This FEWS NET Market Fundamentals report presents findings to inform regular market monitoring and analysis in Haiti. Among other uses, the information presented in this report can be used to support the design of food security programs, including but not limited to informing USAID Bellmon analyses for food assistance programs in Haiti.
This study is based on desk research, fieldwork using rapid rural appraisal techniques covering all 10 departments of the country, and a three-day stakeholder consultation workshop carried out in the capital city of Port-au-Prince during February 2017.
The main staple foods in the country are rice, maize, wheat flour, sorghum, pulses (beans and peas), tubers (yams, cassava or yuca, and sweet potato), bananas (particularly plantains), and edible oil. These are consumed to varying degrees across the territory, based on supply and demand dynamics. Overall, a high level of market dependence exists, with poorer households purchasing up to 85 percent of their food needs in the markets.
Generally, Haiti’s food supply is ensured through domestic production and imports from the global market (including cross-border imports from neighboring Dominican Republic). Levels of self-sufficiency vary across commodities, but Haiti is structurally deficit in rice, the most relevant staple in the country. As well, the country is fully dependent on imports of wheat and edible oil, as these are not produced domestically.
Crop production in Haiti is mostly rainfed, making Haitian agriculture highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climatic events such as erratic and insufficient rainfall, storms/hurricanes, flooding, and droughts. Constraints to agricultural production include limited access to and use of production inputs (including financing), incidence of pests and diseases, soil degradation, and implementation of unimproved cropping practices. Postharvest losses are large due to inadequate handling and storage infrastructure.
With respect to food imports, the United States and the Dominican Republic are Haiti’s main trade partners for cereals and pulses and Malaysia for edible oil. Formal imports are concentrated in a small group of enterprises, leading to asymmetric power relationships along the chain. Large-scale modern processing facilities are operated by some of the major importers. Small-scale processing takes place across the country, relying mostly on outdated equipment. Informal imports from the Dominican Republic are substantial, but remain difficult to quantify.
The network of traders (Madame Saras, small-scale traders, and retailers) collecting products from producers and distributing/retailing commodities across the country toward final consumers comprises a large number of actors, with no evident barriers to entry. Physical accessibility and transport possibilities are key factors affecting food availability in remote areas. Transactions are usually done on the spot, with producers typically price takers and consumers shifting demand to other commodities in response to price changes. The staples’ marketing chains tend to be fragmented and display little organization among market actors. Madame Saras are key actors in the chain, facilitating the flow of locally produced commodities from production to consumption sites. Generally, market information is spread across actors following private business networks.
The main domestic consumption markets are Jérémie, Les Cayes, Gonaïves, Port-de-Paix, Cap-Haitien, and the broader Port-au-Prince area, which includes Petion Ville, Carrefour, Delmas, Cité Soleil, and the Croix des Bouquets and Croix des Bossales markets. For all commodities analyzed, the largest flows of locally produced staples are directed toward the broader Port-au-Prince market area. Flows of imported products move in the opposite direction, originating mainly in Port-au-Prince and transiting toward the rest of the country. Transport costs capture a large share of the transaction costs along the chain.
The seasonality of harvests results in some intra-annual variation in prices for locally produced staples. Prices vary across markets, but prices in Port-au-Prince tend to be among the lowest across commodities. Prices of imported products show less variation over time.
Broadly speaking, prices in Haitian markets display co-movement with each other. Moderate to strong price correlations are generally observed between markets, with a tendency of northern markets presenting stronger correlations among each other and southern markets presenting stronger correlations with each other. Prices in Port-au-Prince correlate with most markets at varying degrees across commodities. At the international level, Haiti is generally integrated with the world markets, as price trends in Port-au-Prince reflect those of key international markets.
Several initiatives in Haiti carry out market monitoring activities across the country. From the public sector, the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development (Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Ressources Naturelles et du Développement Rural, MARNDR) and the National Coordination of Food Security (Coordination Nationale de la Sécurité Alimentaire, CNSA) monitor prices in key collection (MARNDR) and consumption (CNSA) markets. FEWS NET collects retail prices for several commodities in major consumption markets across the country. Development-oriented agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations also collect retail prices on a regular basis.