Skip to main content

Conditions indicate likely deterioration of food security in Haiti

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • October 2019 - May 2020
Conditions indicate likely deterioration of food security in Haiti

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Since the beginning of September, the supply of basic food commodities on markets has decreased due to the deterioration of the socio-political situation, which is characterized by barricades along main roads, fuel scarcity, inflation, and broad insecurity.

    • Despite favorable rainfall, which has led to normal harvests, many rural traders are unable to reach main cities to stock and sell food commodities. Income-generating activities among poor households, which typically include urban migration and petty trade, are negatively impacted by the ongoing events. It is anticipated that household purchasing power will continue to deteriorate throughout the projection period, as a result of expected rises in food prices and depreciation of the Haitian gourde.

    • Constraints to typical livelihood activities are expected to persist throughout the outlook period. Poor households are likely to continue selling seed stocks and intensifying the sale of charcoal to help meet their basic food needs. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across the country, with an increasing number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the atypically long February/March to May lean season.


    Current Situation

    Impact of socio-political disruptions: The deterioration of the socio-political situation has intensified since the first half of September in the Haitian capital and in large cities throughout the country. The unrest is characterized by insecurity, depreciation of the gourde, inflation - which now exceeds 20 percent compared to 17.6 percent last June - disruption of main trade routes and looting and closing of some businesses. All regions in the country have been affected. The situation is particularly concerning in the metropolitan region of Port-au-Prince, Gonaïves, Cap-Haïtien, Jacmel, and Cayes, where the economic sector is stagnated at about 90 percent.

    There are no signs of the situation calming down, which would likely restore confidence of investors and traders in the revival of the economy. In the meantime, food security conditions, notably the availability of food as well as physical and economic access to food, continue to deteriorate across the country.

    Markets: Markets in urban areas are poorly stocked with both local and imported goods, however, some supplies remain available. Major markets, such as Croix-des-Bossales are barely functioning, though, and secondary markets (Croix des Bouquets, Salomon, etc.) are slowing down. Some food markets are closing in city centers. Furthermore, it is difficult for farmers to access urban or regional markets to sell their products, most of which are perishable, due to disruptions along trade routes.

    Sources of income: Sources of income for many households are largely disrupted by the socio-political unrest, due to the difficulty associated with moving and transporting goods. Moreover, some business owners have announced the closing of their businesses or downsizing of personnel in response to the economic crisis. This suggests an increase in the rate of unemployment in the country. Others reportedly intend to lower the wages of their employees because of the low profitability of their investments. The hotel sector has been hit hard, with many hotels practically empty since the outbreak of hostilities across the country. Those who depend on a properly functioning market for their income are experiencing difficulties tied to access to markets.

    Impact on food security: Markets are less supplied than normal, and sources of income are disrupted due to difficulties in movement and disruptions to the general economy. The poorest urban households, notably those that do not have access to remittances, are engaging in negative consumption-based coping strategies such as decreasing the size or number of meals. It is anticipated that the number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is increasing. Similarly, in rural areas, the poorest households are turning to negative coping strategies due to the increase in food prices and the decrease in sources of income including that from urban migration. However, rural areas that benefitted from good rainfall are in the process of harvesting and have some increased food available from harvests.

    Climatic conditions and outlook: After a considerable rainfall deficit during the spring season, average rainfall was observed throughout the country starting in September. The exception to this was in certain zones, particularly in the Ouest and Sud-Est that received slightly below average rainfall.

    Impact on seasonal crop production: Despite flooding in certain areas, rainfall from August to October proved to be favorable to the normal development of fall crops, with the exception of certain departments in the Ouest, Sud-Est, and Nord.

    In addition, maize and black bean harvests are ongoing throughout the country. Starting in November, the harvest of pigeon peas (green) is expected to be an important source of food and income for some poor households. However, in certain areas, agroclimatic conditions proved less favorable and vegetation conditions are below normal.

    The sociopolitical climate has not had a significant impact on crop production. Cereal crops and other non-perishable items are currently providing increased food availability in most regions.

    Food availability: Local food availability consists mostly of beans and maize, which are currently being harvested, and gathered foods such as bananas, roots and tubers, and breadfruit (particularly in Grand'Anse and Sud). However, many markets are poorly supplied because of the socio-political unrest. The supply of imported goods, which typically make up the primary source of food for very poor households, has also been negatively affected by disruptions in trade flows within the country.

    The current crisis is particularly concerning in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince and the cities of Gonaïves, Cap-Haïtien, and Cayes, which have recently been experiencing riots. Markets are not functioning normally in terms of both supply and demand, as they are physically less accessible and less stocked.

    Price trends: Staple food prices in October remain high compared to the month of September, especially for local maize and imported rice. Prices for other goods (cooking oil, beans, pasta, etc.) are on the rise, exacerbated by political turbulence and uncertainty regarding eventual peace and the restarting of normal economic activities.

    In the month of September, the price of a 6 lb. (marmite) of local maize grain compared to August decreased by nearly 4 percent on average, dropping from 136 to 131 gourdes. Consecutive declines were observed in three out of ten markets: Fonds-des- Nègres (over 8%), Hinche (about 34%) and Jacmel (25%) following harvests reported in Plateau Central, in certain areas of Sud-Est, Nippes, and Grand’Anse. However, the price of grain maize is above that of last year and the five-year average by about 50 percent.

    For the same period, the price of black beans rose by more than 6 percent on average, with a 6 lb. (marmite) rising from 402 gourdes in September compared to 378 gourdes in August. The price of black beans is 30 percent more expensive in September 2019 compared to September of 2018 but remains close to the five-year average.

    Between September 2018 and September 2019, and compared to the five-year average, the price of imported rice has significantly increased by 20 percent and 58 percent, respectively.

    Animal Production: The livestock situation, particularly of cattle and goats, has recently improved as a result of the latest rains, which have made fodder and water less scarce. However, certain species, particularly pigs, continue to face instances of Teschen disease, commonly referred to as “broken kidney” by pastoralists.

    Supply and demand for agricultural labor: Currently, agricultural activities are mainly focused on the summer harvest and weeding for the fall crops in areas where rainfall conditions were favorable. However, there has been a slowdown of activities in various areas. Losses sustained during the spring 2019 season lowered farmers’ capacity to invest in the current growing seasons. Because of this, demand for labor has declined. At the same time, considering the decline in typical sources of income due to socio-political instability, supply of labor is increasing to higher than normal levels.

    Other sources of income: Poor households also rely on petty trade, including the sale of charcoal; however, these activities have been disrupted by the ongoing sociopolitical unrest. In border areas, migration toward the Dominican Republic is also limited by the challenges to movement along the main access routes.


    The most likely scenario for October 2019 to May 2020 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Socio-political unrest: The socio-political crisis is expected to continue at currently observed levels.
    • ENSO conditions and weather forecasts: According to USGS and NOAA forecasts, average rainfall is expected from October to December. Average rainfall is also expected during the first three months of 2020.
    • Agricultural production and harvesting: Forecasts for an average rainfall season are favorable to winter harvests (beans from irrigated fields, maize, pigeon pea); however, the winter harvest only represents about 15 percent of national agricultural production, and its impact on total food availability is likely to be minimal (MARNDR, 2016). The spring 2020 season is expected to be average.
    • Food availability: The supply of markets will likely continue to be impacted by civil insecurity and sociopolitical instability, which is expected to reduce imports and limit supplies coming from rural areas. However, local products from the summer, fall, and winter harvests are expected to remain available at the household level during the first few months of the projection period. In the second half of the projection period, especially starting in March 2020, availability of these goods is expected to decline as stocks from the previous harvest are depleted.
    • Agricultural labor: The summer and fall harvests and the beginning of the winter season are expected to provide a new surge of demand for agricultural labor, but at rates below average due to the economic difficulties farmers are facing to pay laborers (due to losses during the spring 2019 season). The beginning of the spring season is anticipated to also provide agricultural labor opportunities.
    • Labor supply will likely be limited due to the propensity of workers to migrate, attracted by work abroad, particularly in the Dominican Republic. However, because of sociopolitical unrest that is particularly affecting migration to cities, the supply of labor in rural areas is expected to increase
    • The sale of charcoal: Engagement in this activity will likely increase throughout the scenario period. Firstly, during the winter season, which brings about the dry season, agricultural activities are expected to slow down until the next agricultural season, except in the irrigated plains. Secondly, the lean season begins in March 2020 during which time food expenditures tend to increase. These factors as well as increased engagement to earn additional income due to high staple food prices are expected to drive increased engagement in the sale of charcoal.
    • General price trends: Prices of staple foods are expected to rise, due in part to political turmoil, including the decline in fuel subsidies which are likely to rise the cost of transportation, and the depreciation of the gourde. Price fluctuations typically follow the performance of the harvests and the availability of imported goods; overall, prices are expected to be above the five-year average, though.
    • Remittances: As many households face potential losses in income due to sociopolitical unrest, remittances from the Haitian diaspora are expected to increase during the outlook period, especially in December (during end of the year festivities).
    • Trends in the exchange rate: The gourde will likely continue to depreciate against the United States dollar and the Dominican peso. Depreciation is expected to continue as the sociopolitical climate remains poor. Political instability and the lack of confidence in the gourde are all determining factors in the expected depreciation of the gourde.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    From October to January, some food will be available from the summer, fall, and winter harvests, though these are typically not seasons that generate large harvests. Beans, maize, pigeon peas, and other crops such as tubers, bananas, breadfruit, and vegetables will provide the majority of food availability during the harvesting season.

    Otherwise, with the ongoing crises, major income sources are expected to remain disrupted. Purchasing power during the outlook period is anticipated to decrease due to the high prices of staple foods and the depreciation of the local currency. This will reduce very poor households’ access to staple foods. It is expected that they will resort to negative coping strategies such as borrowing on credit or donations to satisfy their food needs. In some cases, once these strategies are exhausted, some very poor households may reduce their food consumption and face food consumption gaps.

    Regions that are the most vulnerable to food insecurity include those that face chronic issues (high poverty rates, low access to markets) or which received insufficient rainfall and suffered crop losses during the fall harvest. In the latter case, poor households have reduced availability of own-produced foods and, as a result, are relying heavily on markets, but face decreasing purchasing power due to high staple food prices. These areas are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). For these populations, humanitarian food assistance is needed urgently. Furthermore, interventions to protect livelihoods are needed for households experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    The second half of the outlook period (February-May) coincides with the peak of the winter harvest, which is not a large harvest - consisting mainly of beans from irrigated fields and humid mountainous areas, as well as pigeon peas, roots and tubers, and bananas. This time period also coincides with the beginning of the spring 2020 season and the lean season, which is characterized by a decrease in the consumption of local commodities by poor households. Poor households typically rely more heavily on markets during this time period. Stocks from the fall harvest will be exhausted. The sale of labor for the beginning of the spring season and other sources of income should allow poor households to access some food from markets but will remain limited due to high prices of staple foods. The persistence of the current crises will likely continue to negatively impact typical livelihood activities. It is anticipated that an increasing number of poor households will deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this time.

    Events that might change the outlook

    Possible events over the next six months that could change the most likely scenario




    Impact on Food Security Conditions


    Increased socio-political unrest

    The escalation of violence would likely disrupt the already poor functioning of the economy and markets. This would force even more households to adopt negative coping strategies. Facing the exhaustion of certain coping strategies, food consumption deficits could grow, and some poor households could face Emergency (Phase 4) outcomes.


    End to the ongoing socio-political unrest

    An end to the current unrest should stabilize trade flows and food supply to most markets. Sources of income should also return to normal. This should lead to a decrease in the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes



    Early end to rainsAn abrupt end to the rainy season at a critical phase of development for the fall crops (rice, maize, beans) and at the beginning of the spring season could lead to significant crop losses and damage to households’ livelihoods, especially for very poor households.
    Figures Le NDVI indique des conditions proches de la moyenne.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Les précipitations sont nettement en dessous de la moyenne mais indiquent une récupération relative à partir de septembre. Le

    Figure 2

    Figure 2


    Le prix du riz suit une courbe légèrement ascendante et demeure nettement au-dessus de la moyenne.

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top