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The Printemps campaign will improve the precarious food security situation in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • February 2018
The Printemps campaign will improve the precarious food security situation in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The residual effects of Hurricane Irma are making it difficult for livelihoods in the Nord to recover. As a result, large parts of livelihood zone HT02 (particularly the Nord-Est) are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The rest of the country, including Grand-Anse and the Southern Coast, is experiencing Stressed food security outcomes or Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phases 1 and 2).

    • The downpours between November and January hampered farming activities in the Nord-Est, particularly in plain areas. With very few farmers able to plant winter crops, there were no harvests, except in mountain areas where crop yields were still below-average with the cutbacks in spending due to the reduced economic means of local farmers.

    • The above-average levels of rainfall helped facilitate the planting of winter crops in other parts of the country, with ensuing harvests of beans, bananas, pigeon peas, and root and tuber crops improving local food availability.

    • Markets are well-stocked with locally grown seasonal crops, but prices are still high. On the other hand, prices for imported rice and maize have been stable in spite of the devaluation of the gourde vis-à-vis the dollar.


    Current situation

    Assessment and climate outlook

    Rainfall conditions, which had been very favorable since December, actually improved in the month of January. Forecasting centers (NOAA, USGS, etc.) reported normal to above-normal levels of rainfall during this period. Even the Sud and, in particular, coastal plain areas in the throes of a major drought between July and September 2017 got regular downpours which helped wipe out the cumulative rainfall deficit for the summer growing season, mainly in Tiburon, Chardonnières, Port-à-Piment, Coteaux, and Roche-à-Bateaux.

    These conditions have been very beneficial for winter crops planted in November, for which harvests have been underway since the beginning of January in most areas of the country. They are also motivating farmers, who have begun preparing for the next growing season, with land preparation work already starting up.

    The vegetation index (NDVI) shows well-above-average levels of vegetation in all parts of the country compared with last year and the average for 2007-2016 (Figure 1).

    However, the strike by Hurricane Irma and the subsequent downpours in the Northeast hampered farming activities, particularly in plain areas. The excessive soil moisture in Ouanaminthe, Ferrier, and Fort Liberté prevented farmers from planting winter crops. As a result, there were no harvests, except in mountain areas of municipalities such as Sainte Suzanne, Mont Organisé, Carice, and Vallière where crop yields were still below-average with the cutbacks in spending due to the reduced economic means of local farmers.

    In addition, the dry spells on the High Central Plateau hurt winter crops in that area, particularly in the municipalities of Thomassique, Cerca la Source, and Cerca Carvajal.  

    Impact on seasonal crop production

    The good rainfall conditions helped produce average to above-average harvests for the winter growing season devoted mainly to bean crops in all areas with the exception of the Nord-Est and the Haut-Plateau, particularly on the Southern Coast and in Grand'Anse. The same applies to harvests of banana, root and tuber (mainly yams and sweet potatoes), and peanut crops. Moreover, according to key informants on the ground, there were good farming conditions in other regions as well, such as the Sud-Est, Nippes, the Noprd-Ouest, the Artibonite, and certain municipalities in the Ouest.

    The rainfall activity between November and January hurt winter crops in the Nord-Est. Rice fields in Fort Liberté (Chalopin) have now been rehabilitated, which is not the case in Ouanaminthe and Ferrier.

    This was also the harvesting season for beans, peanuts, and pigeon peas on the Central Plateau. While excessive moisture rotted the roots of bean plants causing the loss of these crops (on the Bas Plateau), there were good harvests of peanuts and pigeon peas.

    In contrast, the dry spells on the Haut Plateau disrupted the planting of winter crops, resulting in poor if any harvests, particularly in the case of pigeon peas, which are one of the main cash crops produced at this time of year. Farmers with irrigation systems (generally using traditional irrigation methods) were able to plant crops.

    Food availability

    The average to above-average harvests of bananas, pigeon peas, and root and tuber crops, especially in Grande-Anse, the Sud, Nippes, and the Sud-Est, improved their availability on local markets. According to representatives of the CNSA observatories, there was reportedly a better availability of locally grown food crops in all municipalities of visited areas, particularly in the South, Grand’Anse, and other areas.

    Thus, a joint mission conducted by FEWS NET, the CNSA, and the FAO found  markets well-stocked with both locally grown seasonal crops such as root crops, beans, pigeon peas, and bananas, as well as with imported foodstuffs. However, this good food availability has not significantly brought down prices.

    Price trends

    Prices for locally grown food crops such as maize and black beans rose by an average of 6.4 and 3 percent, respectively, between December and January. Prices for locally grown maize are also up, particularly on markets in Fond-des-Nègres (by 28.5 percent) and Les Cayes (by 21.7 percent), while black bean prices are starting to climb again at the same pace as in October-November. On the other hand, prices for imported rice have been inching downwards (by an average of less than one percent) since November-December after rising for three consecutive months (by an average of more than four percent). Prices for imported maize (the Gadoro variety) also showed very little movement during this period (coming down by approximately one percent). 

    The rebound in prices for cooking salt on most monitored markets is noteworthy, particularly the jumps in prices on the Croix-des-Bossales (Port-au-Prince) and Jérémie markets by 20 and 17 percent, respectively, between December and January. The same applies to prices on markets in Les Cayes, Fond-des-Nègres, Gonaïves, and Hinche, though to a lesser extent, most of which are located in high-production areas. This rise in prices is attributable to the sharp decline in salt production in the month of January due to the overly high water levels in salt marshes.

    Prices for other foods such as cooking oil and wheat flour in particular have been relatively stable for this time of year. There were atypically large jumps in sorghum prices in Port-de-Paix (by more than 21 percent), Fond-des-Nègres (by more than 18 percent), and Les Cayes (by more than 10 percent) between December and January.

    Prices for imported rice were 8.6 percent higher in January 2018 than in January 2017, while January prices for black beans and locally grown maize were down from the same time in 2017 (by 6.4 percent). On the other hand, prices for all three foodstuffs are well above their five-year averages (by 25.6 and 28.7 percent, respectively, in the case of black beans and maize, both of which are grown locally, and by close to 22 percent in the case of imported rice).

    Animal production

    The above-average rainfall activity in the month of January helped facilitate new pasture growth, enabling pastoralists to properly feed their animals. Thus, there is a normal demand for animal herding services in all parts of the country, which is a form of insurance for farmers. Animals are physically recovering, and their reproductive performance is improving, even in areas stricken by natural disasters in the last two years. In addition, organizations such as Oxfam GB (on the Southern Coast) and Caritas, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture (in Grand'Anse) have helped rebuild goat and horse populations by providing appropriate assistance for pastoralists in the form of training and distributions of livestock. However, pig and poultry populations are still suffering from the effects of Teschen disease and Newcastle disease in spite of the efforts of Ministry officials in charge of providing veterinary services.

    Supply and demand for farm labor

    Harvests of winter crops in most parts of the country and land preparation work for the 2018 spring growing season are currently fueling demand for farm labor. Land preparation work is already underway in Grand'Anse and the Sud with the continuing good rainfall conditions in these areas. This is an important source of employment for members of very poor and poor households working as day laborers for area farmers. This source of income should enable them to obtain seeds and other inputs in preparation for the 2018 spring growing season.

    However, the shortage of farm workers is driving up daily wage rates, which, on average, have jumped from 100-150 to 200-250 gourdes or even higher (300 to 500 gourdes) in most areas with a high propensity for migration (the Nord-Est for example). This is due to the fact that workers are losing interest in farming activities, preferring to migrate to the Dominican Republic or to work as motorbike taxi drivers, which is a very common practice.

    Other sources of income

    Poor households also engage in petty trade in crops or other non-agricultural products and in the production and sale of charcoal as a way to supplement their regular income. Other households, particularly middle-income households, may receive cash remittances from abroad, which have been steadily increasing over the past few years with the growing numbers of migrants.

    Data obtained from the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH) indicates a 17.5 percent increase in inbound private remittances from Haitian migrants over the past year (between December 2016 and December 2017), bringing the volume of these remittances to nearly USD 341 million (BRH, Note on Monetary Policy, December 2017). While very poor households do not receive any such remittances directly, they may benefit from these remittances to the extent that part of these funds are used for crop production (in rural areas for example) and channeled into other income-generating activities (construction, petty trade, etc.)


    The most likely scenario for February through September 2018 is based on the following assumptions with respect to nationwide conditions:

    • Seasonal forecast. The current La Niña conditions should produce average levels of rainfall early in the outlook period and continuing through the month of June with the transition to ENSO-neutral conditions. There could be a shift to El Niño conditions beginning in June-July, but their effects should not be felt until after the end of the outlook period.
    • Outlook for the 2018 Printemps and Eté growing seasons. The expected rainfall conditions during this period should help ensure the good progress of the Printemps growing season in all agro-ecological zones for all seasonal crops. However, the lack of economic means for the purchasing of farm inputs could delay the start-of-season, particularly in areas where various climatic shocks have severely depleted the assets of local farmers (the Nord-Est). Nevertheless, this should not significantly affect the growing season as a whole.
    • Farm labor. There should be a new surge in demand for farm labor between February and March with the start of the Printemps growing season. Harvesting activities beginning in April in certain areas (in Grand'Anse and on the Southern Coast for example) and in July in other areas, and the start of the Eté growing season will further heighten demand for farm workers. There could be a limited supply of labor with the high rates of migration by local workers.
    • Prices for imported and locally grown foods. Prices for locally grown maize could steadily rise through the month of April in the absence of any new harvests for the Hiver growing season and with the ongoing crop planting activities in certain areas. With a good part of the Hiver harvest of black bean crops reaching markets in February, there could be an improvement in the availability of these crops on certain markets, particularly in Les Cayes, Fond des Nègres, the Sud-Est, and Port-au-Prince. Accordingly, prices for these crops stayed relatively low in February, but will steadily climb until the next round of harvests (in April, June, and July). Prices for imported foods such as rice, maize, flour, cooking oil, and sugar will remain stable but will be high. They will follow world market trends and will be adjusted in accordance with future changes in the exchange rate for the gourde vis-à-vis the dollar on the foreign exchange market.
    • General inflation. According to the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH), the annual inflation rate could be 12.7 percent in the month of March, compared with 13.1 and 12.5 percent, respectively, in January and February 2018 (BRH, Note on Monetary Policy, December 2017).
    • Remittances. Migrant remittances remain an important source of income for many households. They are the main source of income for some households while, for others, they are confined to peak spending periods, particularly the beginning of the school year in September/October and the holiday season in December. The flow of remittances will likely slow in the first four months of the outlook period, picking up again with the start of classes.
    • Trends in the exchange rate. After six months of stability, the exchange rate has been rising again since the month of October. This trend is not expected to reverse, even with the injection of USD 25 million into the foreign exchange market by the BRH this past January. On the contrary, the national budget deficit in the first four months of this fiscal year suggests an even sharper devaluation of the Haitian currency against the U.S. dollar, resulting in an unfavorable macroeconomic environment for new investment and, thus, job creation.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    Between February and May, harvests of Hiver bean, pigeon pea, and, in particular, root, tuber, and banana crops should stabilize food security conditions. The good performance of these crops suggests a certain degree of stability in local food availability between now and the beginning of the lean season (March through May). In addition, income-generation from wage labor and the harvests of these food crops will help give poor households market access, though it will be limited with food prices unlikely to come down. Thus, most areas of the country will continue to experience Minimal food insecurity or Stressed food security outcomes (IPC Phases 1 and 2). Northeastern areas of the country, particularly low-lying areas, and certain municipalities in the center of the country (mainly on the Haut Plateau) are experiencing structural problems, with many households resorting to atypical strategies to gain access to food and nonfood products due to the current economic situation, moving these areas up into the Stressed or Crisis phases of food insecurity (IPC Phases 2 and 3).

    Harvests of Printemps crops and the start-up of the second (Eté) growing season between June and September should normalize household food consumption due, in part, to the availability of fresh crops, but also to the seasonal boost in farm income. In addition, income from wage labor and other sources should help give households access to local and imported foods sold on area markets. As a result, all parts of the country will remain in IPC Phases 1 and 2.

    The maps produced by FEWS NET reflect overall food insecurity levels in areas of concern and municipalities as a whole. Thus, each area’s food security classification is based on the highest IPC phase classification of local households representing over 20 percent of the population. In other words, there could be a certain number of households below this 20 percent threshold in a more severe situation than indicated on the map.

    Figures Indice de différence normalisée de végétation (NDVI), anomalie du 21 au 31 janvier 2018

    Figure 1

    Indice de différence normalisée de végétation (NDVI), anomalie du 21 au 31 janvier 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 1

    Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Retail prices of locally grown black beans in Port-au-Prince (in HTG/kg)

    Source: CNSA/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Retail prices of imported rice in Port-au-Prince (in HTG/kg)

    Source: CNSA/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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