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Improved food availability in most areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • February - June 2012
Improved food availability in most areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Most Likely Scenario from February to June 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Improved food availability is reported in almost every region in the country due to current harvests. This situation should last until March/April, a period marking the beginning of the lean period which will result in food reserve decreases lasting through the end of June.

    • Markets are well stocked with local and imported food products. Even though prices are high, they are stabilizing. Rice prices, however, have dropped, which promotes greater food access for poor families.

    • The spring agricultural campaign will begin in March or April with the start of the rainy season. This activity is the opportunity for farmers to earn significant income. Agricultural development agencies intend to provide technical and material assistance to ensure the success of this season. 

    • The impact of the cholera epidemic has steadily declined since October, one year after the introduction of the disease into the country. The reason is the dry season and the preventive measures taken by those responsible. However, the rainy season, which will start in March/April, may cause a resurgence of the epidemic in the most vulnerable areas.

    • Some regions of the country such as the Nord-Ouest, the upper Artibonite, the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and other pockets throughout various departments may be in a precarious position between April and June. Low harvests caused by drought in these regions and difficult living conditions in shantytowns and camps which will worsen during the rainy season will cause this situation.

    Most Likely Scenario from February to June 2012

    Agricultural Production

    January and February are generally the time to harvest sorghum and Congo beans planted in most livelihood zones in Haiti. This year, these crops produced satisfactory harvests, excluding the western tip of the Nord Ouest department and some towns in upper Artibonite and the South departments affected by drought since November. These harvests end at the end of February or the beginning of March and facilitate increased food reserves made from the crops obtained from September to December. However contribution of this harvest to national agricultural production is between 10 and 15 percent.

    At the same time, sweet potatoes and bananas are being harvested in the dry Plateau areas such as Boucan Carré, Belladère, Cerca la Source and Cerca Carvajal. In the departments of Nord-est, Nippes, Upper Artibonite and Centre, banana roots and tubers are also being harvested and they are also abundant in Grand’ Anse. In irrigated areas such as the Cayes plain, lower Artibonite, and Nord (Plaine du Nord, etc.), harvests by market garden farmers are making good progress.

    In addition to these crops that have almost been harvested, beans, one of the main cash crops, planted in irrigated areas in December, reach maturity at the end of February or the beginning of March. Generally, the harvest will be satisfactory in irrigated areas, but is proving to be low or none in the western tip of the Northwest and in the South. These losses will be reflected by a lack of money in households to buy seeds and other inputs necessary to launch the spring agricultural season. A high proportion of the winter bean harvest is used as seeds in the spring season in the humid and semi-humid mountains.

    The end of the bean harvest, sorghum and Congo beans mark the beginning of the spring agricultural season and the lean period. This season accounts for 50 to 60 percent of national agricultural production. In fact, in all departments and livelihood zones planting activities normally begin in March with the onset of the rainy seasonPlanting should continue until May, depending on the area, and  harvest lasts from July until September. Preparations for the spring season are already in progress in certain mountainous areas, including: Grand’ Anse, the Nord-est and Nippes.

    Subjected to increasingly irregular rainfall patterns that decrease production, farmers have fewer and fewer resources to assure successful seasons, resulting in high dependency on subsidies to conduct seasonal agricultural activities. In order to meet their expectations, the key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, FAO and NGOs financed by USAID plan to intensify their in-kind and technical support to the spring season. More than 1,000 metric tons of cereal seeds will be distributed without charge to farmers in the Cul-de-Sac plain and the Artibonite Valley, among others. Fertilizers will also be made available at subsidized prices. Such interventions will make it possible not only to increase agricultural production, but also to create jobs that will benefit agricultural workers. Since November, most of the agricultural areas in the country are facing a water deficit. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society predicts equal probability for precipitation to be normal, below or above normal between March and May 2012.

    The Market, Commerce and Migrant Transfers

    Price stability observed over the last six months will be maintained during the first quarter of 2012, taking into account good forecasts for the winter season harvest announced in most of the agro-ecological zones in the country. In addition, cereal prices on the international market, especially rice, are stabilizing. A price decrease is possible during the next few months due to the increase in global supply (increase of production and inventories) in producing countries (China and India), and to the contraction of worldwide demand resulting from the dark economic predictions in Europe. This trend may continue until the end of the period of the forecast.

    As for oil, uncertainty continues regarding near-term price trends. This uncertainty, fed by threats of war in the Middle East (Iran, United States, Israel, etc.) and the resurgence of the British-Argentinean conflict regarding the Falkland Islands, etc., might keep the average price of a barrel at a high level, over $100, and cause possible increases in the next few months. Such a scenario would only amplify the volatility of food prices in Haiti, taking into account the strong correlation between fuel prices (through transportation fuel) and prices of basic food products.

    Remittances from migrants to families residing in Haiti have not diminished in recent years despite the increased unemployment rate in host countries. With resumed economic activities in the United States, where a high proportion of Haitian migrants live, this trend should continue.

    Impact of Cholera

    Currently, as announced in the last outlook report, cholera rates are stabilizing and its impact has diminished. In fact, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Population, the number of people sick from cholera totals, to date, more than 500,000 people, including approximately 7,000 deaths, 15 months after the epidemic appeared. However, a new outbreak is still possible with the rainy season, which will begin starting at the end of March.

    Sociopolitical Conditions and the Macroeconomic Framework

    After the post-election crises that affected the country in 2011, a more or less favorable climate was created and would prove beneficial to private national and international investments. Foreign investors, already seeking business opportunities, have made exploratory trips to Haiti. The domestic private sector is also taking a step forward by investing, particularly in the construction of hotel facilities. Over two years, this sector plans to invest more than 200 million dollars in the Haitian economy. This activity is likely to drive local and international tourism and also to reinvigorate the construction sector. However, misunderstandings between the various State-constituted bodies are causing persistent uncertainty, which may lead the county into a spiral of crises that will slow down investments. In addition, the recorded delay in the preparation of the 2011-2012 budget may interfere with the implementation of public investment projects, particularly in the agricultural sector, which contributes up to 25 percent to the GDP alone. This delay is not supporting the revival of domestic production.

    These assertions support the following hypotheses:

    • Increased job creation in the construction sector in Port-au-Prince and in certain regions of the country;
    • Somewhat normal rainfall, facilitating adequate production in spring;
    • Greater availability of agricultural inputs;
    • Oil price fluctuation at the pump;
    • Conflict situations between leading State authorities, particularly between the legislative and executive authorities;
    • Recording of a peak in the transfer of funds from Haitian migrants during the Easter period;
    • The relevant authorities will take all appropriate measures to prevent the spread of cholera during the rainy season, which begins in early March or April.

    Even if the lean period, which generally lasts from April to June, is approaching, the country’s food situation is much less alarming than it was in 2010 and 2011 during the same period. The prices of food products, while high, are stable. However, in January and February, the price of rice, the most consumed basic food product, reached its lowest level since 2008. However, areas such as the western tip of the Nord Ouest department, particularly Mole St. Nicolas, Bombardopolis and Baie de Henne, and certain towns in Upper Artibonite (Terre Neuve, Gros Morne, St. Michel), will be in a precarious situation between April and June, especially due to a reduction of their food reserve, resulting from insufficient harvests. The metropolitan region, which is fighting to recover from the shocks of the earthquake and cholera and where close to half a million displaced persons are crowded in tents, will continue to face a precarious situation. Several pockets in the departments of Nord-est, Sud-est and Sud will also be in a precarious situation until the next spring harvest (Figure 2).

    The Western Point of the Nord-Ouest

    This region is regularly subjected to periods of drought. The last drought caused the loss of the sorghum and legumes, particularly in the towns of Bombardopolis, Mole St. Nicolas and Baie de Henne. Reserves established during the September and October harvests are about to run out, thus creating a gap between food supply and demand. Poor households are the first to suffer from this drought situation, as they receive approximately two-thirds of their income from the sale of labor, they have fewer opportunities during drought. In addition, purchases cover approximately two-thirds of their food needs in a context where food product prices are high, even if they are stable. Poor households are in a precarious situation throughout the forecast period (Figures 1 and 2). Many of them will migrate to Artibonite or other towns in the Nord-Ouest department looking for work during the rainy season.

    Port-au-Prince Metropolitan Area

    With the rainy season that will start in March or April, the metropolitan area will be subject flood risk and a resurgence of cholera. Displaced persons living under tents and households in shantytowns are the most vulnerable to these risks. The living conditions of these inhabitants are already very difficult since they do not have basic services such as water and sanitation, which would further increase the risk of the spread of cholera during the rainy season. In addition, most of the cash and food for work projects that provide jobs to poor households have ended. The market represents the principal source of food for households. Except for cereals which show relatively lower prices than over the last two years in the same period, the prices of other products are higher, but stable. Most poor households are in a precarious situation throughout the entire forecast period (Figures 1 and 2).

    Upper Artibonite

    The entire dry pastoral agricultural area including a portion of Gonaïves has had a very low sorghum harvest due to the drought that has been ravaging the area in recent months. Gros Morne, Anse-Rouge, Terre-Neuve and St. Michel are the towns most affected by this drought. Labor is the main source of income for poor households, and job opportunities are limited during the dry season. Migration to the Dominican Republic or the Artibonite Valley is one of the survival strategies adopted by poor households. The majority of them will be in a precarious situation until the next harvest (Figures 1 and 2).

    Table 1. Less likely events that could change the most probable scenario over the next six months



    Impacts on Food Security

    Entire Country

    Emergence of political crises interfering with the development of economic activities

    The State is unable to unblock the funds promised to restart agriculture.

    Entire Country

    Increase in Dollar Exchange Rate

    Imported food prices are increasing, which limits access by poor households.

    Artibonite Valley, Plaine des Cayes, Léogane

    Flooding during the month of May

    Crop losses in affected areas and a drop in food flows.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    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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