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Slight improvement in access accompanied by falling prices due to exchange-rate appreciation

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Haiti
  • October 2020
Slight improvement in access accompanied by falling prices due to exchange-rate appreciation

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • From mid-September until the first dekad in October, rain was unevenly distributed throughout Haiti. However, current crops are growing normally. The vegetation index has been slightly higher than normal since mid-July. This shows that there has been sufficient beneficial moisture.

    • The security climate is sub-optimal, due to events such as targeted assassinations, kidnappings, sporadic socio-political demonstrations, among others. Additionally, the Provisional Election Council has been formed to organize the upcoming elections, but not on a consensual basis. This leads to fears that the above-mentioned events may ramp up. This risks further harm to food availability and access, given the impact on market supplies and prices

    • Additionally, the gourde (Haitian currency) which had risen by more than 80 percent as compared to the US dollar between August 10 and September 30, has, since October 1, stabilized at approximately 62 gourdes to the US dollar. This caused prices for imported food products such as rice, cooking oil, and wheat flour, to fall significantly.

    • Livelihoods are still disrupted, despite a slight improvement in economic access, due to falling prices. Poor and very poor households will continue to use crisis or stressed strategies to maintain their current levels of food consumption. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity situations will continue in most regions.

    National Overview

    Current situation


    COVID-19 pandemic context. COVID-19 has continued to spread more slowly since June. According to the Ministry of Public Health and Population, as of October 22, more than 9,000 cases have been recorded, including 232 deaths and 7,422 recoveries (Ministry of Public Health and Population, 2020). Public compliance with measures to curb the spread of the virus, such as masks and social distancing, continues to drop. But these measures have no impact on continued economic activity, specifically in urban centers.

    Socio-political and macroeconomic context. The socio-political climate has further declined following increased assassinations and kidnappings, specifically in the capital. This situation compromises normal economic operations, markets, and income-generating activities.

    Additionally, the gourde's significant rise as compared to the US dollar and the Dominican peso, due to factors such as the central bank's Open Market policy, has caused prices for imported foods such as rice, flour, sugar, and cooking oil, among others, to fall. At the same time, the textile sector has been significantly affected by this increase. There is a risk of businesses closing and laying off employees if the Haitian authorities do not find a quick solution to bring the Haitian currency back down to a level that is sustainable for the textile industry's operational costs.

    To better control the currency-exchange market and support a more stable exchange rate, the central bank has required sub-agents in money transfer offices to pay the counterparties of all transfers received in gourdes. The sub-agents' profit has been based on exchange-rate margins. For some time, this has resulted in most sub-agents' offices closing, and in the temporary loss of a number of jobs in this sector.

    Rainfall conditions. From mid-September until the first dekad in October, rain was unevenly distributed throughout Haiti. However, this did not cause problems for normal crop development. The vegetation index has been slightly higher than normal since mid-July. Northern Haiti received between 50 and 80 percent of normal precipitation, while southern Haiti (Grand'Anse, South, and Nippes) received 80 to 120 percent more rainfall than normal, specifically due to Hurricane Laura in August.

    Reduction of the agricultural production for this season. Soil humidity levels seem favorable for the summer/autumn farming seasons in zones that are usually dry, such as North (La Victoire, Ranquitte, Limonade), the High Artibonite (Gros Morne, Ennery, St. Michel), the Nippes, the West (Gonave, Fond Baptiste to Cabaret), the low Northwest (Bombardopolis, Jean Rabel), with the exception of the Upper Plateau (Thomassique, Cerca Cavajal). In all regions, current crops (mountain beans, maize, roots and tubers, pigeon peas, and groundnuts, among others) are growing normally. Rice harvests are expected in the country's rice-growing regions, particularly in the Artibonite, where vegetable farms are being set up at the same time. The same is true of the Nippes region, specifically the municipality of Paillant. Despite the spring harvest losses, some region (Nippes, Corail/Pestel, and Anse d'Hainaut in the Grand'Anse) have taken advantage of the rains in September and October to sow maize, although the season has already passed. According to our observers, crops are growing normally. However, due to the decrease in planted areas and/or irregular rainfall, harvests will generally be below average.

    Markets and food prices. Markets are supplied as usual. Since September, prices for basic food products have been on the rise, more significantly for imported products, particularly all varieties of rice. Average prices for seed maize dropped by nearly six percent between August and September.  This was due to falling prices for imported maize (Gradoro, Alberto), due to the gourde's rise against the US dollar. Additionally, seed maize prices remain 21 percent higher than in 2019. This is even more true as compared to the five-year average; the increase has been very atypical: approximately 81 percent.

    The monthly average price for local black beans also dropped during the month of September by an average of approximately 10 percent as compared to August. This was caused by significantly more imported products being available in markets, due to decreased local production. As compared to 2019 prices and the five-year average, the price of black beans still shows very atypical behavior, rising by more than 55 percent and 86 percent, respectively. 

    Imported products, particularly rice, showed the greatest price fluctuations in September, following the Haitian currency's significant rise against the US dollar. Rice prices had been stable during the month of August, but the monthly average decreased by more than 15 percent in September (see figure 2). 

    Livestock situation. At present, the livestock-raising situation has improved slightly as compared to the previous months due to available forage and water, due to the high soil humidity levels caused by rains in September and October. However, pigs continue to face Teschen disease in rural areas. Prevalence is a serious threat to households that use pigs as a savings tool for occasional expenses.

    Agricultural labor and other income sources. In rural areas, the demand for labor is lower than usual, due to slower economic activity in recent months. This has reduced farmers' ability to fund agricultural activities for the summer/autumn agricultural campaign. Additionally, available agricultural labor has increased due to the flow of Haitian migrants coming from the Dominican Republic. This relatively significant income source for the poorest households has fallen below average. Borders with the Dominican Republic remain closed, and income from migration continues to trend below average.

    However, in the Artibonite, with ongoing rice harvests and the creation of vegetable farms, we are seeing an increased demand. This situation has also been seen in the South, Grand'Anse, and the Nippes, which are more likely to be seeing a lack of agricultural labor, because laborers are more likely to be working in eel fishing at the moment. This has a negative impact on agricultural activity in these areas, by increasing the cost of day labor for farmers. Due to falling prices for imported food and non-food products due to the fall of the US dollar on the Haitian market, we are seeing an increase in the number of mobile street merchants engaging in small business. Income in this sector remains marginal.

    Current impact on food security. With food prices dropping, and the summer/autumn harvests in progress, food security conditions for the very poor have improved slightly. However, income for the poorest households still remains below average, and limits their purchasing power. Additionally, although food prices are falling, they are atypically above last year's prices and the five-year average. In this context, some areas such as Artibonite, South, North, West, Grand'Anse, and the Upper Plateau have many more households engaging in stressed strategies such as reducing non-essential expenses, buying more food on credit, eating less-preferred foods, adults reducing their food consumption so that children can eat, and so on, to continue their current consumption habits. These areas are facing Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2).

    In other, more vulnerable and low-income areas (Northeast HT02, Southeast HT01, Grand'Anse, and South HT08, Northwest HT01, HT03 High Plateau, some regions in the West such as Gonave), the impact of falling food prices will take much more time to reach the poorest. They must engage in even more crisis strategies such as increasing charcoal and livestock sales, eating seeds and other foods with poor nutritional value. Loss of the spring harvests had a more severe impact in these areas in 2020. In the wake of that, poor households in these areas are not all able to fund the autumn season and cannot now take advantage of their own harvests. Thus, they are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Given the information above, the most likely scenario from October 2020 to May 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    Rainfall and agroclimatology

    • Between October 2020 and May 2021, normal to above-average precipitation is expected.


    • The number of new cases related to COVID-19 in Haiti will continue to increase, but at a slower rate. Restrictions such as port and border airport closures and curfews will continue to ease, and will continue promoting economic activity throughout the scenario period.
    • Measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 (closure of land borders with the Dominican Republic, the Dominican Republic's strengthening of measures at informal entry points) will have a negative impact on availability of one category of food products in Haiti (flour, oil, condiments, eggs, sugar) by limiting trade between the two countries.

    Socio-political and macroeconomic context

    • Calls for the president's resignation at the beginning of 2021 will probably increase the country's socio-political instability. Although FEWS NET does not anticipate demonstrations on the scale seen in October 2019, which disrupted the flow of people and goods, socio-political disturbances above the current level are considered likely, beginning in February 2021. (Please see the table of events that could change the scenario, on page 7 of this report.)
    • From October 2020 to January 2021, the exchange rate will maintain the stable level seen since October 1 (after the dramatic increase of more than 80 percent between August 10 And September 30, 2020) due to certain government measures that will continue: (the central bank's operation Open Market, the requirement for transfers from transfer houses' sub-agents to be paid in gourdes, for better control of the amount of currency in circulation, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry's requirement for businesses and sellers to set prices in gourdes, better control of commercial banks by the central bank due to speculation), and to transfers, among other reasons. From February to May 2021, the central bank's stimuli at the end of 2020 will have less of an impact on the exchange rate. While other measures will continue, other factors, including political instability, will negatively affect the value of the Haitian gourde as compared to the US dollar, but the exchange rate will not reach the level reached in August 2020 (about 120 gourdes to the dollar).

    Agricultural production

    • Overall, summer/autumn harvests will be below normal. Due to the low yield of the primary spring agricultural campaign, farmers did not have adequate financial resources to fund successive agricultural activities. Even with favorable rainfall conditions, there was limited usable agricultural area.
    • For the fall 2020, winter 2020-2021, and spring 2021 agricultural campaigns, seed availability will be below normal due to below-normal harvests in 2020.

    Sources of income

    • Agricultural and non-agricultural labor offerings will be above normal due to the flow of Haitian migrants coming from the Dominican Republic.
    • The Dominican border will remain closed and will be tightened due to socio-political problems in Haiti. Migration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic will decrease, causing incomes to drop below normal.
    • Income from the sale of agricultural products will be below normal, because harvests will also be below normal.
    • Income from the informal sector in urban centers will continue to rebound, due to the economy reopening, and COVID-19 prevention measures being lifted. Beginning in January 2020, income from those sectors will be average.


    • Markets should be supplied in a normal fashion; but with the poor performance of successive agricultural campaigns, specifically the spring 2020 campaign, availability of local products will probably be reduced. The situation will probably worsen between March and May 2021, a lean season when the already-sparse reserves will be depleted. Given the lack of local food products available during that period, the percentage of imported foods that make up overall food offerings will remain significant. It is anticipated that grain imports, and particularly maize imports, will increase as compared to last year, while rice imports will remain stable (FEWS NET Haiti: Supply and market perspectives, September 2020). Additionally, there will still be sporadic disruptions in market supplies, due to the socio-political situations, and potential blockades at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border checkpoints.
    • Basic food prices, and specifically for imported products, will remain stable until at least January 2021. This is due to the gourde's appreciation as compared to the US dollar and the Dominican peso. However, prices will remain above 2019 levels and above the five-year average. Beginning in February 2021, prices will follow seasonal upward trends, and will be impacted by any exchange rate fluctuations.
    • The fall of the Dominican peso as compared to the gourde on exchange markets should make Dominican products sold in Haiti more competitive, primarily in the four departments that border the Dominican Republic: Northeast, Center, West, and Southeast. This translates into lower market prices for these products, at least until January 2021. Beginning in February 2021, this trend may be reversed, when the gourde begins to depreciate again.

    Other assumptions

    • According to the Bank of the Republic of Haiti (BRH), transfers from the Haitian diaspora dropped between February and March 2020, but then increased between April and July 2020, then dropped again in August.  Transfers will follow seasonal trends: they will increase between October 2020 and January 2021, which will feed the exchange market with cash. Thus, the gourde will appreciate; depreciation will slow down.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    The first scenario period, from October 2020 to January 2021, coincides with the summer/autumn campaign and the start of the winter campaign. Beans and maize will be farmed in the irrigated plains and the wetter mountain areas, and roots, tubers, and bananas in almost all locations. This period coincides with the harvest of seasonal crops: pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan), lima beans (phaseolus lunatus L.) and cowpeas (Vigna ungiculata), as well as rice, in the rice-growing areas in the Artibonite, Cayes/South Torbeck, and Northeast Maribahoux. Despite favorable agro-climate conditions for these campaigns, the losses from the spring campaign will negatively affect production during this period. This will reduce the amount of land that would ordinarily be planted, and will negatively affect farmers' ability to purchase inputs, according to the Food Security, Livelihoods, and Agricultural Production (SAMEPA) survey done by the National Office for Food Security (CNSA) in 2020. Thus, the summer/autumn campaign's performance will be below average, resulting in below-normal agricultural revenue.

    Poor and very poor households' purchasing power has currently improved, because prices for food products have temporarily dropped, due to the appreciation of the Haitian gourde as compared to the US dollar. However, income levels are still insufficient. Agricultural revenue is below normal. Additionally, prices for basic food prices are still high, as compared to last year and to the five-year average. A majority of the poorest households must still resort to stressed strategies such as reducing the quantity and quality of food they eat, and buying on credit, and other to crisis strategies such as selling more charcoal, eating low-quality or unripe foods, for example, to maintain their consumption levels. In this context, most regions in Haiti are still in a Stressed food insecurity situation (IPC Phase 2), with the areas most affected by low production from consecutive campaigns in a Crisis state (IPC Phase 3).  Some households that previously were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), are now in a Stressed state (IPC Phase 2), specifically in urban areas, due to the total resumption of economic activities since July. This will increase as the end-of-year holidays approach.

    The second scenario period, February to May 2021, coincides with the winter harvest's peak, the start of activities for the spring 2021 campaign, and the lean season, which begins in March 2021. The winter campaign includes only the irrigated plains and certain wet mountain areas, beginning in November. Favorable summer/autumn harvests are indicative of a relatively good winter season. Pigeon peas, beans, rice, roots, and tubers will be harvested. Despite all of this, households will be predominantly supplied by markets, because the lean season sees a significant drop in harvests. The residual effect of 2020's below-average agricultural campaigns have caused farmers to lose capital. This means that they are less able to invest and prepare for the spring 2021 campaign. The poorest households' income will again be below average.

    Additionally, the opposition's call for the president to resign at the beginning of 2021 is likely to harm the socio-political situation, leading to a depreciation of the gourde, which is historically associated with socio-political instability in Haiti. The Central Bank of Haiti's "Open Market" project between August and September 2020 will have less of an impact beginning in February 2021. Higher prices for basic food products following the gourde's depreciation, along with seasonal price increases during the lean season will further drag down poor households' purchasing power.  Under these conditions, those households will continue to use adaptive measures to meet their food needs. Municipalities in nearly all livelihood zones will move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and others from Minimal (IPC Phase 1) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), beginning in March/April 2021 (see projected situation map for February to May 2021 on page 2).

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



    Impact on food security conditions


    Resurgence of socio-political disturbances

    Increased violence would disrupt current economic and market operations This would lead to reduced food availability and access, leading more households to implement negative strategies. Faced with the depletion of certain strategies, consumption deficits could be seen. More areas and more households could be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    Economic slowdowns in countries that are home to many Haitian migrants, specifically the United States and the Dominican Republic, due to the resurgence of COVID-19.

    Global economic slowdowns would impact the significant flow of money transfers to Haiti, and worker migration to the Dominican Republic. These sources of revenue might fall below normal. This might lead to an increased number of people and zones in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Production zones

    A major hurricane at the end of hurricane season

    Flooding in rice, maize, and bean production zones could cause significant losses of summer/autumn crops. This would harm the poorest households' livelihoods.

    Border areas

    Reopening of the border with the Dominican Republic.

    This would lead to more supply for markets in the border area, and thus a further drop in prices, specifically for foods such as flour, vegetable oil, and sugar. Thus, the impact on acute food security could be positive for the population living near the border.

    Figures Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Figure 1

    Calendrier saisonnier pour une année typique

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source: WFP, CHIRPS

    Figure 3

    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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