Skip to main content

Food insecurity persists alongside the socio-political crisis and high staple-food prices.

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • February 2021
Food insecurity persists alongside the socio-political crisis and high staple-food prices.

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Deemed stabilized from October to November 2020 at around 63 gourdes per US dollar, the exchange rate has appreciated since December, reaching approximately 75 gourdes on February 26, 2021, on the formal market and up to 95 gourdes on the informal market, despite the injection of 12 million USD into the banking system on January 28, 2021. Since December, imported and local food prices have moderately increased. Food prices also remain above the five-year average, in amounts exceeding 40 percent.

    • By and large, the rainfall for the month of January has been above average, although unevenly distributed in time and space. However, the winter crops — beans and maize — already impacted by water shortages in November and December, could not really benefit from it. Consequently, below-normal winter harvests are anticipated at the national level. Nevertheless, the situation is proving to be relatively good in the south (apart from the coastal areas) and Grand'Anse departments.

    • High food prices and below-average agricultural incomes continue to adversely affect the purchasing power of poor households, which are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity in most parts of the country. In urban centers, the socio-political crisis has curtailed employment opportunities and, negatively impacted incomes of a larger number of poor and very poor households. 


    Current situation

    The security environment remains tense, with repeated calls for the current president's resignation and the prison break at the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison, creating a climate of uncertainty at the political and security levels, particularly in the Haitian capital. In Port-au-Prince and large provincial cities, the operations of some companies and institutions have been disrupted, leading to reduced income, particularly for households operating within the formal sector, as well as the supply of urban markets. 

    Moreover, the foreign exchange market is still very complex. Despite the daily publication of the central bank's (BRH) reference rate, each company or institution has its own rate. For instance, on February 26, the BRH's reference rate is 75.1 gourdes to the dollar, while the dollar is selling at 95 gourdes on the informal market, i.e., a difference of over 26 percent. However, imported primary staple food prices are predominantly sold based on the prevailing exchange rate on the informal market. Likewise, remittance beneficiaries are obliged to sell the transfers received at the reference rate and purchase goods and services sold based on the exchange rate of the informal market.  This is also the case for those whose salaries are linked to the BRH's reference rate. This category has experienced a decrease in their salaries by over 26 percent in local currency, while they also have to procure supplies from the market based on the price calculated at the informal exchange rate.

    The national context is also characterized by the consistently below-average purchasing power of poor households due to below-average incomes and food prices which remain around 40 percent above average. Admittedly, headline inflation declined year-on-year last December, falling to 19.2 percent (BRH, Memorandum on monetary policy, first quarter of the 2021 financial year); however, it is still too elevated, given the below-average incomes of the poorest people who work mostly in agriculture (sale of labor, in particular) and in the informal sector (small-scale trade, day laborer, and similar activities). Moreover, after health care (31 percent), food products constitute the least accessible goods, with an annual inflation rate of 23 percent, based on the same analysis.

    Apart from irrigated plains and semi-humid mountain areas, where winter production is deemed average, December's rainfall deficits and January's uneven spatio-temporal precipitation distribution — still above average — have negatively impacted the growing crops. Likewise, in the Artibonite department, river discharge has significantly declined compared to normal flows, thus affecting irrigation canal water levels. Hence, winter harvest yields have been negatively impacted in coastal areas of the South, Nippes, West, Centre, and Artibonite departments.  Soil preparation activities for the spring campaign have also been delayed due to erratic precipitation patterns observed from January until the first dekad of February, except for the South and Grand'Anse departments, where soil preparation activities have begun since January. Conversely, the pigeon pea (after the harvests in the Central Plateau, Nippes, South-East, and other departments), roots and tubers, banana, peanut (Côte Sud), market-garden produce, and similar harvests, are ongoing.

    Apart from those located in the Metropolitan Area of Port-au-Prince, sometimes disrupted by political unrest, domestic markets are functioning normally and well supplied with imported products. As for local food products, availability is seasonally limited, the below-average fall and winter harvests representing less than 20 percent of the typical local production. However, the ongoing pigeon pea, roots and tubers, market-produce, and banana harvests are supplying the markets at a level similar to the average, albeit at high prices.

    For most food products, prices are close to or even lower than last year's due to the level of the exchange rate. However, they remain atypically above the five-year average, in amounts exceeding 45 percent.

    Except for some regions in the grip of water shortages, including the South Coast, Haut Plateau, Lower Nord-Ouest, and the Haut Artibonite, among others, the livestock situation, particularly for cattle and goats, has improved slightly, compared to the month of December, due to the availability of feed and water. However, some species, particularly pigs and poultry, continue to face the Teschen and New Castle diseases. Their prevalence constitutes a decrease in income for households that use pigs and poultry as a savings tool for occasional expenses. 

    In rural areas, demand for labor is atypically low due to the below-average 2020 production and socio-political instability which has created a climate of uncertainty, thus obliging farmers and other small-scale entrepreneurs to refrain from engaging in income-generating activities.  This economic slowdown has curtailed the farmers' ability to fund agricultural activities for successive campaigns. Admittedly, soil preparation activities are ongoing on some regions (South, Grand'Anse); however, nationally, these activities have not yet reached the normal level typically observed each year. Additionally, available agricultural labor has increased due to the influx of over 500,000 Haitian migrants coming from the Dominican Republic, according to a bi-monthly newsletter by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), particularly in the central, north-eastern, western and south-eastern regions. This relatively significant income source for the poorest rural households has fallen below average. Furthermore, borders with the Dominican Republic remain closed, and income from migration continues to trend below average.

    Currently, the sources of income that are more or less working for poor and the poorest households are the sale of charcoal and small-scale trade or self-employment. Generally around average, the latter currently constitute moderate sources of income for poor households.

    Regarding malnutrition, to date, after the food security data published since January 2020 by the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP), which reported an increase in the malnutrition rate in six departments, new data is not yet available. However, in light of the changes in livelihoods and food consumption, there is sufficient evidence to believe that the severe malnutrition rate, estimated at 4 percent last year, is still above the WHO's emergency threshold of 2 percent.

    Food security conditions continue to reflect the after-effects of the farmers' loss of capital, the socio-political crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Food products are certainly available on the markets, but prices remain high. In some areas — characterized by greater diversity of food and income sources — such as Grand'Anse (except for the coastal areas), South, Southeast (except Belle Anse), Lower Central Plateau, and Artibonite, among others, very poor households — due to little income and high staple food prices — engage in stressed strategies to access food; the latter include reducing non-essential expenditure, purchasing more food on credit, extending the regional migration period and eating less-preferred foods. These areas are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions.

    In other areas that are more vulnerable to price shocks — because they are almost essentially dependent on the market to access food — or to drought — due to rain-fed agriculture that is practiced all year round — and also even in some irrigated areas that are completely dependent on watersheds such as Northeast, Northwest, lowland towns in Nippes, some towns in the West (e.g., Gonâve), Haut Artibonite, Haut Plateau, the southeast district of Belle-Anse, and other areas, the poorest households, given their low level of income, still engage in Crisis strategies; these include increasing charcoal and livestock sales, consuming unripe produce and seeds, reducing school-related expenditure and similar strategies. In view of the emphasis placed on child education, especially by poor households, reducing these expenses in favor of food expenses is an indicator of the significant deterioration of the food security situation of the household in question. Additionally, cutting wood to make charcoal — while deemed a normal activity in several areas of the country — constitutes a strategy when it is practiced in an extreme manner, as is currently the case in areas that are vulnerable in terms of food security. Thus, these areas are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Rainfall - agroclimatology

    • According to forecasts by the Caribbean Regional Climate Center (CariCOF) and the US Geological Survey (USGS), rainfall will be average between March and May 2020.


    • It is likely that the spread of COVID-19 in Haiti is changing pace (on the rise) due to its worldwide increase, and particularly in the neighboring country (Dominican Republic), and the return to school.
    • The eventuality of new restrictive measures such as the closure of land borders on both sides (Haitian and Dominican) means that negative impacts can be expected on one category of food products on the market such as flour, cooking oil, condiments, eggs, sugar, by limiting trade between the two countries.

    Socio-political and macroeconomic context

    • Socio-political instability is likely to increase as the upcoming elections approach. This is due to conflicting interests between the government and members of the Opposition Sector who are demanding the president's resignation, and who do not believe in the government's commitment to organizing transparent, credible and democratic elections. Thus, protests and socio-political unrest are likely to disrupt trade flows and movements thereby impacting the availability of food and physical access to it.
    • The central bank (BRH) would continue to implement the monetary policy measures at its disposal during the entire scenario period; however, their effect on the exchange rate would be mitigated by the negative effects of the socio-political instability; the latter is historically and positively correlated to the depreciation of the national currency, the gourde, against the US dollar. By and large, the rate would be on the rise throughout the period, but below last year's level.

    Agricultural production

    • Overall, spring harvests (June/July) will again be below normal this year. Having accumulated successive losses in previous campaigns, farmers would not have the required financial capacity to fund successive agricultural activities for future campaigns.

    Sources of income

    • The demand for agricultural workers — which was higher during the first four months than during the last four months — will be below normal in the context of the current crisis, while available labor is on the rise due to the increasingly difficult migration of Haitian agricultural workers to the Dominican Republic.
    • Income from agricultural work would therefore be below average.
    • Although some border points are open to trade, the accentuation of socio-political problems in Haiti could lead the Dominican authorities to reinforce border security measures that would cause a slowdown in border trade.
    •  The migration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic will remain very limited, leading, once again, to lower-than-normal incomes.
    • Income from the sale of agricultural products will be below normal, because harvests will be below normal.


    • Markets should be supplied in a normal fashion during the entire projection period; but with the poor performance of successive agricultural campaigns, specifically the spring 2021 campaign, availability of local products will probably be reduced.
    • The situation will probably worsen between March and May 2021, a lean season when the already-sparse reserves will be depleted and the prices will reveal their upward trend. Given the lack of local food products available during that period, the percentage of imported foods that make up overall food offerings will remain significant.
    • Due to the decline in production, it is anticipated that grain imports, particularly maize, will increase as compared to last year, while rice imports will remain stable (FEWS NET Haiti: Supply and market perspectives, September 2020).
    • Additionally, there will be disruptions in market supplies due to the socio-political situation in the lead-up to the elections.

     Other assumptions

    • The new COVID-19 wave which has engulfed the world's major economies, particularly the United States, the Dominican Republic, Chile and Brazil, will further amplify the economic recession in these countries. This will have a negative impact on the flow and volume of migrant remittances to Haiti during this outlook period.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The first scenario period coincides with the winter campaign's harvest period, which contributes very little to the total annual production. Beans and maize are farmed in the irrigated plains and the humid mountain areas, as well as roots, tubers and bananas. This period also coincides with the lean season, characterized by a reduction in the amount of local food products consumed and the depletion of household food stocks. These households should procure more of their supplies from the markets in a context of high staple food prices, and limited income from small-scale trade, charcoal sales, and the like. Below-average incomes and above-average prices continue to drive the weak purchasing power of the poorest households, thereby curtailing their economic access to these products.

    Under these conditions, the poorest households will be obliged to resort to negative coping strategies to meet their food needs. Thus, most parts of the country will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    The second scenario period coincides with the spring harvests and the launch of the summer/fall campaign. Own production, as an important source of food during this period should improve slightly, unlike the first scenario period, even if market purchases will still be significant (representing over 80 percent of their food needs). There should be greater availability of local products such as beans, maize, rice and gathered products (bananas, breadfruit, mangoes, and the like); this would contribute to moderately improving the poorest households' food security. This increase in local availability compared to the first period is likely to drive staple food prices down, allowing for greater access to staple food products.

    Spring harvests in July and activities related to the summer/fall campaign should generate income from agricultural work and crop sales. Hence, livelihoods may remain stable during the second outlook period, with households resorting less to Crisis strategies. Some areas that will experience average harvests, which were previously in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) may end up in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the period. However, most of the towns in the Nordeast, Haut Plateau, Haut Artibonite, Lower Northwest South Coast departments, and the Belle-Anse district, as well as towns in the Nippes (Grand Boucan) and West (Gonâve, Croix des Bouquets, among others) departments, where livelihoods are still disrupted by various climate and anthropogenic shocks, both previous and current, will be maintained in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Events that could change the scenario



    Impact on food security conditions



    Increased socio-political unrest

    Increased violence would disrupt current economic and market operations This would lead to reduced food availability and access, leading more households to implement negative strategies. Faced with the depletion of certain strategies, consumption deficits could be seen. More areas and more households could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    A substantive improvement in the socio-political situation

    The eventuality of socio-political stability, with the establishment of a consensus government, should increase trade flows and market supply. The sources of income could also return to normal levels. This should reduce the number of people and areas in food Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    A new wave of COVID-19 occurred after the carnival festivities and because of the political protests.

    The COVID-19 pandemic must especially be considered an aggravating factor in the context of pre-existing conditions. In addition to being a low-income country, Haiti's health care system lacks adequate resources to fully meet the COVID-19 prevention and treatment needs. The resources that are typically allotted to food insecurity and vulnerability will instead be dedicated to combating COVID-19 as a matter of priority.

    This would impact the country's precarious food security conditions.

    Production area

    A more active than normal hurricane season

    -Destruction of livelihoods in vulnerable areas such as the South, Southeast, Nippes, and Grand’Anse, among others (livestock, plantations, production resources)

    -Improved rainfall for crops in dry areas such as Pignon, La Victoire and Ranquitte in the North department), among others.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: WFP-VAM

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET/CNSA

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top