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Low production levels to cause a deterioration of food security through March

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • October 2014 - March 2015
Low production levels to cause a deterioration of food security through March

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    MARNDR/CNSA
    Key Messages
    • Recent improvements in food security conditions since July are not expected to last beyond October. The immediate causes are the early depletion of household food stocks and lower demand for labor, the main source of income for poor households. Municipalities in the Nippes, Southeastern, and Southern departments could find themselves in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) beginning in February 2015.

    • The spring and fall growing seasons have been marked by successive dry spells since May. Reductions in crop production for primary crops such as maize, rice, pigeon peas, yams, and groundnuts were up to 50 percent compared to a normal year. Households will be much more dependent than usual on market purchasing during the next few months. 

    • The spring and fall growing seasons have been marked by successive dry spells since May. Reductions in crop production for primary crops such as maize, rice, pigeon peas, yams, and groundnuts were up to 50 percent compared to a normal year. Households will be much more dependent than usual on market purchasing during the next few months. 

    • Despite low crop production levels, prices are currently stable. This trend could be reversed beginning in November, with prices expected to rise up to 10 percent. In addition to the depletion of household food stocks, the expected strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the gourde and higher fuel prices at the pump will cause staple food prices to rise. 


    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Following main harvests in July/August, October was generally marked by a slowdown in farming activities in most of the country's agro-ecological zones. Farmers in humid mountain areas and the Artibonite Valley typically harvest beans and rice, respectively. Rainfall is typically heavy in October, which is necessary for the successful growth of pigeon pea and sorghum crops that are harvested between December and February. These harvests allow households to build up their food stocks until the beginning of the lean season in April.

    However, the adverse weather conditions that have prevailed in many areas of the country since May 2014, combined with still unfavorable socioeconomic conditions, led to lower production levels during the main spring growing season and continue to threaten fall crops. The food security situation for poor households, which varies according to changes in these factors, could deteriorate in the most affected areas of the Southern peninsula, the Central Plateau, the North and the North-East from October 2014 through March 2015.

    Weather conditions. Haitian agriculture depends largely on rainfall activity. Any delay or stoppage in the distribution of rainfall affects crop production, which in turn reduces poor households' access to food and income from labor sales. This year, precipitation was erratic, and there were few areas where rainfall levels were normal.

    The months of May, August, September, and October, typically considered the rainiest months of the year, were marked by rainfall deficits. In late August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that since early May, a number of locations throughout the country have received 50 to 80 percent less rain than usual, with rainfall deficits in excess of  50 percent in the Southern peninsula. By late September, NOAA indicated that areas facing significant rainfall deficits did benefit from rainfall that was between 50-80 percent of normal.

    After more favorable conditions in September, the month of October began with rainfall deficits almost everywhere in the country. Although it received good levels of rainfall at the start of the season, the Southern peninsula was the most affected by the dry spells (Figure 2). 

    Socioeconomic conditions. Investments in the agricultural sector did not rise this year, due largely to the delay in the disbursement of public funds allocated for agricultural development. For example, of the 140 million gourdes HTG allocated for the development of rice-growing areas in the Artibonite, only 13 million gourdes (HTG) were actually disbursed. As a result, the Trois Bornes inlet canal in Desdunes, on which rice production in the commune depends, could not be cleaned.

    This investment deficit also resulted in a significant shortage of productive inputs. The quantity of fertilizer available barely reached 80 percent of that of previous years. Moreover, fertilizer prices were nearly double that of 2013, rising from 900 to approximately 1,500 gourdes. The quantity of seeds distributed by the Ministry of Agriculture and its partners also remained well below that of previous years.

    The start of the school year in September has weighed heavily on poor households who lost a significant portion of their crops. These households invest a significant amount in their children's education but have to compromise their food security to do so. A 2009 study by FEWS NET and CNSA showed that poor households who send their children to school are unable to consume the daily requirement of 2,100 kcal.

    Aside from these factors, which are negatively affecting food availability and access to food, particularly for poor households in rural areas, other factors appear to be playing a more positive role. This is the case, for example, of foreign remittances from Haitians living abroad, which have continued to increase each year. According to the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH), remittances in August 2013 were worth 107 million U.S. dollars. In August 2014, however, they reached 117 million dollars, an increase of 9 percent. This is probably due to the fact that migration to North America, the Dominican Republic, and new destinations like South America has continued to rise.

    At the same time, food imports continue at a level sufficient to compensate for production deficits. These imports are benefiting from stable global prices. Despite the depreciation of the national currency, which rose from 43 to 46 gourdes per U.S. dollar (USD) in one year, prices of imported products such as rice, flour, sugar, and oil remained relatively stable during that period.

    Impact of these factors of local crop production. These factors affected the primary crops grown in the country to varying degrees. Maize, the most widespread cereal, grown in all livelihood zones, was the most severely affected. CNSA (the National Food Security Commission) estimates that maize production decreased 52 percent compared to 2013 and 55 percent compared to 2009. Rice production, located primarily in irrigated areas of the Artibonite Valley decreased by 20 percent. Crop losses for beans, groundnuts, and pigeon peas were estimated at 11, 43, and 44 percent, respectively.

    These losses could be even higher for poor households, who generally farm more marginal and less fertile land. According to a 2005 FEWS NET study, 15 to 50 percent of their food generally comes from their own crops, depending on the area. Faced with such high production deficits, they will have to make more market purchases, which already make up 30 to 70 percent of their sources of food. Food stocks that usually last until March will be depleted by late January. These households will experience difficulties before the pigeon pea harvest in November and the sorghum harvest in December and January, particularly in dry agro-pastoral areas, in certain municipalities in the agro-pastoral area of the Central Plateau, and the dry farming and fishing zone.

    In addition to being an important food source, farming plays an essential role as a source of income for poor households. Depending on the area, households earn 40 to 85 percent of their income from farm labor and sales of their own crops. Poor spring production and low rainfall levels expected from October to December will significantly affect the income earned from these sources during this period. Faced with these conditions, poor households will have to resort to other sources of income or try to earn more from those that already exist. As normal sources of income such as charcoal, livestock sales, petty trade are nearly at their limit, the majority of poor households in the above named areas risk facing food shortages beginning in February.

    The impact of the drought will not be felt to the same extent in all geographic areas, due to uneven rainfall distribution and the existence (or lack) of irrigation infrastructure and sustainable sources of food and income. The northwestern peninsula, including Anse-Rouge, benefited from good rainfall during the first growing season, resulting in close to average harvest levels after more than three years of continuous losses. The FAO distributed seeds in August, just when farmers needed them. Despite receiving much less rainfall than the Central Plateau, the southern peninsula has higher food availability. A few hundred hectares of irrigated land, good levels of breadfruit and coconut production, and nearly 1,000 kilometers of coastline provide poor households on the peninsula with opportunities that do not exist in the Central Plateau, particularly in the Upper Plateau. Parts of Nippes (Plaine Baconnois, parts of Azile, Arnault, and Petite Rivière), the South (Aquin), Artibonite (Dibédou, Personé, Marose, Terre Blanche), and the North-East (Plaine de Fort-Liberté, Mombin Crochu) suffered greatly from low soil moisture due to poor rainfall, and cereal production levels there vary from very low to non-existent.

    The harvests that began in early August are ongoing in several areas. This is particularly the case in Grand Anse, where harvests of yams, beans, breadfruits, and bananas are ongoing. While production levels are low, harvests of maize planted in May/June are still ongoing in Maissade. These harvests are helping to improve food access and availability to different degrees, depending on the area. While the harvests will not continue past November in Maissade, they could continue in Grand Anse until the start of the next lean season in March.

    Livestock production. Recurrent dry spells throughout Haiti since May did not significantly affect pasture production. Water and pasture availability allowed animals in most areas to maintain their physical condition. In addition, Teschen disease, which has previously hurt pig production, has nearly been contained thanks to vaccines provided to farmers by the Ministry of Agriculture in late September 2014. However, livestock sales rose with the start of the school year, as is typical, but sales appear to have risen more than normal due to low crop production levels. Prices are down 5 to 10 percent depending on the species. This situation will likely continue throughout the outlook period, as is typical when poor households sell their livestock to face a shock. Livestock rearing generally generates 5 to 15 percent of poor households' income, depending on the area.

    Labor. October is the month when demand for farm labor in the country is lowest. It will be even lower this year following weak investment in the sector and low crop production levels. It should increase in late November and during the month of December in irrigated areas. However, without substantial support to farmers from donors or the Ministry of Agriculture, demand will remain below average for this time of year. Without such support, farmers will not have enough resources to obtain farm inputs. They will therefore need less labor. However, daily wages will remain unchanged, as they are already low in rural areas, ranging from 50 to 200 gourdes. Poor households that provide labor and generate 35 to 70 percent of their income from it will have to increase their production of charcoal, the third largest source of income after labor and crop sales. Migration to cities and neighboring countries will rise. 

    Food price trends. Prices are significantly lower than in 2012 and early 2013. The two hurricanes of 2012 led to crop losses that caused food prices to rise beginning in September 2012. Improved production in 2013 increased supplies of locally produced foods and caused prices to fall, after which they remained low with the harvests that began in the summer of 2014. For example, black bean prices in September 2014 were 12 percent, 9 percent, and 5 percent lower than in September 2013 on the markets in Hinche, Jérémie, and Jacmel, respectively. However, these prices are slightly lower than the five-year average (2008-2013) in Hinche and Jérémie (down 3 percent) but higher in Jacmel (up 11 percent). Prices are 17 percent higher than in August 2014 in Hinche and Jacmel and 12 percent lower in Jérémie (Figure 3).

    A good global production outlook for 2014-2015 and lower prices are reflected on the Haitian market. In its September Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, the FAO reported that "bumper harvests and abundant stockpiles are key factors helping drive down international cereal prices." Prices of imported products such as rice, wheat flour, and sugar remained stable on almost all markets in the country from August to September 2014. Prices were down 7 to 15 percent on all markets except for in Jérémie, where cooking oil prices were 7 percent higher than in September 2013. Rice and oil prices are generally 15 to 19 percent higher than the five-year average, respectively. The current trend of stable prices for imported products on most markets in the country in September 2014 could be reversed during the coming months. The likely increase in transportation costs and the frequent devaluation of the gourde could cause prices of both locally produced and imported products to rise. In addition, it should be noted that markets are regularly stocked and that the risks of supplies running out is relatively low.

    Humanitarian assistance. In order to mitigate the effects of shocks on some poor households, NGOs, United Nations agencies, and the Haitian Government are providing these households with food vouchers equivalent to 1,100 gourdes (HTG) per month. More than 16,000 households are benefiting from the Kore Lavi project in the Artibonite, Central, North-West, South-East, and West Departments. WFP is also implementing a cash-for-work project that will benefit 5,000 households in the municipalities of Bombardopolis, Mole St Nicolas, and Baie de Henne. The project will run from October to December 2014. Eighteen days a month, WFP is also providing a hot meal to nearly 400,000 students in every department, except the South.

    Assumptions

    The following general assumptions are based on the findings outlined above:

    • Rainfall activity has been considerably below average since May in most parts of the country, due to the effects of the developing El Niño phenomenon. In fact, according to most weather forecasting models, conditions could deteriorate, with a 67 percent likelihood of the development of an El Niño event between October and December. Such a phenomenon would likely reduce rainfall activity during this period and sharply curtail farming activities. However, rainfall totals are likely to be slightly above average from January through March, leading to an early start to the spring growing season. This is often the case in certain areas such as the South-East.
    • Losses of maize and bean crops planted in August/September are estimated at over 30 percent. Losses could be even higher for pigeon pea and sorghum crops planted in the spring and scheduled to be harvested from December through February. Farmers who have obtained neither loans nor insurance and who are now short on cash will have to reduce the area they plant in crops during the November/December plantings in irrigated areas and during the spring plantings from March through May.
    • The lean season will likely start early. Poor households' food stocks, which normally last until late March, will be depleted in January/February 2015 in the most affected areas, including the Nippes, Southeastern, Western, Central Plateau, and Northeastern departments.
    • With the approach of the year-end holidays, the volume of migrant remittances could be approximately 10 percent higher in December than during the same time last year, affecting a larger number of households. Remittances have continued to rise each year, particularly during times of significant spending such as the start of the new school semester in October and December.
    • The National Government budget presented to Parliament for approval has been increased. Social programs for the upcoming fiscal year, such as general distributions of food and education vouchers, which also help poor households, will be scaled up or, at the very least, sustained at their current levels.
    • The U.S. dollar exchange rate vis-à-vis the Haitian gourde has been high since it began a steady rise in 2014, likely due to the anticipation among economic actors of a deterioration in the country's socio-political situation and weak national production levels. However, this devaluation of the gourde does not appear to have a major effect on prices for imported foods, which have been relatively stable since the beginning of the year. This could be attributable to the limited movement in world market prices. Nevertheless, a steady appreciation in the value of the U.S. dollar (USG) against the gourde (HTG) is likely to increase prices for imported foodstuffs, such as rice, wheat flour, sugar, and cooking oil, especially in the months of December and January.
    • The current improvement in food supplies with ongoing harvests has had a major impact on prices for locally grown crops. However, given this year's low production levels, prices will likely rise earlier and more rapidly than usual. Significant increases could be seen from November through March.
    • While much less visible for more than two years now, there is still a humanitarian presence on the ground in certain areas such as the North-West, the Central Plateau, and, to a lesser extent, the South-East. Implementation of the ongoing USAID-funded Development Food Assistance Program (DFAP) project, also known as Kore Lavi, and other projects in the North and North-East will help contain the deterioration in food security conditions for poor households in these areas.
    • The Government has just increased fuel prices at the pump, and further increases are expected toward the end of the year. An increase in the cost of public transportation is also likely, which could lead to higher staple food prices and negatively affect the food security situation of poor households.
    • Farm inputs such as seeds and chemical fertilizers are scarce and expensive. This is reducing the investment capacity of farmers, who have no access to credit and will therefore be forced to plant smaller areas in crops and hire fewer agricultural laborers.
    Most likely food security outcomes

    Below-average and poorly distributed rainfall in many areas from August to September affected crop growth, negatively impacting fall production levels. In certain areas such as Nippes, the South, the South-East, the upper Central Plateau, and the North-East, household food stocks built up after the summer harvest will not last until December as they usually do. While these stocks will still be available in October, they will be completely depleted by November. Poor pigeon pea, sorghum, and maize harvests will allow households to use their own crops as a source of food for a period of time from December to January, but will not be sufficient to cover their food energy needs. Households will become much more market dependent starting in January/February. Demand for farm labor, one of the main sources of income for poor households, will be significantly lower given the high level of crop losses and the expected decrease in investments in irrigated areas in November and December. Food aid provided by stakeholders will mitigate the impact of food insecurity in target areas. While very poor and poor households, who generally make up 55 to 70 percent of the population in any given area, will have to cut down more trees and sell more heads of livestock to increase their income, they will still not be able to consume the necessary 2,100 kilocalories per person per day.

    While food insecurity remained Minimal in most livelihood zones in October, it will deteriorate in certain areas of the dry agriculture and fishing zone (Anse-à-Veaux, Petite Rivière in Nippes, Azile), the semi-humid agropastoral zone (La Colline, Flammand, Brodequin à Aquin), the dry agropastoral zone (La Gonâve), and the agropastoral zone on the Central Plateau (Thomassique, Cerca-la-Source), among others, from November through March if very poor and poor households do not receive assistance. This situation is primarily the result of aridity and successive dry spells in these zones, which led to crop losses and fewer employment opportunities. These areas could find themselves under Stress (IPC Phase 2) from November through January. The situation could deteriorate even further into one of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the South-East, Nippes, and the South in February/March. 

     

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

     

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Map of Current Food Security Outcomes, October 2014

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Map of Current Food Security Outcomes, October 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), October 16-25, 2014.

    Figure 3

    Figure 2. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), October 16-25, 2014.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3. Staple Food Price Trends in Port-au-Prince, Hinche and Jérémie markets.

    Figure 4

    Figure 3. Staple Food Price Trends in Port-au-Prince, Hinche and Jérémie markets.

    Source: FEWS NET/CNSA

    Figure 5

    Source:

    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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