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Well-stocked product markets

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • October 2011
Well-stocked product markets

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  • Key Messages
  • Most likely food security scenario for October 2011 through March 2012
  • Table 1. Less likely events which could change the most likely food security scenario in the next few months
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    Key Messages
    • The size of the national food-insecure population is declining due to ongoing harvests, which have been underway since August and which are expected to extend into January/February of next year. Markets are well-stocked with imported as well as locally grown foodstuffs.

    • Though stable, prices are high compared with figures for last year. High prices for staple foods are attributable to inflationary trends, torrential September rains, and rises in the world market prices of certain commodities. In all likelihood, prices will increase even higher in or around March of next year, as supplies begin to dwindle. 

    • Haiti is continuing to deal with the latest surge in the cholera outbreak, which first hit the country in October of last year.  As of September 25th of this year, there have been 460,000 reported cases of cholera. The rainy season, unsanitary conditions, and a lack of funding have all contributed to the outbreak, which is expected to abate with the beginning of the dry season between December and March.

    • Ongoing harvests are reducing the size of the food-insecure population. However, certain areas in the Central Plateau, Southeastern, Western, Nippes, Northwestern, and Artibonite departments will be in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) throughout the outlook period. The Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, where more than a million people without fixed incomes are living in unsanitary conditions in makeshift camps and shantytowns, will also be in IPC Phase 2.  These areas are extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations, the cholera epidemic, and climatic anomalies. 

    Most likely food security scenario for October 2011 through March 2012

    Crop production

    The food security situation has visibly improved since September and conditions should remain stable for the next few months. There are harvests underway in all different parts of the country. This situation is unusual because with the exception of rainy mountain areas, where beans and yams are generally harvested at this time of year, the harvesting of sorghum, pigeon pea, and bean crops in other livelihood zones normally occurs between December and March. These unusual conditions are a result of rainfall pattern anomalies, as rain is the main limiting factor for Haitian agriculture.

    More specifically, this year’s first rainy season, which generally occurs from March to June, began approximately two months late, following a period of erratic rainfall activity in the south and drought conditions across the entire northern part of the country. The rains did not truly begin until the end of May; rainfall activity continues in most livelihood zones. After a period of hesitation, farmers planted crops late in the year, causing a delay in harvesting.

    However, production levels vary from one part of the country to another, in line with differences in rainfall and other factors such as the availability of farm inputs. For example, there will be less crop production in the upper Central Plateau area this year, due to the excessive rainfall there in early June, which interfered with farming practices and delayed planting activities. The size of the area planted with crops is also much smaller than usual. Likewise, harvests in rice-growing plain areas of the lower Artibonite will be smaller than usual, due mainly to shortages in fertilizer. Conversely, the upper Artibonite,  Northern, and Southern departments are reporting good maize harvests.  Further, there are good harvest forecasts for sorghum and pigeon pea crops in most of the areas in which they are generally grown.  In general, however, crop production figures for this year will be lower than normal. An assessment by the National Food Security Coordination Unit (CNSA) estimates the shortfall at six percent in grain equivalents.

    The outlook for harvests of sorghum and pigeon pea crops between December and March is good.  In addition to the good distribution of rainfall throughout the month of October, there is an equal likelihood of normal, below-normal, or above-normal rainfall for the period from October 2011 through March 2012 (according to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society). However, the hurricane season does not end until November 30th, and any hurricane striking the country is liable to trigger a fresh outbreak of cholera. In general, hurricanes cause severe damage to crops, destroy infrastructure, and isolate communities.

    The discontinuation of government subsidies have led to shortages of chemical fertilizer, and hurt the performance of rice crops in irrigated plain areas of Torbeck and the Artibonite. To compensate for losses suffered by rice farmers who purchased fertilizer at prices as much as 300 percent higher than last year, the government has announced that fertilizer will be made available free of charge for the winter growing season. Such an initiative could improve yields and adjust production forecasts for 2011/2012 upwards. According to an assessment conducted by the CNSA in August of this year, the 50% reduction in the number of fertilizer applications cut rice yields for the spring growing season from 4.2 metric tons per hectare to 3.5 metric tons per hectare on the Torbeck plains. Previously, rice yields had effectively doubled over the past three years due to the dissemination and use of new technologies in the Torbeck plains, which sharply improved the performance of rice crops.

    Markets and trade

    Price increases between August and September were extremely moderate and in the single digits, except on the Hinche market, where bean prices rose by 15 percent.  Domestic market prices have remained relatively stable due to the availability of locally grown crops and the small magnitude of fluctuations in world market prices. However, current prices of staple foods have become more expensive over the last year due to the effects of inflation.

    The plentiful supply of locally grown maize crops in the south in July and August contributed to the stabilizing of market prices for rice. In contrast, flooding casued by steady and heavy rain in September disrupted shipments of maize to the Les Cayes market, driving the price of local maize up by 20 percent. As close substitutes, the rise in the price of local maize crops contributed to the seven percent increase in the market price of imported rice, from 142 HTG per sack in August to 152.5 HTG.

    Prices for imported rice on other markets are either declining or stable. The average price for rice in September was 128.5 HTG, down from 132.4 HTG in August. Market prices for cooking oil and sugar remain stable all across the country, except in Jérémie, where sugar prices are up by eight percent. Cooking oil is selling at an average price of 320 HTG per gallon, compared with 319 HTG the month before.

    The steady deterioration in certain macroeconomic indicators could adversely affect the food security of poor households.  The dollar has risen from 40.75 to 41.50 gourdes in less than six months. Moreover, according to the Haitian Bureau of Statistics and Information Technology, the consumer price index is up from last year and has been sliding upwards all this year, jumping from 7.9 percent to 9.6 percent between April and August.

    Sociopolitical conditions

    Adding to the current favorable climatic conditions for good crop growth and development, the country also appears to be benefiting from a more stable sociopolitical situation, since the appointment of a new government. The climate of uncertainty following the election of the new president last May, which had been a cause of concern, has largely dissipated.  New investments can be expected, particularly in the public sector, with farmers among the first to benefit. Because of the lack of government and the numerous sociopolitical conflicts, the Ministry of Agriculture has spent less than half its investment budget for 2011, stressing farmers who depend on the Ministry for inputs such as fertilizer. The winter (December through March) and spring (March through July) growing seasons could profit from a climate of stability, and result in better crop performances for both seasons.

    The Haitian government has also taken steps to help parents of schoolchildren with back-to-school costs by waiving tuition costs for the poor. For poor households, the cost of sending their children to school can jeopardize food security. Free tuition for eligible schoolchildren and school meal programs for a target group of one million would ease the back-to-school cost burden normally placed on poor households. Implementation of these measures should help bolster the food security of program beneficiaries.

    Moreover, Haitian emigrants continue to regularly support their families back home. Data from previous years shows that migrant remittances genereally increase just before the beginning of the new school year and for the year-end holiday season. The volume of remittances for the period from January to June of this year was higher than at the same time last year. This income reduces pressure on recipient households and ensures that their children go to school.


    The cholera epidemic can damage food security extremely by weakening productive capacity, increasing health care costs and in some cases, causing the death of household breadwinners. Since the original cholera outbreak in mid-October of last year, the disease has caused an enormous amount of damage.  According to the Ministry of Public Health and Population, as of September 25th of this year, there have been 460,000 reported cases of cholera since the onset of the epidemic. The death toll is around 6,500, and the current estimated mortality rate is 0.88 percent. The beginning of the rainy season triggered a surge in the number of cholera cases in parts of Grand’ Anse, Northern, Western, and Southeastern departments which lack proper sanitation infrastructure. However, incidence rates are expected to decrease during the dry season, which runs from the beginning of December through the end of March. Efforts by the new government to keep the population informed about the epidemic and to strengthen preventive measures could reduce the number of new cases.

    The most likely nationwide food security scenario for October 2011 through March 2012 is based on the following general assumptions:

    • Climatic conditions should be conducive to good harvests. There has been regular, well-distributed rainfall since July, and the IRI is predicting equal probabilities of above, near, and below-normal rainfall.
    • Food availability for the entire outlook period should show an improvement over this past quarter due to the good rainfall conditions in the last few months.
    • Lower prices for locally grown crops between October and February should help ease pressure on imports.
    • The beginning of the new school year will increase household expenses, particularly in October, and weaken the food security of poor households.
    • The population will continue to be affected by the cholera outbreak, particularly in areas isolated during the rainy season.
    • World market prices for rice will rise between October and March.
    • Flooding between October and December and again between February and March could cause damage to crops as well as road infrastructure.
    • The economic problems in destination countries for Haitian emigrants should not radically affect the volume of migrant remittances to Haiti.
    • The resolution of the political crisis should quell social unrest and create a climate conducive to investment and government spending (procurements of goods and services), including on agriculture.

    Ongoing harvests, which are expected to continue into February/March, should reduce the size of the national food-insecure population. The appointment of a new government should create a climate of stability conducive to new government and private investment benefiting all wealth groups, including the poor. However, certain pockets in the Central Plateau, Southeastern, Western, Nippes, and Artibonite areas will be in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) throughout the outlook period. The far western edges of the Northwestern department faced a drought last year and, until May of this year will also be in IPC Phase 2. The same goes for the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, where more than a million people, largely without fixed incomes, are living in unsanitary conditions in makeshift camps and shantytowns. These areas are all extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations, the cholera epidemic, and climatic anomalies.

    Port-au-Prince metropolitan area (shantytowns)

    Residents of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area are entirely dependent on local markets to meet their food needs. Small businesses are the main source of income for poor households, accounting for over half their earnings. The potential monthly income of this group of households has improved since September of last year, climbing from 10,000 to 12,000 gourdes. However, there was a slight rise in the cost of the subsistence food basket, from 5,134 to 5,947 gourdes between September of 2010 and September of this year. Though stable, food prices are clearly higher than they were in September of last year. Prices for imported rice, cooking oil, and black beans, the three main staples of the Haitian diet, are up by 20, 17, and 19 percent, respectively. However, markets in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area are well-stocked with crops from the ongoing harvests throughout the country. The main contributing factors to local prices are the high world market prices of these commodities, the uncertain political situation prior to October, and the torrential rains.

    Living conditions for poor households living in camps since the January 12th earthquake of last year and in shantytowns are difficult. Health conditions in the camps, which had been receiving regular assistance from humanitarian agencies, have deteriorated. According to the latest UNOCHA humanitarian bulletin, with the withdrawal of certain organizations from Haiti and the shortage of funding, latrines and other infrastructure are not being properly maintained and camp populations are not well enough organized to take over these services.

    The combination of poor sanitation conditions and the regular torrential rain in Port-au-Prince is conducive to a fresh outbreak of cholera in the metropolitan area. According to reports by OCHA, 617 out of a total of 854 available beds in the metropolitan area were occupied as of September 21st of this year. This is weakening the productive capacity of populations affected by the outbreak, and has serious consequences for their food security.

    The beginning of the new school year causes large expenses for poor households in Port-au-Prince. Households failing to meet the Haitian Government eligibility criteria for recently announced grants will have difficulty meeting their needs. A joint FEWS NET/CNSA study dating back to 2009 indicates that poor households chose to cut back their food intake to below the minimum daily energy requirement in order to send their children to school.

    Most poor households are currently in IPC Phase 2 (stressed) and are liable to stay in this phase through the end of December of this year. However, rises in world market prices for rice will eventually translate to rice prices on local markets in Port-au-Prince, weakening the purchasing power of poor households in this area between January and March. Moreover, virtually all food and cash-for-work projects, which previously provided employment opportunities for the poor, have been shut down, curtailing food access. Certain households may try and sell assets in order to purchase necessary subsistence food supplies. Many households could find themselves in IPC Phase 3 (crisis) during this period.

    Northwest Peninsula

    The droughts in the Northwest in 2010 and in the first five months of this year caused crops in the municipalities of Baie de Henne, Bombardopolis, Mole Saint Nicolas, and Anse-Rouge to fail. The Jean-Rabel area, however, has a more temperate climate and a larger irrigated area devoted mainly to growing bananas. In Anse-Rouge, the heavy July rains reduced sea salt production, but helped spur crop growth and development.

    This year’s rainy season began more than two months late throughout the Northwest. Maize crops planted in June and July produced adequate harvests by September and October. Other crops, such as sorghum, pigeon peas, cassava, and sweet potatoes should reach maturity between December and February.  Banana crops grown in small-scale irrigation schemes have greatly benefited from current rainfall activity. Animals are in good physical condition thanks to new pasture growth, spurred by the heavy rains.

    The resulting improvement in food availability is reflected in conditions on local markets well-stocked with locally grown crops as well as imported foodstuffs. For example, maize prices have fallen by 40 percent since October of last year in Bombardopolis. However, prices for imports have stabilized at levels much higher than at the same time last year.  

    The main sources of food in this department are crop production and purchasing. Though too small to feed the whole population for the entire year, the contribution of local harvests as a source of food may help reduce pressure on households and keep prices affordable for very poor and poor households throughout October and for part of November.

    Supplies of animals on markets across the department have increased with the beginning of the school year, substantially lowering livestock prices. Livestock are a form of savings drawn upon by farmers to cover special expenses related to their children’s education and for other family obligations.

    The cash- and food-for-work programs, which had been providing employment opportunities for the poorest households, have been shut down for lack of funding. Similarly, the international organizations active in the lower reaches of the Northwestern department have been forced to curtail or suspend their operations for financial reasons. The jobs created by these organizations have been lost.

    Ongoing harvests have substantially reduced the size of the food-insecure population in the lower reaches of the Northwestern department. In general, the large majority of poor households are in IPC Phase 1, with minimal acute food insecurity. However, their food security situation is expected to rapidly deteriorate due to their small amount of food reserves, which in turn are the result of a limited ability of poor households to invest in crop production. Adding to this difficulty, the high prices of food in general, and of imported foodstuffs in particular, along with the upward trend in prices could push very poor and poor households into IPC Phase 2 (stressed) between November and March. There could be a slight improvement in their situation with the sorghum harvest in February. 

    Table 1. Less likely events which could change the most likely food security scenario in the next few months



    Effects on food security

    Western, Southern, Southeastern, Northwestern, and Grand’Anse departments

    Hurricane strike between October and November

    Destruction of crops, road closures, market disruption, increase in food prices

    Port-au-Prince metropolitan area

    Violent demonstrations in the streets of Port-au-Prince

    Lost work days for the poor


    Drop in U.S. market prices for rice

    Rice is more affordable for the poor, improving their food security situation


    Implementation of measures for controlling the cholera outbreak by the Haitian government and its partners

    Sharp decline in the number of potential future victims

    Figures Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar and timeline of critical events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Current food security outcomes, October 2011

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Current food security outcomes, October 2011

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Staple food prices in Port-au-Prince

    Figure 3

    Figure 4. Staple food prices in Port-au-Prince

    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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