News / Americas

    Food Aid Hurts Haiti's Farmers

    Helping in a crisis can pose dilemma for local farmers and merchants

    Rice farmers can be adversely affected by food aid.
    Rice farmers can be adversely affected by food aid.

    Multimedia

    About three hours north of Port-au-Prince, the Artibonite Valley is the center of Haiti's rice production.

    This season, farmer Charles Surfoad is storing his rice rather than selling it. He says food aid from the earthquake relief effort produced a glut that pushed down prices.  If he sells now, he says he'll lose money.

    Adverse effects

    "Food aid is never good for us," he says. "As a farmer, I'm one of the first affected. You can't send that to a country where that's what they grow."

    Surfoad says if he can't sell his rice, he won't have money to buy seeds for next season. And because he supplies about 50 neighbors with seeds, their next season will be affected, too.

    The entire supply chain can be affected, from farmers to wholesalers to merchants selling rice in local markets, many of whom say business is down because people are receiving free rice from donors.

    Food is one of the most urgent needs in a humanitarian crisis. But, these cases illustrate that when donors bring in food, those who make a living growing and selling food can suffer.

    Impact of food aid

    "There is a risk, definitely. And we are very aware of that," says Brooke Isham, director of the Food for Peace program at the US Agency for International Development (USAID). "And that is why we are always looking at the impact of food aid on local markets and whether it is depressing prices in local markets."

    USAID, the UN World Food Program (WFP) and others monitor markets regularly. Etienne Labonde, head of WFP's program in Haiti, says, as of March, food aid did not cause major disruptions in Haiti's economy. "Maybe it's an impression, but it's not the facts at the moment," he says.

    Low prices can lead Haiti's farmers to store rice rather than sell it at a loss.
    Low prices can lead Haiti's farmers to store rice rather than sell it at a loss.

    Whether impression or fact, Haitian President Rene Preval raised the issue when he came to Washington last month. He said food aid was indispensible right after the earthquake. But, "If we continue to send food and water from abroad," he said, "it will compete with national production of Haiti and with Haitian trade."

    Scaling back

    Donors have agreed to scale back. But experts say donors can help the needy and a nation's farmers at the same time if they buy food for humanitarian aid locally rather than importing it.

    The European Union, Canada and the World Food Program buy locally when possible. But the United States, which is the largest provider, "is lagging a little bit behind the curve of good practice in food aid," says Marc Cohen with the advocacy group Oxfam.

    Rice merchants at local markets in Haiti say food aid cut into prices and sales.
    Rice merchants at local markets in Haiti say food aid cut into prices and sales.

    U.S. food aid consists almost entirely of American grain. Cohen says that started in the 1950s, when the United States had "what were called, 'burdensome surpluses' of food. So, food aid was, first and foremost, a mechanism to get rid of those surpluses," he says.

    Congress is considering legislation to allow U.S. food aid to be bought locally.

    Meanwhile, in Haiti, many donor agencies are pursuing another strategy to avoid market disruption. They're creating jobs so Haitian people can buy their own food. Many of these jobs are aimed at helping farmers at the same time: improving agricultural canals, rural roads, and planting trees to prevent erosion, for example.

    The question now is whether there will be enough jobs so Haitians can support themselves, or whether the country will again face the dilemma of food aid.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    Obama: Trump’s Portrait of America ‘Doesn’t Jibe With Reality’

    At news conference with Mexico's president, Obama says US is 'not going to make good decisions' about race relations, crime ' based on fears that don’t have basis in fact'

    Vatican Invited to Mediate in Venezuela Crisis

    Various opposition leaders say President Maduro's public exhortations to support dialogue are a cynical attempt to buy time and cling to power

    Homicides Rise 15.4 Percent in Mexico in 1st Half of 2016

    The figures remained below those for 2011, the peak year for violence during Mexico's drug war

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    Large metal barrier that separates Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Sonora, isn't that popular with those who live near it

    Brazil Arrests Suspected Olympics Attack Planners

    Cell organized through internet-based messaging services such as WhatsApp and Telegraph

    Russia Loses Appeal of Olympics Ban

    Court rules Thursday that Russia's track and field athletes can not compete