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Ongoing harvests increase local food supplies and bring staple food prices down sharply

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • July - December 2014
Ongoing harvests increase local food supplies and bring staple food prices down sharply

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Ongoing harvests in progress since June have improved food security conditions in practically all parts of the country. They have helped rebuild the food stocks of poor households depleted since March. There will be increasing food availability through the end of August.

    • For the most part, the Crisis conditions (IPC Phase 3) in certain parts of the Artibonite, Northwestern, Southeastern, and Nippes departments have gradually improved to Stressed food security outcomes (IPC Phase 2).

    • Markets supplied mainly with imported foods up until May/June have seen a steady increase in supplies of locally grown crops, such as beans, maize, fruits, bananas, and vegetables. Prices for local crops have decreased on most markets. Bean prices on markets in Port-au-Prince and Jérémie, for example, are down by more than 30 percent.

    • The early end of the rains in June resulted in lower yields of crops planted in April and May. Drought-induced losses are estimated at approximately 30 percent of crop production for the season. The drought is likely to extend into October with the development of a possible El Nino event, which could jeopardize the performance of the second growing season between August and December, triggering a deterioration in the food security situation during that period, particularly in the South and on the Central Plateau.

    • An infusion of over 166 million gourdes through the "Ti manman cheri" cash transfer program should somewhat mitigate the negative effect of back-to-school spending on the food consumption of recipient households.

    National Overview

    Current situation

    July generally marks the beginning of the improvement in food security after the usual April to June lean season. It also marks the beginning of the main harvest of spring crops and the start of summer vacation, when there is little if any household spending on education. However, the duration of this recovery period hinges on the performance of the spring growing season, and thus on rainfall conditions in May and June.

    Rainfall. The rains began in March in many areas, with widespread rainfall activity in nearly all parts of the country by around mid-April. However, according to NOAA, there has been inadequate rainfall since May, with the southern part of the country showing the largest rainfall deficits. NOAA estimates the cumulative rainfall deficit since May at over 50 percent of the usual average for that area. On the other hand, drought-prone areas such as the lower Northwest and western reaches of the upper Artibonite got adequate rainfall this season.

    There were good levels of rainfall in humid mountain areas of the North. The municipality of Borgne, for example, got 900 mm of rain in May. In contrast, municipalities such as Pignon, La Victoire, and Ranquitte have been suffering from water deficits. This is also the case in the dry agropastoral zone in the North-East department, where there has been insufficient rainfall. In general, there has been an atypical decline in rainfall in different farming areas since the beginning of June.

    Impact of the water deficit on crop production. CNSA (the National Food Security Commission) and its partners are planning to assess crop production for the spring season, releasing their findings over the summer. However, since crop performance hinges on the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall, a rough assessment of expected production levels in different parts of the country can be made on that basis. For example, bean production for this growing season in humid mountain areas is highly likely to be very close to average. With the exception of certain areas such as Cap-Rouge in the South-East, where excessive rainfall in April reduced crop yields, harvests in most crop-producing areas were close to the seasonal average. The tapering off of rainfall activity in May spurred pod maturation in these areas, where the unusually excessive amounts of water in May are harmful to the bean pods, sharply reducing production.

    Harvests of maize, the most important crop in terms of cropping areas in all livelihood zones, run from June to August, depending on the variety and planting date. This season, there will be near-average levels of production from crops planted between March and the middle of April or, in other words, approximately 50 percent of cropped areas, which had the benefit of more or less adequate rainfall. On the other hand, there will be very low yields from crops planted between mid-April and May currently in the vegetative or flowering stage of the growing cycle. Fields of maize in certain parts of the North, North-East, Artibonite, South, and West Departments are suffering from water stress, while other crops have already started to wither due to the persistent dry spells in these areas since the beginning of June.

    The main rice-growing season in the Artibonite Valley got underway in May/June. Some rice farmers planted their fields in July. Approximately 25,000 to 28,000 hectares of land will be planted in rice during this production cycle extending through November. However, crop production for this growing season faces two large hurdles. The first has to do with the poor condition of the drainage system. More specifically, the fact that large drainage ditches have not been cleaned for more than six months makes rice fields more exposed to flooding when the rains resume in August. The second equally important obstacle involves the scarcity and high cost of fertilizer. The combination of these two factors will adversely affect rice yields in the country’s main rice-producing area.

    The drought will also limit production of other crops, such as peanuts grown mainly on the Central Plateau and in coastal areas of the South Department and cowpea crops in the North-East and on the Central Plateau. On the other hand, yields from perennial crops such as bananas, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes consumed largely by poor households are near-average. There are also ongoing harvests of melons, avocados, and mangoes, which are significantly improving food availability. Current harvests of sorghum, maize, and millet are bolstering food supplies in the northwestern and Anse-Rouge areas of the Artibonite. After two successive crop failures during the last two years, food security in these areas is finally starting to improve.                                                                                                                

    Animal production. Livestock-raising activities have greatly benefited from the current growing season and increasingly plentiful supply of pasture and nearby watering holes. The physical condition of livestock is improving, increasing their market value. There has been a large drop in the number of cases of Teschen disease in the last few months, which had been attacking the pig population and decimating herds. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has reported cases of porcine diarrhea, which is reducing production in affected areas. In addition, technicians in the South-East have detected cases of contagious ecthyma, a viral disease that causes goats to go blind. Given the role played by these animals in the household economy of poor households, without the immediate implementation of proper measures to prevent the spread of these diseases, they could significantly impact household livelihoods.

    Labor. The below-average rainfall is reducing demand for labor in practically all parts of the country as a result of the smaller areas planted in crops. In addition, harvesting, the main ongoing activity, does not require as much labor as crop planting, land preparation, or field maintenance work. Farmers also tend to use family labor to harvest crops. The cost of labor has not changed, ranging from 150 to 250 gourdes per six-hour work day for the area in question. There are much fewer short-term job creation projects (soil conservation and rural road construction) than in previous years, conducted mainly by the World Food Program, NGOs, and government agencies. The main source of income for poor households until the fall growing season is the sale of harvested crops.

    Farm inputs. The June to December period is critical for rice farmers in Artibonite. Transplanting and fertilization work is usually carried out between June and July, but could extend into August with the scarcity of fertilizer in all parts of the country. The supply of chemical fertilizer, normally 17 000 metric tons, will not reach 15,000 MT and will be extremely erratic. This has driven up the price of a sack of fertilizer from 900 HTG in January to its current level of 1,700 HTG. There were seven metric tons of fertilizer available between January and July, while it is primarily used between July and August.

    Food availability. The ongoing harvests since June are giving households a chance to replenish their food stocks depleted since March or April. Harvests for the spring growing season are expected to continue through August. Harvests of maize, sorghum, millet, bean, and peanut crops have greatly improved food availability across the country. Besides these harvests of cereals and pulses, there are also ongoing harvests of bananas, breadfruits (artocarpus), avocados, mangoes, leafy vegetables, and tubers in all areas. In addition to the market and household supplies of these locally grown crops, there is a regular influx of imported foods on both rural and urban markets. As usual, both importers and the government are bringing in commodities such as rice, wheat flour, sugar, and cooking oil.

    Price trends. Ongoing harvests are affecting food prices, particularly prices for local crops. Thus, prices for locally grown crops have come down, even in areas like the South, where dry spells are affecting seasonal crops. In the specific case of beans, June prices were considerably below figures for June of last year but down only slightly from May of this year though, in most cases, they were back down to the five-year average. Thus, a six-pound sack of black beans was selling for 168 and 172 gourdes, respectively, on the Croix-des-Bossales market in Port-au-Prince and the Jacmel market this past June, 33 percent below June prices for last year, and for 150 gourdes in Jérémie, 38 percent less than last year. Prices for maize semolina on the Jérémie and Port-au-Prince markets came down from 95 and 100 gourdes per six-pound sack, respectively, in June of last year to 46 and 60 gourdes this past June, or by 38 and 40 percent. While bean prices appear to have stabilized with the end of the harvest, prices for maize are expected to continue to decline, perhaps through the end of August, until the end of the harvesting period for maize crops. There have also been sharp declines in prices for other crops such as bananas, breadfruit, and certain tubers. This is helping to improve food access of poor households.

    Prices for imported foodstuffs have been comparatively stable for the last six months and are even lower than in June of last year. For example, the price of rice, the most heavily consumed crop by poor households in terms of kilocalories, on the Port-au-Prince and Jérémie markets has dropped by 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively, hovering around the five-year average. There has not been much movement in prices for cooking oil since last year, which accounts for a relatively large share of the kilocalories consumed by poor households (up to 11 percent). Current price levels are roughly five to as much as 20 percent above the five-year average (2008-2012).

    Government assistance for poor households. In an effort to help close to 79,000 households in depressed areas meet their back-to-school costs, the Haitian government is ready to pump close to 166 million gourdes into its ten departments, to be distributed to households in 104 municipalities through the "Ti manman cheri" program. The Western department is at the top of its list, with approximately 16 municipalities (15 percent of all municipalities) and close to 27 percent of program beneficiaries (21,154 heads of household). This department, alone, is getting more than 26 percent of the budgeted amount, or 43.7 million gourdes.


    For more information on the national-level assumptions over this outlook period and the analyses for the areas of concern please download the full report.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, July 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, July 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Trends in black bean prices in Haiti between April and June

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Trends in black bean prices in Haiti between April and June

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Trends in ground maize prices in Haiti between April and June

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Trends in ground maize prices in Haiti between April and June

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5


    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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