-May 2019, which could lead to a delayed start to the next rainy season and thus a delayed spring season.
    • Winter harvest outlook: The predicted above-average rainy season would lead to expectations of near-average winter production.
    • Agricultural labor: The demand for agricultural workers will return to normal levels for the 2019 spring season.
    • Other sources of income: Small-scale business activities, which are highly dependent on harvest performance, particularly in rural areas, are expected to slow due to poor harvests. However, many households derive their main income from temporary urban migration or migration to the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, households that cannot migrate and that earn their income from agricultural work will supplement their income by producing wood and charcoal. 
    • Imported and local food prices: Apart from black beans, local food product prices will increase. Imported food prices, particularly rice, will remain stable but above average owing to the depreciation of the local currency against the dollar. For most products, prices are significantly higher than last year and the five-year average.
    • BRH inflation forecasts: According to the BRH, the upward trend in annual inflation is expected to continue (September 2018 note on monetary policy).
    • Private remittances from the diaspora: Migrant remittances will increase during the end of year festivities and the Ester period in April.
    • Exchange rate changes: The local currency, the gourde, will continue to lose value against the United States dollar and the Dominican peso. This trend is further exacerbated by the deteriorating socio-political climate, with consequences for the prices of imported goods and services.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    From November 2018 to January 2019, market supply for imported products should be as normal, but the availability of local products is likely to be reduced, except for roots and tubers, bananas and certain market garden products such as breadfruit. Furthermore, the demand for agricultural labor is expected to decline as a result of income losses owing to poor performance in previous agricultural seasons. It was observed that the supply of agricultural labor is decreasing in favor of other activities such as migration to urban areas and to the Dominican Republic and the manufacture and sale of charcoal.

    Food consumption is expected to present difficulties, and most households will barely have access to basic nonfood items. Therefore, most regions may find themselves in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security conditions; however, many of the poorest households in drought-affected areas (Nord-Est), which are still struggling to recover, and those living in very vulnerable communes in Haut-Plateau, the southern coast, Nippes, Ouest (Gonâve Island, Croix-des-Bouquets) and Sud-Est, could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). These households will need to use crisis coping strategies, such as reduced meals or the sale of essential assets to access a limited range of food.

    From February to May 2019, the period coinciding with both the winter harvest (beans, pigeon peas, etc.) and the launch of the spring agricultural season, consumption is expected to remain at more or less normal levels rather than deteriorating, partly as a result of harvests and also as a result of income generated by the sale of labor and other activities (small trade, livestock sales, migrant remittances, etc.). However, access to local and imported food is likely to remain limited, given their high prices. This situation is expected to worsen from March/April with the lean season (until June) owing to the lack of harvests, again with the exception of bananas, roots and tubers, and the beginning of the mango harvest. Thus, most regions may still be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis, particularly the areas identified above.

    Figures The NDVI anomaly indicates an average situation with some areas indicating significantly lower vegetation than average.

    Figure 1

    Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), anomaly from 1 to 10 December 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    The price of imported rice is stable but well above average.

    Figure 2

    Port-au-Prince: Retail price of imported rice (4% Broken) (HTG/6lbs)

    Source: FEWS NET

    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.

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