FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
- Plantings of 2020 main season expected to decline due to poor access to agricultural inputs and dry weather conditions
- Cereal production in 2019 affected by prolonged dry weather conditions
- Cereal import requirements forecast at average levels in 2019/20
- Prices of staple food higher than year-earlier levels
- Lower availability of food and poor access to food affect more than 4 million people
Plantings of 2020 main season expected to decline due to poor access to agricultural inputs and dry weather conditions
Planting of the 2020 main season maize and bean crops is ongoing and delays were reported across the country due to soil moisture deficits, caused by the irregular and reduced rainfall amounts received during the previous months. During the March-May period, the major producing departments of Artibonite, Ouest and Centre received well below-average rainfall that has resulted in poor vegetation conditions (see VHI map). Yield prospects are likely to improve as weather forecasts point to average precipitation amounts during the June-August period that coincides with the key vegetative and reproductive stages of the main maize crop.
Planting of the main rice season for 2020 is also ongoing in the key producing Artibonite Department at a slow pace due to the limited availability of irrigation water. Favourable rainfall is forecast to improve during the June-August period, likely benefitting crop development.
Sowings of the maize and rice crops are forecast to decline for the second consecutive year as access to agricultural inputs continues worsening mainly due to the sustained increase in inflation rates and the weaker currency. The Haitian gourde started to depreciate in mid-2018 and, as of April 2020, had lost more than 45 percent of its value against the US dollar compared to the same month in 2018. The high level of social insecurity, coupled with restriction measures due to the COVID-19 outbreak, is also likely to affect agricultural activities, hampering the movements of agricultural workers and the transportation of goods, including agricultural inputs.
In order to support agricultural production of the ongoing main season, FAO has distributed seeds of beans and cereals, agricultural inputs as well as provided technical assistance to 9 900 households in the departments of Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Nippes and Grand-Anse. An additional 6 600 households will also benefit at the start of the second summer season in July. Similarly, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have provided support to the Ministry of Agriculture with the provision of in-kind agricultural inputs.
Cereal production in 2019 affected by prolonged dry weather conditions
The 2019 cereal output is estimated at 462 000 tonnes, slightly above the low five-year average that includes the production obtained in 2014 and 2015 that were severely affected by drought. The limited precipitation amounts from April to August 2019 affected the main and second seasons maize crops as well as the main season rice crop, contributing to a year-on-year decline in production by about 10 percent. The economic hardship exacerbated the contraction of the 2019 harvests, due to limited access by farmers to seeds and other agricultural inputs. The extended protests in 2019 that caused the closure of businesses and public services as well as the blockage of roads hindered agricultural and economic activities.
Cereal import requirements forecast at average levels in 2019/20
The cereal import requirements for the 2019/20 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at an above-average level of 805 000 tonnes, mostly wheat and rice. Imports of rice are also forecast at high levels, reflecting the yearly contraction in rice output.
Prices of staple food higher than year-earlier levels
Prices of locally produced rice and black beans increased sharply for the second consecutive month in April due to hoarding and massive buying amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, prices of imported rice started to decrease from December 2019 and were stable in April 2020, mainly reflecting larger imports during the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period of the previous year. Overall, prices of staple food in April 2020 remained above those of a year earlier, underpinned by the low maize and rice production in 2019 as well as high production costs, supported by a weak currency.
Lower availability of food and poor access to food affect more than 4 million people
According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, about 4.1 million people (40 percent of the population analysed) are forecast to be severely food insecure during the lean season period, from March to June 2020. The high levels of food insecurity reflect problems of both availability and access to food. The worst situations are reported in the departments of Grand-Anse, Nord-Ouest and Ouest and the Cité Soleil Commune in Port-au-Prince, which are classified under IPC phase 4 “Emergency.” In 2020, the agricultural and livelihood interventions by humanitarian partners are expected to address the needs of approximately 420 000 beneficiaries, mostly in IPC phase 4 “Emergency” and representing about 10 percent of the total population in need of urgent assistance.
COVID-19 and measures adopted by the Government
The Government declared a State of health emergency on 19 March 2020 for a four-month period, during which the curfew is in place from 20:00 to 05:00 hours and schools and airports are closed. The Ministry of Commerce is strengthening the monitoring of market prices and imposed strict penalties on the speculative increases of prices. In order to improve food availability, it has been recommended to plant short-cycle crops such as maize, beans, vegetables, cassava and sorghum. The Government purchased maize seeds and fertilizers, which will be distributed to the most vulnerable farmers in the south in order to plant 4 000 hectares. As a social security measure, the Fund for Economic and Social Assistance plans to distribute food kits to 1 million vulnerable population, including elderly and disabled people as well as lactating mothers.