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Limited improvement following spring harvests amid rising food prices and civil insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • June 2022 - January 2023
Limited improvement following spring harvests amid rising food prices and civil insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • NATIONAL OVERVIEW
  • Events that could change the scenario
  • Key Messages
    • Spring crops will marginally improve food availability, especially in the Grand Sud region. However, rising prices are limiting households' access to food. In the regions of Artibonite, Centre, Nord, Nord-Est, Ouest, and Nord-Ouest, a successful spring growing season is not guaranteed, partly due to water deficits from April to May.

    • The gourde/US dollar exchange rate on the informal market is up to 130 gourdes to 1 US dollar—nearly 20 percent above the official exchange rate. The gourde depreciated by about 20 percent against the dollar between May 2021 and May 2022.

    • The security situation is further deteriorating in Port-au-Prince. From January to May, the number of kidnappings increased by more than 36 percent from the previous year, and the number of homicides increased by 17 percent, according to a United Nations report. Clashes between armed groups are escalating and continue to paralyze markets and income-generating activities.

    • Inflation, lack of employment opportunities, and insecurity are disrupting households' access to their typical sources of food and income. Very poor households, especially those in the vulnerable neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince and areas previously affected by shocks, will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until January 2023. Households in areas where harvests are estimated to be close to average, including Sud, Grand'Anse, and some communes in Artibonite, Centre, Ouest, and Nord, will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    Security situation: Violence linked to armed gangs is continuing to increase in 2022 from 2021, despite the efforts of the Haitian National Police (PNH). Clashes between various armed groups are ongoing in different parts of the capital. According to a United Nations report, there were at least 782 homicides and 540 kidnappings between January 1 and May 31, 2022—an increase of 17 percent and 36 percent, respectively, from the last five months of 2021. Since the assassination of President Moïse, this violence has spread to other regions of the country, particularly Nord-Ouest, Centre, and Artibonite.

    This is disrupting income-generating activities and resulting in a loss of private capital and human capital to the Dominican Republic. In addition, growing insecurity on National Road 1 (RN1, in the north) and RN2 (in the south) is disrupting public transport and markets, hindering the normal movement of goods and people within the metropolitan area, and between the capital, Grand Sud, and Grand Nord.

    Increased insecurity has also affected regular supplies to gas stations throughout the country. Armed clashes are hindering access to Carrefour and Cité Soleil, where the country's fuel storage facilities are located, and are interrupting transport and distribution of petroleum products. Fuel scarcity at service stations is pushing motorists to buy from the black market, where a gallon of gasoline or diesel sells for more than 1,500 gourdes, while the official prices are 250 and 350 gourdes, respectively. The population is fleeing and there are closures of commercial enterprises in the southern part of the capital (supermarkets, bank branches, public and private educational and medical facilities, gas stations, ports, etc.), as a result of the conflicts in Martissant and Fontamara.

    Macroeconomic context: The official gourde to US dollar exchange rate has further depreciated between 2021 and 2022, due to both structural and cyclical factors. From May 2021 to May 2022, the official exchange rate rose from 88 gourdes to more than 109 gourdes to 1 US dollar—a depreciation of about 19.3 percent. However, food and non-food prices are not set according to the official exchange rate but the parallel market exchange rate, which is about 20 gourdes higher than the official rate at 130 gourdes to 1 US dollar.

    Meanwhile, the inflation rate is maintaining the trend that started in October 2021, rising from 19.7 to nearly 25 percent in November and December 2021. According to the IPC Bulletin (consumer price index) released by the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Informatics (IHSI) in April, inflation up to March 2022 was around 26 percent per year. Increases in transport, food, and housing costs during the first half of the year are the main drivers of this inflation (Figure 1), making Haiti the country with the highest cost of living in Central America and the Caribbean (Figure 2).

    Rainfall conditions and their impact on agricultural production: In March and April, rainfall conditions supported planting and development of spring crops. However, from May, every dekad has seen below-average rainfall across the country. Levels were lowest during the first two dekads of June. The four departments of the Grand Sud (Nippes, Sud-Est, Sud, and Grand'Anse) had average rainfall until April, which has limited the impact of the current rainfall deficits on crop development.

    In addition to harvests of bananas, roots and tubers, breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), and mangoes, maize harvests have started early in the southern peninsula. Additionally, soil moisture levels are beneficial for long-cycle crops such as roots and tubers. However, poor households that were adversely affected by successive shocks in previous years (sociopolitical crises and natural disasters as well as a longstanding economic crisis), particularly the earthquake of August 14, 2021, still have limited access to supplies (these have become more expensive and are receiving fewer subsidies from the Haitian State) which is reducing the area of land sown.

    In Nord-Ouest, Nord, Nord-Est, Centre, Ouest, and especially Artibonite, the spring growing season has been compromised due to rainfall deficits from March to May. Nationally, late rainfall in June resulted in a positive vegetation index (Figure 3). The water deficit is reducing flow in irrigation canals in the Artibonite Valley, which was also observed last year. Spring crops (maize and beans) have generally not been able to head or ripen. More importantly, most rice nurseries have not been replanted, thus compromising rice field harvests, which make up more than 88 percent of national rice production. The situation is much worse in Haut Artibonite, where the spring growing season failed to start at all due to the lack of rainfall.

    Markets and prices: Markets remain well supplied, except during armed clashes in the Haitian capital. Currently, the most freely available local products are roots and tubers, bananas, breadfruit, green maize, and mango. Food prices continue to rise (Figure 4), influenced by general inflation, depreciation of the gourde, transport costs, and insecurity.

    Food prices remain 30 to 45 percent above their May 2021 levels, and 80 to over 112 percent above their five-year average (Figure 5). This trend is increasing due to the current global context, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict disrupting world markets, particularly the fuel, cereals and other non-agricultural products markets. Haiti is highly (over 80 percent) dependent on the rest of the world for all these products, and given households' low purchasing power, living conditions are likely to deteriorate further.

    Livestock conditions: Overall, there is average availability of fodder and water. Animals are in normal physical condition, except for poultry and pigs in Grand'Anse, which are affected by Newcastle and Teschen disease, respectively. It should be noted that very poor households own very few animals, and even fewer large livestock. However, they have a few goats, usually as a result of minding them for others.

    Monitoring of African swine fever (ASF) in Haiti: To date, there are no new data on ASF in Haiti, which was detected in September 2021, since those presented in the previous outlook for February to September, which showed that the disease was prevalent in six departments (Sud-Est, Nord, Artibonite, Ouest, Sud, and Grand’Anse). That said, deaths linked to Teschen disease have been reported, which may be confused with ASF, although FEWS NET has no data on the number of cases.

    Agricultural labor and other sources of income: The main sources of income for very poor households are sale of labor, harvested food, and wood/charcoal; informal small-scale trade; and migration. Labor income is limited because of farmers’ limited investment capabilities this year. Since the spring harvest has barely started, income from this source is making little difference at present. Wood and charcoal sales are close to normal, although production is declining in most regions due to the lack of available wood. Poor households in urban areas are earning below-average income from small-scale trade, which is being disrupted by sociopolitical turmoil and armed clashes between rival gangs, particularly in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Furthermore, migration to the Dominican Republic, a significant source of income for poor households in border areas, continues to decline. This time it is not due to the prevalence of COVID-19 but rather the growing wave of deportations from the Dominican Republic.

    Impact on food security outcomes: Food security conditions are proving slow to improve. This is due to the ongoing sociopolitical crisis combined with civil insecurity which is compromising the country's economic development, the lack of job opportunities in the informal sector in large cities, and inflation, which, at close to 26 percent, is straining the purchasing power of the poorest households. Sociopolitical instability continues to paralyze the functioning of the country's economic sector. In addition, gangs control ever more territories (Ouest, Centre, Sud, Nord-Ouest, Artibonite), impacting supplies to markets and thus households' physical access to supplies. Informal income opportunities for households from vulnerable neighborhoods are affected.

    The current high prices for staple foods are having a direct impact on the quality and quantity of food consumed by these households due to their very limited purchasing power. According to data from the Joint Market Monitoring Initiative (JMMI, April 2022), the median cost of a food basket is estimated at 18,127 gourdes. Adding hygiene products (2,378 gourdes) takes the average cost of a basket to 20,505 gourdes per household, with higher levels in Nord-Ouest, Nord, Ouest, Nord-Est, and Sud-Est. According to the CNSA bulletin published in May 2022, the cost of a food basket was about 50 percent higher from February to May than in the previous year. In this context, despite close-to-average agricultural income (from harvest sales, weeding, etc.) and non-agricultural income (small-scale trade, charcoal or wood sales, self-employment, etc.), very poor households are not able to meet their basic needs.

    In addition, the below-average rainfall observed in most regions of the country since the second dekad of April has delayed the launch of spring agricultural activities, particularly in Artibonite and dry agricultural areas such as Haut Plateau Central, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, and Ouest. The late rainfall in June was not enough for current crops to recover. In addition, there has been below-average demand for labor. This, together with persistent food price inflation, is driving a decline in income from the sale of agricultural products and labor.

    Livelihoods therefore remain disrupted. Very poor households, as well as those in vulnerable neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, which have been plagued by insecurity and political instability for nearly four years, will continue to adopt crisis strategies to maintain normal food consumption levels. These include intensifying sales of charcoal or wood and female livestock, consuming early harvests or food with low nutritional value, and begging. They are therefore in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, those in semi-humid or irrigated areas or where there has been less erratic or deficient rainfall, and those who have received humanitarian aid or support rebuilding their livelihood, may adopt stress strategies such as reducing daily consumption and diet quality, borrowing, or buying food on credit. They are therefore Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Assumptions

    The most likely food security scenario for June 2022 to January 2023 is based on the following key assumptions about how the national context will develop.

    Agroclimatology

    • According to the USGS forecast, rainfall is expected to be below average until July and around average during the second rainy season (July to December).
    • An above-average hurricane season is expected in the Caribbean basin during the outlook period.

    Sociopolitical and security situation

    • More violence and kidnappings than last year are expected across the country in 2022, as gangs continue to expand their hold on the capital.
    • This could hinder trade flows between the capital Port-au-Prince and other parts of the country, which would likely lead to further increases in prices for food and raw materials, and a decrease in supply.
    • It is also highly likely that food availability and physical access to food will deteriorate in most poor neighborhoods in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, with the number of displaced people growing.
    • On the political front, the lack of an electoral calendar and growing insecurity are expected to lead to increased social unrest in the country.
    • In addition, the government is highly likely to increase the prices of petroleum products as it does not have the financial capacity to continue subsidizing pump prices.

    Agricultural production

    • The 2022 spring growing season harvest is expected to be particularly impacted by the high cost of seeds and inputs, the rainfall deficit, and farmers' limited capacity to finance their agricultural activities themselves, leading to a decrease in utilized agricultural area (UAA). As a result, harvests will be below average.

    Income sources

    • The soaring prices of agricultural inputs, and the reduction in area sown, are expected to result in below-average demand for agricultural labor during this period.
    • Income from agricultural labor is expected to be below average, because farmers are hiring less labor due to the residual impacts of sociopolitical and economic shocks, which are reducing their ability to invest in agriculture.
    • Income from migrants in the Dominican Republic will remain below average. This is due to increasingly strict border controls, the continued deportation of Haitians, and increasing difficulties accessing Dominican visas due to increased prices and processing time for visa applications. In addition, some Dominican employers continue to bring Dominican migration agents into the workplace to deport Haitian workers when they are due to be paid, to avoid paying them for their work.
    • Income from informal small-scale street trade, especially in areas under gang control, is expected to be below average.
    • Income from the sale of agricultural products is expected to be average to below average, as harvests are expected to be poor.
    • According to the Central Bank of Haiti (BRH), remittances are expected to increase seasonally, which would help to improve consumption for Haitian households and strengthen economic activity.

    Prices and markets

    • The Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has resulted in decreased production in both countries, will impact the price index for food products (e.g. wheat flour, maize, vegetable oil) in the global markets. Given the importance of these products in the Haitian diet, this will give rise to even higher price increases, hindering poor and very poor households' access to these products.
    • Prices for imported products will continue to rise due to the depreciation in the exchange rate, higher global prices, and distortion of supply chains.
    • There will be a moderate decrease in local product prices following the harvests starting in July. However, they will remain atypically higher than the five-year average during the outlook period.

    Macroeconomic context

    • The significant contraction in net official foreign exchange reserves will leave the Haitian Central Bank unable to intervene in the exchange market to limit the gradual depreciation of the gourde. Reserves remain within the 500 million USD limit, despite the receipt of migrant remittances since February. As a result, the gourde will continue to depreciate against the US dollar throughout the outlook period. The exchange rate is expected to be close to 115 gourdes on the formal market and around 135 gourdes on average on the informal market.
    • In line with the exchange rate, inflation may remain above 25 percent, exacerbated by potential further fuel price increases on the local market, sociopolitical instability, and the global context marked by recession and general increases in the prices of cereal products and fertilizers due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The first four months of the outlook period (June to September 2022) coincide with the spring harvests and summer sowing, which are likely to generate employment, at least temporarily. However, the spring growing season harvest will be impacted by farmers' low capacity to invest in buying inputs, which has limited land area sown. Harvests are expected to be below average, but they will temporarily increase the availability of local food for households. There will be a seasonal fall in the prices of local products, especially in July and August, but they will remain well above last year and also above the five-year average. Although the weather forecast supports the summer growing season in August, the constraints and harvest of the previous season will affect demand for labor, which will remain below average.

    Households will continue to be dependent on market purchases, owing to insufficient harvests. Significantly above-average prices (for both imported and local products) and overall-average incomes will continue to affect food access for very poor households. In dry agricultural areas (some communes in the Ouest region such as La Gonâve, Cabaret, and Ganthier) and those that have experienced water deficits or late rainfall (Artibonite, Centre, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest), harvests will be below average. Very poor households will be forced to adopt crisis strategies to maintain normal consumption, such as intensifying sales of charcoal or wood and female livestock, consuming early harvests or food with low nutritional value, and begging. Most of the country could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households in areas where there has been less erratic rainfall , and those that have received humanitarian aid and livelihood support, may still adopt stress strategies such as reducing daily consumption and diet quality, borrowing, or buying food on credit. These areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    The second part of the outlook period (October 2022 to January 2023) coincides with the summer/fall harvests and the start of the winter growing season. Weather forecasts indicate average rainfall for this period, which is generally dry throughout the country except in humid mountain areas and on irrigated plains. Beans, roots and tubers, and bananas will be harvested in November and December, although in below-average quantities. This will also be the harvest period for seasonal crops such as pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan), lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus L.), cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata), and market garden produce. Overall, these harvests could be around average, but they are likely to be affected by the extremely active hurricane season expected from June to November. However, as these harvests represent only a small share of national agricultural production, households will continue to obtain most of their supplies from the markets.

    Income from agricultural sales and agricultural labor, as well as from other sources (due to end-of-year festivities), will be close to average. Nevertheless, high staple food prices will affect purchasing power, which will continue to limit access to food for poor and very poor households. As previously, these households will continue to use crisis strategies to meet their food needs and will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Meanwhile, those who will continue to receive livelihood support and humanitarian aid will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Port-au-Prince metropolitan area: Since insecurity in Port-au-Prince has worsened, more than 19,000 people have been displaced and housed in sports centers in more secure neighborhoods. In April and May 2022, clashes in Cité Soleil, Croix-des-Bouquets, Tabarre, Torcel, and Pernier resulted in more than 2,000 people being newly displaced. These residential areas, which are already in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to deteriorating livelihoods, will likely experience an increase in the number of people in food insecurity during the outlook period. In addition, a proportion of residents from these neighborhoods fleeing to rural areas may increase pressure on already scarce resources in these host regions. Food security conditions are likely to deteriorate further in rural areas as a result.

     


    Events that could change the scenario

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    National

    Increased sociopolitical unrest

    Escalating violence would disrupt the functioning of the economy and markets. This would lead to a further decrease in food availability and access to food, causing more households to adopt negative coping strategies. More areas and households could therefore be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    A halt to hostilities between Russia and Ukraine

    This could improve global market supplies of energy and cereal products. In this scenario, prices could fall, thus improving availability of staple foods, fuel and agricultural inputs, especially fertilizers.

    Relative sociopolitical stability

    This would create a more favorable environment for investment and income-generating activities, and thus for better food security conditions.

    Production areas

    Above-average hurricane season

    Flooding in rice, maize, and beans production areas could cause significant losses in spring, summer and fall crops and harvests. This would damage poorer households' livelihoods.

    Drought episode or irregular rainfall

    This would cause a water deficit affecting seasonal crops, and a considerable decrease in availability of fodder and water for livestock. It would also damage poorer households' livelihoods.

    Figures

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source:

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 6

    Figure 5

    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.

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