An opportunity to be seized upon for a sustainable revival of national production, according to some specialists
A customs blockade coupled with political unrest hinders the distribution of imported products. This has increased the demand for Haitian production. However, farmers are not necessarily getting richer.
REB Lokal, an agribusiness located in Jérémie, saw its clientele increase by 40% during the political unrest of the last few months.
The company has been in existence since September 2020 and processes about 60 agricultural products, including perishable tubers from the region.
A customs blockade coupled with political unrest hinders the distribution of imported products.
However, Rébetha Charles, owner of REB Lokal, says that the initiative is currently having difficulty making deliveries to other parts of the country due to the fuel crisis. Most of the production is therefore sold in the Grand’Anse department.
The same observation is made in the municipality of Gros-Morne, in Artibonite.
Gaston Jean, a Doctor of Environmental Sciences, and founder of the Association des Originaires de Grande Plaine, says that a pot of corn which used to sell for 300 gourdes before peyi lòk now costs 50 gourdes.
The farmers cannot store or transport their products to Port-au-Prince. They sell them in large stocks on the local markets. However, according to the owner of a farm and founder of the Gros-Morne – REV green schools network (écoles vertes de Gros-Morne – REV), products such as avocados and bananas are available in abundance.
The farmers cannot store or transport their products to Port-au-Prince.
Supply does not meet demand. According to the United Nations, almost one in two people in Haiti, or 48% of the population, is suffering from acute food insecurity.
The blockade at the Varreux fuel terminal, put in place September 12, 2022 by Jimmy Chérizier, the leader of the G9 an Fanmi e alye gang, is making the situation worse. Hundreds of containers of food products are stuck at customs. Public administration is no longer functioning. And recently, the Dominican Republic announced the closure of its border with Haiti.
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Such a situation leads to fears of the complete unavailability of food and other imported products in the country. The largest island adjacent to the country is already in dire straits. In La Gonâve, the population is asking for help: all food supplies in the stores are sold out in this locality which depends on the mainland.
“Containers cannot be unloaded because of the unsafe conditions at La Saline in the Bicentenaire area,” said an executive from the General Directorate of Customs who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the institution.
The executive, without specifying the amount, says that boats pay a fee for each day they dock.
Such a situation leads to fears of the complete unavailability of food and other imported products in the country.
In any case, specialists recommend buying locally and replacing imported products with the production of Haitian farmers. Protectionist public policies of the government can eventually help farmers.
“For now, local products will help much more than imported products,” said Dr. Wilner Pierre, a nutritionist, obstetrician, and gynecologist, interviewed by HB News.
“Someone, for example, who eats potatoes, bananas or yams in the morning absorbs a much greater amount of calories for their body compared to other products that come from outside,” explains the specialist, who points to the harmful consequences on health of some imported products.
Moreover, according to Wilner Pierre, most local products are cheaper today.
There is also an international inflation affecting foodstuffs on the sidelines of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an opportunity for Haitian farmers, says economist Etzer Emile.
Moreover, he adds, the latest report from the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Information confirms an inflation of 23.2% on local products against 43.2% on imported products.
This is an opportunity for Haitian farmers, says economist Etzer Emile.
The economist believes that a significant investment in local agriculture would not only help address this growing food insecurity, but also the cost of living. “It would provide income to hundreds of thousands of cash-strapped farming families,” he says.
The author of the book “Haiti Has Chosen To Become A Poor Country” notes, however, that the problem of market access due to insecurity and fuel shortages, added to the structural challenges (credit, access to water), could jeopardize any agricultural recovery.
To protect small farmers, we need to restore security, make fuel available to reduce transportation costs, and subsidize fertilizer and seeds, concludes Etzer Emile.
Jameson Bernabé, co-owner of Agro 6, says demand for his products has increased fourfold since the fuel crisis began.
To protect small farmers, we need to restore security…
Bernabé works in the marketing of agricultural products. “For the moment we only have honey and castor oil (lwil maskreti) in the company”, continues the merchant whose company also accompanies the farmers in agricultural production.
Jean sells heritage chickens. Before the peyi lòk period, the structure could hardly compete with the invasion of products from Dominican poultry. The situation has changed, he says. “Now we have so many orders throughout the country that we have no more chickens in our hen houses.”
English translation by Didenique Jocelyn and Sarah Jean.
Cover photo : Anonymous woman with a basket of beautiful local eggplants in the countryside| © Zen Chung/Pexels