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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity to continue due to high prices and low production

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • October 2015 - March 2016
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity to continue due to high prices and low production

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • An increase in rainfall in several departments across the country has helped to reduce rainfall deficits. However, rainfall has remained erratic and poorly distributed in the Southern peninsula, where rainfall deficits ranged from 50 to 200 mm as of the middle of October. 

    • The late start of the second rainy season and dry spells in September have affected the second growing season. Forecasts for below-normal rainfall are increasing the likelihood of production levels similar to the first growing season, which were estimated at 50 percent below average.

    • The ongoing and expected below-average harvests in December and January and planned assistance programs for the period from October through December should help reduce the size of the food-insecure population. Though beneficial, certain communes in Nord-Ouest, Sud-Est, and in the Central Plateau will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    National Overview

    Current situation

    Rainfall anomalies. The long dry spells since the beginning of the year have affected crops. Estimated crop losses from the first growing season are more than 50 percent above-average. The entire Southern peninsula, and Nord-Ouest and Nord-Est Deparments in particular have been severely affected. An ongoing assessment by CNSA (the National Food Security Agency) in conjunction with the Statistics Unit attached to the Ministry of Agriculture, supported by other food security actors, will provide more exact data on this year’s volume of production.

    In addition to the drought-induced shortfalls in crop production in affected areas, the drought conditions also contributed to the lower demand for labor. With the withering of crops in these areas, normal labor-intensive crop maintenance work such as weeding could not be performed. There were high rates of failure by pigeon pea crops in low-elevation areas of certain communes such as Anse-à-Veaux, Arnault, and Azile in Nippes department, which would otherwise have absorbed part of the labor force. According to observations by key informants and in the opinion of technicians in the field, yields of bean and tuber crops in humid mountain areas are so low that their harvest requires a significantly smaller workforce this season. There is still currently a large demand for labor in the Artibonite Valley and in irrigation schemes in other areas, where farmers are making preparations for the start-up of market gardening activities. In all other areas, there is a significantly lower demand for labor than in previous years.

    With wage labor accounting for such a large share of the income of very poor households all across the country, those in affected areas have lost significant purchasing power. This void cannot be filled by other sources of income such as charcoal production or petty trade. As in the case of wage labor, the growing pressure on these sources of income has also reduced their contribution to the household economy.

    There has been a better distribution of rainfall since the beginning of October compared with conditions in September, producing moderate to heavy rain in the Centre, Artibonite, and Nord Departments. However, rainfall levels all along the Sud coast are still below-average, where rainfall deficits range from 50 to 200 mm (Figure 2).

    Trends in food prices. Prices for locally grown food crops (particularly maize and beans) generally bottom out in the months of September and October. This is still the case this year on many markets, though prices for both commodities are relatively high compared with figures for previous years on account of the drought-induced shortfalls in crop production.

    There have been large fluctuations in the price of maize meal over the past few months. As in the case of beans, the severe drought extending into both growing seasons for 2015 has caused heavy losses in major crop-producing areas, particularly on the Les Cayes Plain and the Central Plateau. Prices in Les Cayes and Ouanaminthe markets were reportedly up by 24 and nine percent, respectively, between August and September 2015. However, prices on the Jacmel and Port-au-Prince markets came down by 14 and six percent, respectively, during the same period. Trends in prices between September 2014 and 2015 vary from one market to another. Maize prices in Jérémie were as much as 150 percent higher than in September 2014, but showed little if any movement in Hinche and Jacmel and were down by approximately 34 percent in Ouanaminthe.

    Black bean prices on the Jacmel and Jérémie markets dropped by eight and 15 percent, respectively, between the months of August and September, driven down by harvests in humid mountain areas supplying these markets. On the other hand, prices on the Port-au-Prince and Hinche markets rose by 12 and eight percent, respectively, while prices on all other markets were stable. This price behavior is attributable to this year’s bean production, which is so low that supplies are not large enough to bring prices down. On average, prices are 80 percent higher than in September 2014, when prices increased significantly in response to the large drought-induced losses of crops in many agro-ecological zones. 

    Prices for imported commodities showed very little movement between August and September or compared with figures for September 2014. In fact, according to the FAO price index, food prices are stable, held in check by global production levels and the large inventories built up by major importers. The largest price fluctuations were on the Jacmel and Ouanaminthe markets. Thus, prices for commodities such as vegetable oil on the Jacmel and Ouanaminthe markets rose by 20 and seven percent, respectively, between August and September 2015, but were unchanged on other markets. The price of rice dropped by five to 10 percent between August and September 2015 in Jacmel, Ouanaminthe, Hinche, and Fonds-des-Nègres but held steady on other markets and has come down by between seven and 15 percent since last year (between September 2014 and 2015) on the Hinche, Jérémie, and Ouanaminthe markets.

    The price of broken rice imported from the Dominican Republic and consumed largely by very poor households in areas along the border is up by approximately 30 percent from figures for September 2014, or from 70 to 105 gourdes, on the Cerca-la-Source, Cercacarvajal, and Thomassique markets. This is due, in part, to the ongoing drought across the country, but is also a result of the high price and more limited availability of maize, as a substitute food for rice.

    Markets have been disrupted by a number of different events. The road blocks in Arcahaïe have slowed the flow of trade between the far North and Port-au-Prince, forcing transporters to take more circuitous routes along more difficult roads. The resulting larger losses of perishables such as fruits and vegetables are increasing costs.

    The security situation on the Croix des Bossales market in Port-au-Prince has improved, where traders, who have until very recently faced harassment and armed robberies, have been able to operate more freely owing to a more regular police presence. Business appears to be picking up and customers who had stopped frequenting the market are coming back.

    There were shortages of locally grown crops such as tubers, bananas, and certain vegetables such as tomatoes on markets in Port-au-Prince in the month of October. The price of a bunch of bananas doubled from 50 gourdes in September 2014 to 100 gourdes in September 2015. Prices for imported commodities on these markets are relatively stable, but prices for all locally grown crops are on the rise (Figure 3). The main contributing factors are low domestic production due to the drought and the reported shortage of bananas from the Dominican Republic.

    In addition to the sharp decline in crop production in the past two years, statistical data compiled by the IHSI (the Haitian Bureau of Statistics and Information Technology) and BRH (the National Bank of Haiti) also shows a deterioration in macro-economic conditions during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The annual inflation rate is around 11.3 percent. The Haitian gourde, which had been relatively stable in 2014, was devalued by approximately 17 percent between June and July 2015 and lost another three percent of its value in October.

    Humanitarian assistance. There has been a steady reduction in funding for humanitarian response efforts in Haiti since the January 2010 earthquake, which is back at 2009 levels, though the country is continually dealing with shocks which are undermining the livelihoods of poor households. Most government programs which had been providing cash transfer payments for poor households or operating cash-for-work activities have been shut down.

    Certain organizations still have ongoing humanitarian assistance programs. The WFP, for example, is providing hot meals for 485,000 students in all parts of the country with the exception of the Sud department. It will be furnishing 15,000 recipients in the Sud-Est, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, and Ouest departments with the sum of 200 gourdes per day, 24 days per month, for a period of two months beginning as of October. In addition, its nutrition program will provide food rations for 29,000 pregnant women, 39,000 children, and 3,500 children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition in the Nord, Artibonite, Central, and Sud-Est Departments. It was also planning an emergency assistance program for 120,000 recipients, each of whom was to receive a food package containing a two-month supply of staples such as rice, vegetable oil, beans, and iodized salt, beginning as of October 2015.

    Donors such as USAID and ECHO are financing food security projects in Nord-Ouest, Sud-Est, Artibonite, and Centre Departments. The various projects and programs conducted in these areas are helping to mitigate the adverse effects of different shocks on the livelihoods and food consumption of their target groups. However, except for the long-term (five-year) programs funded by USAID and the school meal programs which have been operating for the past several years, most of these projects such as the GVC project in Cerca-carvajal will end in December 2015. Even with their combined coverage, food security outcomes at the area level are unlikely to improve. However, without these projects and programs, their target areas would have even larger food-insecure populations.

    Agricultural development. Large-scale development projects such as Feed the Future Haiti in Ouest Department, RESEPAG and AVANSE in Nord Department, and other such projects in the Sud Department are continuing to serve farmers in their respective operating areas. The Ministry of Agriculture has a larger budget for this next fiscal year. It is planning to spend 27 million gourdes on procurements of 150 metric tons of bean seeds and 3,500,000 sweet potato cuttings for the “winter” growing season. These seeds and cuttings will allow for the planting of approximately 2,500 hectares of land in crops. The Ministry will also help with the plowing work by supplying tractors and animal-drawn plows. However, the Ministry’s projects are often impeded by its disbursement procedures. Thus, for example, only 270,000,000 of the 900,000,000 gourdes budgeted for investments in the agricultural sector in 2014 were effectively disbursed.

    FAO is also planning to mount assistance programs in six of the worst drought-stricken communes in the Nord-Ouest and Sud-Est for a total of 9,000 target households, each of which will receive five kg of seeds for cereal crops (maize or sorghum), 500 sweet potato cuttings, 300 cassava cuttings, and 40 grams of seeds for market garden crops. These seeds and cuttings will be distributed beginning in October 2015. It takes approximately 30,000 sweet potato cuttings and 20 kg of maize seeds to plant one hectare of land in crops. Very poor and poor households generally farm less than one hectare of land.

    Cross-border deportations.  Since June 2015, Haitians residing in the Dominican Republic have been living in fear of finding themselves put over the border any day, stripped of their assets and with no hope of finding shelter. In the worst cases, some have become refugees. As of July 20, 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had counted 12,236 refugee households entering Haiti through four official border crossing points, namely Ouanaminthe, Belladère, Malpasse, and Anse-à-Pitres, as part of its border surveillance project (Figure 3). These refugees are confronted with numerous hardships, which are making it difficult to pursue their normal activities. Sanitary conditions at camp sites in Anse-à-Pitre are deplorable. However, so far, the IOM considers this to be a protection crisis rather than a humanitarian crisis. It has counted 351 unaccompanied minors among the deportees.

    The six refugee camps surveyed in Anse-à-Pitre house a total of 2,600 people. They were set up on private lands which had been planted in maize and bananas at the time of the refugees’ arrival. The refugees are being housed in makeshift shelters leaving them exposed to the elements. With the rainy season expected to extend into November, they are especially vulnerable to water-borne diseases such as cholera, which is on the rise in certain communities in Sud-Est Department.

    Migration to the Dominican Republic and large cities. With the slowdown in economic activities in rural areas as a result of the drought, many more youths are looking to migrate to areas where conditions are much less harsh. The most popular destinations are large cities like Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince. However, people living along the border continue to cross into the Dominican Republic to look for work. There is no available data on cross-border population movements. However, according to the focus groups conducted by FEWS NET with households on the Central Plateau, many youths apparently head to the Dominican Republic to look for temporary jobs. To make sure that these youths return to work in the Dominican Republic, certain Dominican employers only pay them part of their wages at the end of their contracts. In addition, for some time now, Haitians have also been trying to migrate to Brazil in search of lucrative employment. The Brazilian ambassador to Haiti told the daily paper Le Nouvelliste that his country intends to increase the number of humanitarian visas issued from less than 200 at present to close to 2,000 per month. Applicants for a humanitarian visa need only present a valid passport and certificate of good moral character.

    Private remittances. Private remittances from Haitians living abroad help augment the incomes of many households in both rural and urban areas. Very poor households maintain that they do not benefit directly from migrant remittances since they have no close relatives in their source countries. According to monthly data furnished by the Central Bank, the volume of remittances has been steadily growing year after year. Based on figures for the month of September, the volume of incoming remittances in September 2015 was up by 57 percent from September 2010 and by approximately five percent from September 2014. The Central Bank has put the value of remittances for the month of September 2015 at US$ 132 million (Figure 4).

    Beginning of the new fiscal year. The month of October marks the beginning of the 2015-2016 fiscal year. A large percentage of investment funding under the new budget is earmarked for agricultural infrastructure and the construction sector in an endeavor to sustain growth. The appropriation for the agricultural sector went from its typical share of less than five percent of the budget up to 9.7 percent. A sum of 7 billion gourdes has been allocated for agricultural and agro-processing infrastructure, which should help bridge the perennial investment gap in the agricultural sector.


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

    • According to forecasts by the NOAA, the high likelihood of an extended El Nino event will mean below-average rainfall for the rest of the second growing season. Based on these same forecasts, there is a high probability that these El Nino conditions will last through June 2016, which could reduce the demand for labor for the first growing season between February and June 2016, during the lean season, and produce below-average harvests.
    • Volatility of the Haitian gourde. After tumbling in July, the gourde stabilized between August and September, before facing a new devaluation in October. The current buying rate for the conversion of a minimum sum of US $500.00 is 55 gourdes per U.S. dollar, which is up by approximately 20 percent from September 2014. It is highly likely that there will be more volatility in the exchange rate during the election period, fueled by a widening budget deficit. With the country forced to rely on imports to meet more than half its food needs, the depreciation in the value of the gourde could drive up the price of imported commodities.
    • Higher food prices. Food prices have stabilized on most markets and, in some cases, are coming down. Though well below-average, the September harvests are largely responsible for this price behavior. In addition, the need for cash to pay their children’s tuition fees has prompted many farmers to sell a larger share of their crops on the market sooner than usual. However, prices for locally grown crops in particular are expected to start rising much sooner this year and at much faster rates, in November and December and in February and March.
    • The Haitian government has banned overland imports of 23 commodities, including maize, flour, and spaghetti, in an attempt to control food safety and increase government revenues. Considering the volume of cross-border trade, if the government does not take accompanying measures to mitigate the impact of this ban on food availability and food access for very poor and poor households in these border areas, staple food prices in affected areas are likely to shoot up, undermining the food security of the country’s poorest populations.
    • Demand for agricultural labor. Depending on the area, very poor and poor households earn more than 30 percent of their annual income from farm labor. The dry spells causing crops to wither and reducing the size of harvests have been a contributing factor in slowing farming activities and demand for labor. Short of funds and without access to farm credit and faced with the rising prices of farm inputs, middle-income and better-off farmers will likely be using less labor for the winter and spring growing seasons. Thus, very poor households could be facing sizeable cuts in their income during this period.
    • According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 36,442 people were deported between the months of June and October since the implementation of the National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners in the Dominican Republic. This figure is based on partial observations at crossing points along the border. Among the deportees are unaccompanied children and women. There is likely to be a large surge in the number of deportees during the election period in both countries and in retaliation for the trade measures taken by Haiti. With the unsanitary living conditions at the camps for deportees in Anse-à-Pitres, these stepped-up deportations will further destabilize the situation of returnees in Haiti.
    • The Central Bank has taken steps to reduce the money supply in circulation in an attempt to stabilize the exchange rate for the Haitian gourde. Thus, commercial banks have fewer liquid funds with which to meet customer demand. This will mean a contraction in consumer credit, which could affect economic activity and, in particular, job maintenance and job creation.
    • General elections between October and December 2015. Elections in Haiti generally spark violent protests such as those which have already erupted in a number of communes. As election fever rises with the approaching elections, these protests could become much more violent and longer lasting, disrupting the movement of goods and services. Very poor households dependent on day labor or petty trade in affected areas could face cuts in their income. The protests will reach their height the week before or after the elections are held and the results are announced, preventing poor households from pursuing their normal occupations.  


    Most likely food security outcomes

    Farming is a source of both food and income for households in rural areas. Household crop production, the gathering of wild plant foods, and in-kind wage payments normally meet approximately 20 percent of the food consumption needs of very poor households. As mentioned earlier, farming activities generate over 60 percent of the annual income of this household group in parts of the Nord, Central Plateau, and Ouest departments and the southern peninsula. However, the severe drought conditions all across the country for the past two years or so are limiting the contributions of these sources of food and income. Other activities such as charcoal production and petty trade cannot make up for these shortfalls, whose expansion on an individual basis is precluded by the much larger numbers of households engaging in these occupations and the steady decline in suitable vegetative growth for charcoal production, with the increasingly limited supply of harvestable trees for making charcoal. Thus, there are steadily widening food gaps in drought-stricken areas.

    As described earlier in the report, there are humanitarian assistance programs for food-insecure households. The largest such program, scheduled to run for three months, was to start up in October. While it will help reduce the number of food-insecure people, it will not necessarily ease the severity of food insecurity in target areas enough to improve their IPC classification due to the large percentage of very poor and poor households in the local population.

    Ongoing harvests and harvests scheduled to take place between December and February will be too small to help replenish food reserves and meet current needs. The same is true of income levels. In addition, though they are more or less stable, food prices are still high, which makes them less affordable for very poor and poor households.

    Based on these factors, it is highly likely that areas classified in the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) stage of food insecurity will remain at this level through the end of the outlook period. However, it is possible that the programs mounted by different humanitarian actors will help reduce the size of food-insecure populations, though severely drought-stricken areas in the Nord and Nord-Est, on the Central Plateau, in the Artibonite, and on the southern peninsula will remain in Crisis.


    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

    Most likely estimated food security outcomes for October 2015

    Figure 2

    Most likely estimated food security outcomes for October 2015

    Source: FEWS NET/CNSA

    Figure 1. Percent of normal rainfall from August 1 to October 25, 2015

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Percent of normal rainfall from August 1 to October 25, 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Price trends in Port-au-Prince

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Price trends in Port-au-Prince

    Source: FEWS NET/CNSA

    Figure 3. Status of refugees interviewed by the OIM

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Status of refugees interviewed by the OIM


    Figure 4. Trends in private remittances between 2010 and 2015

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Trends in private remittances between 2010 and 2015

    Source: Bank of the Republic of Haiti

    Figure 7


    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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